Watercress, Cucumber & Herbed Butter Tea Sandwiches

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There are a ton of ways to say it…

Ask and you shall receive

Put it out there

Tell the universe what you want

Whatever saying you espouse, it’s all based on energy and the Laws of Attraction. If you want something, all you have to do is ask. Once you float an idea out there, the universe, full of energy, tries to provide you with the answer. I can attest to this theory in dozens of real life examples. I could go on and on about the “careful what you wish for“ statement. Which seems a bit more negative in tone than it’s true meaning. But it heeds the warning of be mindful of what you put forth because your wish will probably be granted. And so mine was. Sure, it had been brewing for some time, but the universe doesn’t have deadlines. It delivers what you need when you need it.

Now granted this is not one of those major life altering wishes. It was way more frivolous. More like a desire and Saturday morning daydream. None the less, it was a wish. I had been wanting to throw a tea party for the longest time. I know, you are thinking; Really, after all that blabber on the universe providing and it’s energy and that is what you wished for? It was. No judgement, please. However, I had two big hesitations. One, I can’t eat bread, and two, who would I invite? The latter is an easy challenge to overcome. The former, well that is another story entirely, which is why I have never thrown a tea party. BUT, out there I put the thought. Floating around like whisper waiting to be heard. And so, there was a cosmic little giggle when I was recently asked to cater a tea party. And there it was… Call it serendipity. Call it fate. Call it my prayers were answered. Call it whatever you like, but I asked and I received. And the funny part of it was, it literally answered all the challenges. Since it wasn’t MY tea party I didn’t have to eat the bread, or figure out who to invite. Talk about wishes coming true.

This is one of the easiest and most classic tea sandwiches.

Ingredients

Black Rye Bread
Watercress
English Cucumber, thin round slices

Herbed Butter, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 T chives, chopped
2 T parsley
1 T lemon juice
Lemon zest
1 t salt

 

Instructions

1.First things first, make the herbed butter. Start with softened room temperature unsalted butter. It is important that the butter is really soft so the added ingredients can be blended in thoroughly and easily. Chop the herbs. Then using a mixer with a paddle attachment, blend together. Add the lemon juice, zest and salt to taste, mix a bit more but do not over mix. Set aside and leave at room temperature so it is easy to spread on the bread.

The best part about this butter is that you can place it in plastic wrap, roll it up like a log and freeze. You can then slice it anytime you want. Add it to rice or noodles or to finish a steak or fish.

I made a a lot because I had to make plenty of sandwiches. I froze the leftovers

I made a a lot because I had to make plenty of sandwiches. I froze the leftovers

2. Wash and thoroughly dry the watercress. Thinly slice the cucumber into rounds.

3. Get all the ingredients ready, placing the bread out.

4. Heavily butter one side, then lightly butter the other side of the bread. Then place the cucumber down first.

Line everything up to create your own assembly line. Of course, I made way more than you will need, but the concept still works even for a few sandwiches.

Line everything up to create your own assembly line. Of course, I made way more than you will need, but the concept still works even for a few sandwiches.

I placed 3 slices in a row x3. This way when I cut the bread into finger sandwiches I used the cucumber rows as my guide to create 3 bite sized sandwiches.

I placed 3 slices in a row x3. This way when I cut the bread into finger sandwiches I used the cucumber rows as my guide to create 3 bite sized sandwiches.

5. Pile the watercress on top. Close the sandwich and trim the crusts. Then cut the full sandwich into smaller finger sandwich pieces. I chose to cut these into thirds. You can also cut them in quarters to create squares or on a diagonal to create diamonds. Your choice. It tastes the same no matter the shape. It’s all about your visual preference, so do what turns you on.

When only using but a few ingredients freshness is of the utmost importance.

When only using but a few ingredients freshness is of the utmost importance.

I needed plenty of finger sandwiches for my event. Assembly line work is in my blood and makes the task go faster.

I needed plenty of finger sandwiches for my event. Assembly line work is in my blood and makes the task go faster.

The scraps. Just as edible, if you like the crust.

