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Cream Puffs

From Baking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America
Makes 20 cream puffs

Cream (Pastry Cream):
¼ cup cornstarch
¾ cup sugar, divided
2 cups whole milk, divided
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Puff (Pâte à Choux):
1 cup whole or low fat milk
½ cup butter (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup bread flour, sifted
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 2 tablespoons cold milk)

1. Make the Pastry Cream: Combine cornstarch with ¼ cup sugar in a mixing bowl, then stir in ½ cup of milk. Blend the yolks into the cornstarch mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth.
2. Prepare an ice bath. Combine the remaining 1 ½ cups milk with the remaining ½ cup sugar and the salt in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove pan from the heat.
3. Temper the egg mixture by gradually adding about one-third of the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly. Add the remaining milk mixture to the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan and continue cooking over medium heat, vigorously stirring with a whisk, until the mixture comes to a boil and leaves a trail in the pastry cream, 5-7 minutes. As soon as the pastry cream reaches this stage, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Transfer pan to an ice bath. Stir occasionally until the pastry cream is cool, about 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Make the Pâte à Choux: Combine the milk, butter, granulated sugar, and salt in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. (Careful! This boils over pretty easily once it gets going.) Reduce the heat to medium, and add the sifted flour all at once, and stir well. Cool, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the pan, about 5 minutes. (Mine took only like a minute to come together.) Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until cooled to body temperature. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat in the egg white.
6. Transfer the pâte à choux dough to a pastry bag with a plain round tip. Pipe or spoon the dough into 20 equal sized balls (about the size of a golf ball) onto the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Brush the unbaked puffs very lightly with egg wash.
7. Bake until the pastries are puffy and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325F and continue to bake until the puffs appear dry and a rich golden brown, another 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on wire racks before splitting and filling.
8. When the pastry has cooled, slice off the top ½ inch from each cream puff.* Pipe a dollop of pastry cream onto each base. Replace the top of the cream puff and dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Note: *Mine only rose to barely an inch tall, so it was nearly impossible to cut off the top ½ inch. I ended up putting the pastry cream in a piping bag with a round tip and jamming the tip into the side of the puff and squirting cream inside. It actually worked pretty well.

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