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Blog

Filtering by Tag: easter

Cream Puffs

Patricia Reitz

Cream puffs are the perfect crowd-pleasing treat because absolutely everybody loves them. The pastry shells can be baked and frozen up to a month ahead of time, and the filling can be made and refrigerated a day or two ahead. When you’re ready to serve them, just whip up a batch of whipped cream, fold it into the pastry cream, and spoon or pipe it into the empty pastry shells. Finish with a quick sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar and get ready to be the hit of the party.

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We'll start by making the pastry which is technically called pate a choux (sounds like pot-ah-shoo).

In a 4-quart nonstick saucepan, heat water, milk, butter, salt, and sugar until it boils.

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While you're waiting for the mixture to boil, have the flour and eggs ready to go.

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Okay, the milk mixture is just starting to boil - time to add the flour.

Add all the flour at once...

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And stir vigorously until all the liquid is absorbed.

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When all the liquid is absorbed, continue stirring constantly...

homemade pate a choux. homemade cream puff recipe.

Until a smooth paste forms and pulls away from the sides of the pan.  We're not quite there yet, but almost.

Just a few more moments and we're done.  Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer.

how to make homemade cream puffs.

Add the eggs, mixing one at a time, until no traces of raw egg remains. If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can stir the eggs in by hand - it’ll take some time, but you can do it.

Transfer the mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (like this one).  I like to use disposable bags (like these).  Using a star tip helps the pastry dough expand evenly in the oven.

I piped long skinny shapes for eclairs as well as round mounds for cream puffs, but didn’t get photos of the cream puff mounds - oops. You’ll figure it out though.

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When the mounds are done baking, allow them to cool slightly, turn each puff upside down, poke a hole in the bottom with a paring knife or skewer, and allow excess steam to escape. Allow them to cool completely before cutting the pastry shells in half and proceeding with the recipe.

Note: if you plan to freeze the puffs for use later, flash freeze the cooled, uncut pastry shells for about an hour, then transfer to an airtight freezer-safe container for up to a month. Thaw overnight, in the refrigerator, inside the airtight container.

cream puff recipe

To assemble, cut the pastry shell puffs in half with a serrated knife and fill with a mixture made of 50% pastry cream and 50% sweetened whipped cream. You can spoon the mixture in, or you can use a pastry bag fitted with a pasty tip as shown.

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Once filled, sprinkle with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Items I used to make this recipe:


Cream Puffs

makes about 20

Ingredients

Pastry Shells:

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon table salt

  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

  • 1 cup all purpose flour

  • 5 large eggs

  • confectioner's sugar for dusting

Filling (equal parts of each):

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450F and place rack in center position.

  2. In a 4-quart nonstick saucepan, heat the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar until it boils.

  3. Immediately add the flour and stir vigorously until all the liquid is absorbed by the flour and a paste forms; continue stirring constantly until the paste dries out and forms a ball that cleans the sides of the pan.

  4. Transfer the paste to the bowl of a stand mixer or food processor and allow it to cool for a couple of minutes. 

  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated.

  6. Transfer paste to a large disposable pastry bag that has been fitted with a large star tip (I used Ateco #826).

  7. Pipe the paste into 3-inch round by 1-inch tall mounds on a silpat lined sheet pan; dust with confectioner's sugar.

  8. Bake in 450F oven for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350F and continue baking for 25 to 30 minutes more.  

  9. Remove from oven and allow to rest until they're cool enough to handle, then poke a couple of vent holes in the bottom and allow to cool completely.

  10. When completely cool, fill with a mixture of 1 part pastry cream and 1 part sweetened whipped cream.

Homemade Cannoli

Patricia Reitz

A big holiday weekend is just around the corner.... and when I think of big holidays, I think of big family gatherings.... and when I think of big family gatherings, I think of big platters of delicious cannoli!  If you live in a big city, you're likely able to get your hands on some pretty good cannoli, but I live in the burbs, were a good cannoli is practically unheard of, so I make my own.  And now you can make your own too - this is how it's done. 

Note:  plan ahead, the filling needs to be prepared about 24 hours before using.  The cannoli shells can be used immediately after cooking, but you can also make them several days ahead of time if you store them in an airtight container (or freeze for up to a month).

Start by mixing together a simple cannoli shell dough, similar to the way you'd make pie dough.  I like to make my dough in the food processor (if you want to see that, check out my all-butter pie crust tutorial). 

The dough will look crumbly, but should hold together when compressed.  The least messy way to do this is to place the crumbles in a large zipper bag and press them into a disk shape.

Seal the bag and place the dough in the fridge.

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The dough should chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

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When it's time to roll the dough, remove it from the fridge and dust it with a little flour.

Now go down to the basement and dig out your pasta machine (am I right??).  Set the rollers at the widest setting.  For my machine, the widest setting starts at #1, but some machines that would actually be the thinnest setting.  You'll be able to figure out the widest setting on your machine pretty easily.

No pasta machine?  No problem - you can use a rolling pin, but I have to tell you, using a pasta machine is so much more fun! 

Ok, now that your pasta machine's rollers are set for the widest setting, pass the flour-dusted cannoli dough through the rollers.  If you have any kids around, I bet they'd enjoy cranking the handle.