The scraps. Just as edible, if you like the crust.

This sandwich has such a wonderful flavor profile. The butter provides a huge amount by giving you sweet, salt and herbaceous notes. The watercress is slightly peppery and the cucumber is crisp and cool. The bread, well that is down right comforting while also adding an earthiness. This simple little sandwich packs a powerful big punch.

I hope your wishes all come true. Remember to be mindful of what you ask… the universe is listening.

 
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Pierogi - The Polish Ravioli

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Truth be told, I'm only 3/4 Italian. The remaining 1/4 comes from my Polish grandfather on my mother's side.  His mom only spoke Polish and made all sorts of traditional dishes.  Gołąbki, Kabusta, Kielbasa, and the all time favorite, Pierogi.  Seriously, who wouldn't love a big ravioli style dumpling stuffed with potato, onion and cheese?  Who, I ask?  If you say no, keep it to yourself.  You're in the minority.

My beautiful Italian grandmother married a handsome, blond hair, blue eyed Polish man who was the most gentle, lovable soul. He was adored by all, but especially by her.  I'm just spit balling here, but I image those blue eyes and big smile charmed her into learning how to make all those familiar and delicious dishes.  As they say, a way to a man's heart is through his stomach. And so this polish dish was then passed on and loved by a big Italian family.

After decades of marriage, she was still sitting on his lap, full of smiles as they shared food, laughter and love with family. Those smiles tell the story.  Photo credit: Paul Majewski

After decades of marriage, she was still sitting on his lap, full of smiles as they shared food, laughter and love with family. Those smiles tell the story. Photo credit: Paul Majewski

LOVE, LOVE, yes, stirred with LOVE.

LOVE, LOVE, yes, stirred with LOVE.

My twin sisters, Alyssa and Jill. Mom always dressed them in the same outfits. I love that being out in the 'country' turned them into barefoot, wilderness adventurers.

My twin sisters, Alyssa and Jill. Mom always dressed them in the same outfits. I love that being out in the 'country' turned them into barefoot, wilderness adventurers.

Making Pierogis was like a team sport
when we were growing up.  I can
remember going to my great aunt's
house way out on Long Island. Which seemed like a long drive from Brooklyn,
but when you are a kid everything seems bigger or longer.  Although, it was pretty far out on the Island. Living in the city, we didn't have big yard. It was a path of concrete with rose bushes and fig trees on either side.  It certainly was not big enough for a swing set. So when we were out in the country we took full advantage of the outdoors and the playthings. All the kids would run around the yard while the adults made the meals.

 

 

 

Every now and again we would sneak into the kitchen to watch the elder stateswomen rolling, stuffing, boiling up hundreds of Pierogis as we anxiously awaited the potato filled platter to hit the table.  We even had a contest to see who could eat the most.  It was reminiscent of Cool Hand Luke pounding down hard boiled eggs!  Only eating Pierogis was, and still is, way more enjoyable.  

My great Aunt Ann  Photo credit: Paul Majewski

My great Aunt Ann Photo credit: Paul Majewski

My Grandmother  Photo credit: Paul Majewski

My Grandmother Photo credit: Paul Majewski

After my grandmother passed away, making these belly filling dumplings took a hiatus in our house.  That is until my sister, Alyssa asked my mom if they could make them together.  For whatever reason, I have not been around during these sessions.  So, I was thrilled that this year I was in town when they decided to make them again.  

When my sister and I arrived at our parents' house we found our mom already deep into the preparation.  She had peeled, boiled, mashed and already made the potato mixture.  And was wrist deep into dough mixture. Oh well, so much for all the usual prep photos of each stage.  Sorry, blame it on my mom, who seemingly couldn't wait for our grand entrance. We took off our coats, plopped our shit down and dove right in.  (Yes, I washed my hands first, in case you were wondering.)

Happily mixing the dough. Don't you just love that smile. Reminds me of the above photo of her mother sitting on her dad's lap.

Happily mixing the dough. Don't you just love that smile. Reminds me of the above photo of her mother sitting on her dad's lap.

