Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cream Puffs and Robbery, Not in that Order

I haven't posted in a while for a very legitimate reason; we got robbed and they took my camera and laptop.

You can't really blog without a camera and a laptop.

Here is the story. About a month ago I took Stanley for a walk. A 30 minute walk. I locked the door when leaving the apartment and when I came home the door was unlocked. I came in and shortly noticed that my camera and laptop were missing. Nothing else was gone, just those two things. At first I was in denial and searched and searched for them. We live in a studio apartment; there are not a lot of places to put something so it quickly became clear both items were gone, gone, gone.

We called the police and so did our neighbor. The thief also got his laptop and new watch.

I was unnerved and a bit freaked. Understandably. Someone was in our apartment and I was only gone 30 minutes. However, after the fact I was extremely grateful it wasn't worse. I could have been home. They could have taken all the Christmas presents (which were all wrapped and sitting right next to the laptop and camera) or cleaned us out completely and taken the furniture and food Grinch style.

Really, though the camera and laptop were the most expensive things we owned, it really wasn't that huge of a loss. Stuff is just stuff. It's not that important.

And I feel safe again. Our building changed its locks and we got like 5 more locks put in plus motion detectors, surveillance cameras, and those little poison arrows that shoot at Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom. Plus there's always Stanley, our massive guard dog.

Whoever broke in was lucky this beast wasn't around at the time.

And that is the story. Sad one, right? Well here is something to cheer you up: cream puffs!

All photos are courtesy of my phone. It will be awhile before we replace our laptop and camera.

I have been eating cream puffs a lot lately. There is this place in the city that sells them for $5 a pop and I can't stop craving them and going there. Well, when I was home at Christmas my sister-in-law made some from scratch and I was shocked! It never occurred to me that I could make them on my own. They seem so complicated. In fact, right before Christmas Andrew was telling me I should make some since I have wanted them so often and I told him you had to buy special pastry tools that scrape out the inside to make them hollow.

Dead serious. I truly believed that. The lies I tell. I don't even know where I come up with this stuff. A pastry scraper. Hah.

Turns out they are pretty easy. I think this took me an hour, from start to eating. That being said, I wont lie. There are a lot of steps involved which results in kind of a lot of dishes. I wish cooking could be my hobby without dishes becoming a hobby as well.

But, the pastry dough is super simple to make and guess what! it magically bakes up hollow. It has something to do with steam, my chef-uncle told me. No pastry scraper needed. Then I just whipped up some vanilla and chocolate whipped cream and WHAM. Cream puffs for days. Cravings solved.


Pâte à Choux (Cream Puff Pastry)

Recipe from A Steamy Kitchen
  • 1 c water
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 4 large eggs (next time I make this I am only to use 3 or 3 1/2 as I thought this was a bit too egg-y)
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
Preheat oven 425F.
1. In a medium pot, bring the water and butter to a simmer on medium heat. Add the flour and with a wooden spoon or spatula, stir very quickly in one direction. Carefully watch and you'll see that the flour starts absorbing the liquid -- and a dough will form. Keep stirring to continue cooking the flour and cook off some of the water, another minute or two.
2. You can do the next step one of two ways:
  • Transfer the paste to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or to a bowl if you're using a hand mixer. (I chose this method and used my Kitchen Aid.)
  • If you want to mix the eggs directly into the dough in the pot, let it cool slightly, 4 or 5 minutes, or cool off the pan itself by running cold water over its base if you will be mixing the eggs in that pot. You don’t want to cook the eggs too quickly.
3. Add the salt and the eggs one at a time mixing rapidly until each is combined into the paste. The paste will go from shiny to slippery to sticky as the egg is incorporated. The pâte a choux can be cooked immediately at this point or refrigerated for up to a day until ready to use.
4. Spoon the dough into a large gallon-sized plastic bag (or piping bag.) Use your hands to squeeze dough towards the bottom corner. With kitchen shears, snip off just the tip of the bag. Pipe onto a baking sheet into little puffs, keeping the puffs 2-inches apart. With your finger, press down the peaks (as they can burn.) Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, then 350F for 18-30 minutes, depending on the size of your puffs (mine were about 20 minutes). DO NOT PEAK AT THEM WHILE THEY BAKE.
5. Let them cool before inserting the filling or else the filling will run.

Vanilla and Chocolate Whipped Cream Filling
  • 2 pints heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 4 TBS granulated sugar, divided
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 TBS cocoa powder
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix on high 1 pint of cream with 2 TBS sugar and 1 tsp vanilla until stiff peaks arise.
  2. Scrap whipped cream in a piping bag or gallon ziploc and cut the very tip of the ziploc. Push the bag into the pastry ball and fill until filling is popping out of  your filling hole. If you are using a ziploc, you may need to cut a little "x" into the ball with a paring knife.
  3. Fill half the cream puffs.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, mix on high 1 pint of cream with 2 TBS sugar, and 1 TBS cocoa powder until stiff peaks arise.
  5. Repeat steps 2-3.

Nom nom.