It is a fairly simple recipe but rolling out, stuffing and pinching the Pierogi to perfection does take practice.  The good thing about these carb bombs is they taste just as delicious no matter what they look like.  Another valuable point to note, they wouldn't be so labor intensive if you only made a 1/4 of the recipe. The amounts given below make 60 pierogis.  Unless you are feeding a Polish army, you won't need that many.  Although, if you are going through the effort, I say, go ahead and make the whole amount, freeze them, and enjoy them at a later date.  Which is what we did.

 

Ingredients

Filling
5 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 lb cream cheese
1 onion, fine chop
1-2 T butter
Salt

Dough
6 cups flour
1 large egg
2 cups warm water
1 T butter
Salt

6-8 T melted butter for the finishing sauce

My mom spelled pierogi incorrectly but I love seeing her handwritten recipes.

My mom spelled pierogi incorrectly but I love seeing her handwritten recipes.

Instructions

Peel and cube the potatoes, then boil them in salted water until soft.  While the potatoes are cooking, sauté the onions in butter just until soft and translucent.  When the potatoes are done, drain, mash and let cool.  Then add the cream cheese and salt to taste.  Make the dough by combining the flour, egg, water, salt and butter together.  

It starts out like any dough, rough and not pulled together yet.

It starts out like any dough, rough and not pulled together yet.

Knead the dough until it is smooth.  You may need to add sprinkles of flour if it's too sticky, but add sparingly.

Keep kneading until smooth. Mom needed a rest.

Keep kneading until smooth. Mom needed a rest.

It's important to get it smooth.  Mom needed a break so I took over the kneading to get it to the finish line. By now, I have a ton of experience in dough kneading. That was not always the case.  It took years before my grandmother would allow me to touch any dough, but then I graduated to bringing it to the finish line. On the job training that I hope to pass off to my nieces and nephew.

I took over to get it to a smooth consistency.

I took over to get it to a smooth consistency.

With the dough soft and smooth as a baby's bottom, cut a small piece, roll into a thick rope, then cut 1.5" pieces. Roll each one out creating a small round about the size of your palm, approximately 3.5" diameter.  Then take a full tablespoon of the potato filling and place in the middle. 

A nice round dough waiting to be filled.

A nice round dough waiting to be filled.

Place a heaping tablespoon in the center of the round. Take note of the small cut piece. That is the size before being rolled out.

Place a heaping tablespoon in the center of the round. Take note of the small cut piece. That is the size before being rolled out.

It may seem like a lot of filling but they should be completely filled with the potato mixture. If it seems too much, simply stretch the dough to close.

It may seem like a lot of filling but they should be completely filled with the potato mixture. If it seems too much, simply stretch the dough to close.

Fold in half and crimp the edges, pressing flour into them.  Place them on a dry towel until all are made and you are ready to boil them. 

Team effort is the only way to make 60 pierogi unless you have time.

Team effort is the only way to make 60 pierogi unless you have time.

Alyssa and Mom happily making, and anticipating the finished product. Is there anything more heartwarming than keeping traditions alive with your mom? I don't think so.

Alyssa and Mom happily making, and anticipating the finished product. Is there anything more heartwarming than keeping traditions alive with your mom? I don't think so.

Perfect little potato dumplings. Well, not so little.

Perfect little potato dumplings. Well, not so little.

About to take the plunge...

About to take the plunge...

Bring a big pot of salted water to boil then add 14-16 pierogis at a time.  (It will depend on the size of our pot.  You don't want to overcrowd.) Once they float to the top give them a 1-2 minutes more and pull them out. 

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To serve, melt butter, then pour and slather over top of the pile of Pierogis.  You can also go the next step and fry them in butter.  This was the way we traditionally eat them the next day.  Either way, they are one of those comfort foods that qualify as a non guilty pleasure.  No guilt because you won't be making and eating these once a week or even once a month.  So go ahead, take time to make them, eat them and treasure them as the specialty food they are without any apology.

Boiled and smothered with melted butter.

Boiled and smothered with melted butter.

Alyssa and me.

Alyssa and me.

So here's to the 1/4 percent Polish I am, and to all the women in my life who passed down the tradition, and to the ones keeping the tradition alive and well.  And especially to Alyssa, who revived it, setting up the next generation of potato dumpling makers.  There is nothing I love more than tradition, and doing it together with the family I love.

And nothing more delicious that frying these up. Crispy outsides, and soft, yummy insides.

And nothing more delicious that frying these up. Crispy outsides, and soft, yummy insides.

Post Script:  My aunt Ann's daughter and my cousin, Mary Ann sent me a two good suggestions. 

  • Dough Kneading: She said for those who haven't mastered kneading dough or just want to make it a bit easier, you can use a bread machine or a mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough.

  • Freezing: For best results, her tip is to let them cool in iced water after they've been boiled, drain well and freeze to have whenever you need a fast potato fix.

Sequillos - An Asturian Cookie of Love

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We love to travel, and try to do it as often as possible.  We love exploring the sights, sounds and flavors of places that are full of life.  We recently returned from a 12 day trek through the northern part of Spain. What a glorious part of the country. Mountainous and green.  Fresh air and beauty abound. The views are more spectacular than any lens can capture, but I did my best.  And in those 12 days, we saw, did and tasted a lot but there is still so much more to see, do and taste. We thoroughly enjoyed every inch of our tour through the north. However, the absolute, truly most special part of this trip was when we stayed with our dear friends, Marcos and Angelica in Marcos' hometown of Amieva, Asturias.  What an enormous treat.  An adventure like no other.   

Beauty which ever way you turn.

Beauty which ever way you turn.

This tiny town of 200 people is tucked away high in the mountains and provides picturesque views from every angle. I promise I will be writing more about our entire trip and the special time at their home and all the unbelievably delicious food we were treated to. Today I want to focus on a simple little cookie that grabbed my husband's heart.  And when something grabs hold of him that he enjoys, I do what I can to ensure he gets grabbed again.  Knowing how much he loved eating these tiny bite sized treats with his espresso, I asked Marisa, a local to the town and chef of the house, to fork over the recipe. As with everything she did, she did so with "alegria”.

Sofia looking on as Maria sifts the flour and Marisa mixes the dough.

Sofia looking on as Maria sifts the flour and Marisa mixes the dough.

These cookies couldn't be easier to make. Much less work than any of the more labor intensive cookies I bake for Christmas. So, here it is.  From Marisa in Amieva, Asturias to me in Hartsdale, NY to you, wherever you may be.

I snapped a few shots of the lovely María and Marisa making yet another batch since every time they made them, these not too sweet but really satisfying cookies disappeared.

(That's something I loved about the style of living there.  It was no big deal to just whip up another batch of anything.  No worries...we'll make more!)

A tiny side note; another thing I loved about the original house -  the big kitchen. I loved how everyone was in it. Making stuff, prepping stuff, snacking, drinking and chatting.  Oh, if only I had a kitchen this big and ample to gather all my loved ones.  This tugged at my heart every time I stepped into it.

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Maxi and Sofia making fresh orange juice while the sequillos are being made further down this long kitchen work space

Maxi and Sofia making fresh orange juice while the sequillos are being made further down this long kitchen work space

A dream of a space where everyone could wander in, sit down or participate in the festivities.  I can dream, can't I?

Back to Marisa's setup and making of the cookies.

Marisa's set up in Amieva.

Marisa's set up in Amieva.

Sifting the flour.

Sifting the flour.

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And now the details of how to make them.

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ingredients

600 gr (2.5 c + 1 heaping T) flour
2 eggs
250 gr (1 c)  sugar
250 gr (1/2 lb) butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1 tsp heaping baking powder
5 T Anís or Anisette
(I used Vermouth because it was all I had.)

 

Instructions

In a large mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients and make a hole in the middle. Then add eggs, (cooled) melted butter and Anís in the middle.  Begin to combine all ingredients together until it forms a dough. Taking small pieces, form a round shape (approximately 1.5" w x 1/2" thick) and place in tiny cupcake papers to make them the traditional way.  

My dough

My dough

Marisa's cute little cookies in cupcake holders.

Marisa's cute little cookies in cupcake holders.

Since I like finding ways that are not only efficient, time saving but help make each one look consistent, I rolled the dough out and used a cookie cutter.  However, I should have made them thicker like Marisa's. So, definitely make yours at least 1/2" thickness. (Not as thin as mine below.)

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If you are using the cupcake papers, just place them on a baking sheet.  If not, then line the baking sheet with parchment paper and place each cookie at least 1" apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.

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Mine, a bit flatter, wider but still tasty.

Mine, a bit flatter, wider but still tasty.

Marisa's, gorgeous, chunkier ones.

Marisa's, gorgeous, chunkier ones.

Once they cool down, place them on cute plate or stack up on cake stand.  Well, the serving device might not matter because they may not last long before you need to make another batch.  

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Thanks to Marcos and Angelica for sharing the joys of their home, family, friends and traditions with us.  So I could bring this little treasure back for you from the mountain tops of Spain. The simple but delicious, simply delicious Sequillos. Que disfruten!  (Enjoy!)

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Hail to the Kale, Caesar

Kale Caesar Salad

Kale Caesar Salad

Kale is so very popular that you just want to say, 'Really, do you need to hog the whole stage from other leafy greens?  How much attention does one vegetable need?'  Apparently ALL.  You'd think it was the long lost Kardashian sister, Khail. That said, it is a nice little leaf that does offer what it promises.  As do I. Which is why I am posting this salad.  A few of you asked me to recreate the Kale Caesar Salad that was shown in my review post of Copper 29 Bar.  I, much like kale, like to deliver.  

But before we get down to the nuts and bolts of ingredients and instructions, let's examine the deeper qualities of this bold veg from the cabbage family and see why kale has gained so much fame of late.  First, it is the most nutrient dense leafy gem of all.  Packing Vitamins A, K, C, B6, B1, B2, B3, Manganese, Calcium, Copper, Potassium, Magnesium, Iron and Phosphorus plus it contains powerful antioxidants. It makes a ton of other boostful claims like lowering your cholesterol and fighting cancer. Well, who doesn't love that?!  It's low in calories, low in carbs and good on protein. Gosh damn, what a show off. I guess I can stop being critical and admit it has every right to hog the stage.  Can't say that about many others these days.

Few but mighty ingredients

Few but mighty ingredients

In the past I have used kale in a few different dishes.  I've made kale chips. I've sautéed it. I've made soup with it. I've added it raw to my Spicy Crunch Slaw.  I even experimented with it many years ago before Kale was all the rage.  I'll post that recipe shortly but for now we will concentrate on hailing to Caesar featuring Kale.  In the version from Copper 29, they added radicchio. Alas, my market didn't have any that looked nice enough to grace this salad, so no go on the radicchio. I used romaine instead. (Not because I thought that was an equal substitute but because I had extra in the house.  Use what you got.)  Their version also used a true Caesar dressing, and you can too.  But I don't eat eggs and wanted to come up with a creamy version that eliminated the raw egg.  I think I hit the mark on creaminess and then some.  

Ingredients

(Makes 6-8 side servings or 4 main)

3 c red kale, finely chopped
3 c green kale, finely chopped
5 c romaine lettuce, chopped
2 T shallots, fine dice
2 T pumpkin seeds, roasted
2 T sunflower seeds
Shards of parm (the amount you desire)
Pear, optional

Instructions

First things first, remove the ribs from the kale leaves.  These are way too hard to eat raw.   Then chop the kale leaves and lettuce in small pieces.  I feel that this is an important step when using hearty kale.  If you leave the pieces too large, they can be a bit rough and tough and slightly unmanageable to deal with... Much like a Kardashian.  So take the time and chop them fine.  Small dice the shallots and shave the Parmesan cheese, setting it aside.  Put all your greens and shallots in your bowl our choice, as it awaits its creamy coating.

Get rid of the ribs.

Get rid of the ribs.

See, nice small and manageable pieces.

See, nice small and manageable pieces.

Now it's time to make the dressing.  Remember, if you like traditional Caesar dressing, by all means, knock yourself out.  Below is my interpretation for those who also want to eliminate the raw egg.

The line up for my version of a creamy 'faux Caesar' dressing. (The chives aren't pictured here because I decided to add them after I took the photo. That is truly how the something from nothing style of cooking works. Add as you go.

The line up for my version of a creamy 'faux Caesar' dressing. (The chives aren't pictured here because I decided to add them after I took the photo. That is truly how the something from nothing style of cooking works. Add as you go.

Dressing

2/3 c Buttermilk
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1 T chives
1 T parsley, chopped
1/2 heaping tsp garlic, crushed  
1/2 t Mustard
2-3 T Parmesan cheese, grated
/2 t lemon zest
1 T lemon juice
1/2 full tsp salt
1/4 t pepper

 

Then combine all the above ingredients, whisking until smooth.  Easy, peasy.

Don't forget to add the grated parm. This harkens back to the Caesar taste.

Don't forget to add the grated parm. This harkens back to the Caesar taste.

Usually, I don't dress my salad until right before serving.  However, due to the heartiness of the leaf, I consider this salad to be more like a slaw which really demands time to let the dressing soak in.  Lovingly pour it over the salad a 1/2 hour before serving, but hold off on adding the shards of parm until right before serving.  Try not to eat too many while you wait.  If you do, just shave some more.

Now here's the part that rockets this recipe to the stars.  Copper 29 served their salad with croutons that were more like heavenly toasts.  Here's my version of those bad boys. 

Ingredients

4-6 thick slices of good crusty bread
3 T butter, room temp softened
1 T Bourbon
1 t Crushed garlic
Sea salt

 

 

 

 

 

In a bowl, mash together garlic, butter and bourbon.  Slather the mixture on both sides of the bread slices.

butter mixture
bread

 Sprinkle with sea salt and grill both sides til beautifully browned.  I use a cast iron pan which does the trick.

Oh the sheer crispy, crustiness soaked with warm bourbon butter. Hello, can you say 3 slices is not enough!

Oh the sheer crispy, crustiness soaked with warm bourbon butter. Hello, can you say 3 slices is not enough!

Sure this bread has butter AND bourbon, but given Kale's super power properties I think it negates any adverse effects from this mighty 'crouton'. 

So enjoy it all, down to the last crumb, as did my guests.  All in all, I was pleased with how this salad turned out.  I think you will enjoy it too.  Thank goodness we can all Hail the Kale without there being a social media scandal.

Recipe Printable Version

 

Cream Puff -What Did You Call Me?

Cream Puffs have been a part of my life for a long, long time.  My mom has been making them ever since I can remember.  Quite honestly, since she always made them, I never did.  That was until a caterer friend of mine hired me to bake for one of her clients.  One of the orders was for 100 mini cream puffs.  Thus began the start of MY cream puff making. 

First,  a little culinary lesson for those who may not be familiar with these little, light puffs. The pastry used for cream puffs is called pate a choux.  Yup, just like a lot of good pastry, it's French.  This is a very specific type of pastry that when baked at a high temperature puffs up with a crispy but tender exterior and hollow interior.  This creates the perfect pocket to fill with any type of stuffing you can imagine.  The classic fillings are a vanilla pastry cream for the traditional cream puff or ice cream drizzled with chocolate, which are known as profiteroles.

Because experience whether good or bad always serves, here's a bit of valuable info and full disclosure.  My first attempt at making cream puffs was a complete disaster.  They turned out like portobello mushrooms.  And when I say portobello, I mean large, flat and blackish brown. How did that happen, you ask? Ha, I certainly asked myself that same question.  So what do you do when you need answers to life questions? Call your mom. Which is what I did. She explained that the choux pastry is very delicate and temperature has a huge effect on it.  Well, there you have it, my answer in spades.  I had been baking for 9 solid hours to fulfill the catering order and the kitchen was piping hot. Worse possible scenario for this recipe. However, this was a great lesson that yielding an enlightening tip which I am now passing along to you. I recovered that day by turning off the ovens, letting the kitchen cool down and starting from scratch at 10pm so I could fulfill the order. I have been making these tasty little puffs perfectly ever since.

Here is the basic recipe for pate a choux.  (Don't let the amount of photos make you think this is hard.  It's not.  I just loved some the images and also wanted to show some of the steps.)

 INGREDIENTS

Yields approx. 44
(2" puffs)

  • 1 c water

  • 1 stick butter

  • 1 c flour

  • pinch of salt

  • 4 Lg. eggs

 

 

 

 

 

Instructions

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt the butter in water then add the salt and flour. Take pot off the heat and stir until the mixture comes together in a ball.  Let the mixture cool slightly and add one egg at a time.  I use a wooden spoon to combine but you can also use a hand mixer.  

Butter melting in water

Butter melting in water

Add flour

Add flour

Stir quickly to bring together

Stir quickly to bring together

One egg at a time

One egg at a time

When you add the egg the dough will separate. Not to worry.  Keep stirring it until it combines, and it will combine. Then add the next egg.  Continue until all eggs are incorporated.

Notice how the pastry seems to get gloppy. Just keep stirring.

Notice how the pastry seems to get gloppy. Just keep stirring.

For quickness, ease and to make the puffs all the same size, I have found that using a piping bag is the best method. Fill the bag and squeeze out the size you desire.  My mom makes hers on the larger size.  I make mine smaller.  If you don't want to use a piping bag, you can use two small spoons to dollop the pastry onto a greased baking sheet.  

Spoon into piping bag. You can also use a large plastic bag and cut the corner off.

Spoon into piping bag. You can also use a large plastic bag and cut the corner off.

Traditionally, cream puffs are not fluted like seen here, but this was the piping tip I had so I used it. It makes them pretty so why not.

Traditionally, cream puffs are not fluted like seen here, but this was the piping tip I had so I used it. It makes them pretty so why not.

Two important notes.  Try to make them as close to the same size as possible so they will cook evenly, as well as they look nice when you present them for dessert.  Consistency in size really ups the level of presentation in anything you serve, especially in baking.  Second; swirl the top so as to not create a long tip or tail, since it will burn.  If you do get a little tip, wet your finger with some water and dab the tip down.

 

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Bake for 10 minutes at 450, the lower the oven to 400 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Lines of perfectly baked puffs awaiting their filling.

Lines of perfectly baked puffs awaiting their filling.

Filling - the Classic

The classic filling is vanilla pastry cream which can be made using this link recipe.  But my mom took a short cut which seems to work well and is quick and simple.  It may be a cheat to the traditional method but it tastes pretty darn good.  Here's what she passed down to me.
 

Ingredients
 

1 box Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding
1 c milk
2 c heavy cream
Powdered sugar for decorating

Instructions
 

Add the milk into the pudding mix and beat until combined.  Refrigerator while you whip the heavy cream to soft peak.

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Combine the two together to get a light filling.

Combine the two together to get a light filling.

Once the cream is whipped, fold the pudding into the cream and thoroughly combing.  Fill a piping bag.

Clearly, I love using a piping bag. It really does make things so much easier.

Clearly, I love using a piping bag. It really does make things so much easier.

Using the tip, gently push a hole into the bottom of the puff and fill 'er up.

Once you have all your puffs filled, stack them on a cake plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

And there you have it.  Light and fluffy filled with creamy lusciousness.  If that's the definition, then go ahead and call me a Cream Puff!  Enjoy with an espresso and don't forget to share the love.

Other fillings:  Oh there are so many that this post would go on for pages and pages.  Why would I do that when I could use all those good ideas to write another blog post... which I will.  You can fill these little delights with whatever your heart desires.  I promise to post a handful of savory ideas in the near future.