Adjust the rollers of the pasta machine one level thinner.  Dust the now elongated piece of dough with a little more flour and pass it through the machine again.

Continue dusting, adjusting, and rolling, one level at a time, until the dough is very thin like (1/16-inch) - level #5 on my machine (the thinner you roll the dough, the more bubbles will appear on the shells when you fry them).

Continue dusting, rolling, adjusting... dusting, rolling, adjusting....

making cannoli shells at home - recipe and photos.

When you've reached the 5th level, stop rolling and grab a 4-inch round cutter..  Dust the cutter in flour and start cutting the cannoli shells.

The round cutouts aren't quite ready to use yet...

One more quick pass through the pasta machine, this time on the 6th level.  This will turn the round cutouts into ovals - you'll see why in a moment.

Alrighty, time to wrap the dough around the stainless cannoli forms.

Add a dab of water just where the two ends overlap.  Be careful not to get water on the cannoli form because it will cause the dough to stick and the shell will break when you try to remove it.

Press the overlapping edges together well to make sure they're sealed.  If you don't, they can pop open and fall off the form during frying.

homemade cannoli shells. recipe with photos. homemade cannoli - homemade recipe.

If you like, you can flare the ends a little.  Honestly, it looks nice, but I don't usually bother.

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Continue rolling the shells while you heat several inches of peanut oil in a deep pan.  

Heat the oil to 360F.  A good candy/oil thermometer is vital (I have this one).

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You should also have ready a pair of tongs to remove the shells from the hot oil, and a paper towel lined sheet pan to place them on.  

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CAREFULLY place the dough-wrapped cannoli forms in the oil and cook until brown and bubbly, being careful not to crowd the pan.  Watch the oil temp - it shouldn't fall below 350F. 

The shells will deepen in color a bit after being removed from the oil so it's not a bad idea to make a few practice ones first.

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Carefully remove the extremely hot cannoli forms from the oil and place them on a paper towel-lined sheet pan to cool for a few minutes (watch for hot oil inside the forms).  Carefully slide the shells off the forms (if the shells are too hot, hold them with a clean kitchen towel).   Allow the forms to cool completely before wrapping with more dough.  Continue until all the shells are done.

Remember what I told about not pressing the seams closed well enough?  Oops!  No biggie, cook's treat ;).  

Let me point out a few differences between the two shells above.  The non-flared one on the left started with a thinner disk of dough (resulting in tiny surface bubbles), but you can see by the color that it was left in the hot oil just a little too long.  The flared one on the right started with slightly thicker dough (larger surface bubbles), but it spent the right amount of time in the hot oil.

The shells should be allowed to cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to a week (or freeze for up to a month).  

IMPORTANT:  Don't fill the cannoli shells until just before serving.

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To make the filling, drain ricotta cheese in a cloth lined strainer overnight in the fridge.  Cover with plastic to keep the cheese from absorbing any refrigerator odors. 

Once all the excess whey has drained from the ricotta, add the softened mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, confectioner's sugar, pure vanilla extract (use the best), and ground cinnamon.  Mix them well and chill for 8-12 hours for best flavor.

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When you're ready to fill the shells (shortly before serving), put the filling in a large pastry bag (I like these) or large, heavy-duty zipper bag and cut a 1/2-inch hole at the tip.  Squeeze the filling into each end of the cannoli shells, then dip in chopped pistachios or mini chocolate chips (or both!).  Place the cannoli on a platter and dust with confectioner's sugar (this nifty tool is fun).  

Items used to make this recipe:


Homemade Cannoli

makes about 24 cannoli (leftover cannoli dough can be frozen for use later)

Ingredients

Cannoli Shells:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 1 egg yolk

  • 1/2 cup dry white or rose wine

Cannoli Filling:

  • 2 cups very well drained ricotta cheese (see notes below)

  • 6 ounces mascarpone cheese, softened to room temperature

  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted

  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • mini chocolate chips and chopped pistachios for garnish

Directions

To make the cannoli dough:

  1. In the bowl of a small food processor, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

  2. Add the butter, egg yolk, and wine, pulsing until the mixture looks uniformly crumbled.

  3. Place crumbles in zipper bag and press into a disk shape.

  4. Seal bag well and chill for at least 30 minutes before rolling.

To make the cannoli shells:

  1. Roll dough very thin (about 1/16th-inch) using pasta machine, dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking.

  2. Cut 4-inch circles using a round biscuit of cookie cutter and pass each round through the pasta machine one more time to turn the round into an oval.

  3. Wrap oval dough around stainless cannoli forms; moisted overlapping edges with a little water and press well to seal (keeping water off cannoli form.

  4. Fry shells in 360F oil until bubbly and golden; remove from heat, drain, and remove from forms when cool enough to do so. Cool completely before filling. Leftover shells can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week (or frozen for up to a month).

To make the filling:

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle or BeaterBlade attachment, place drained ricotta, mascarpone, cream, confectioner's sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon; beat on medium speed until smooth.

  2. Place mixture in a pastry bag or sturdy zip top bag; refrigerate until ready to use. Don't fill shells until serving.

Notes:

  • To drain ricotta, place in a sieve lined with cheesecloth (or coffee filter, linen tea towel, etc) and suspend over a bowl; cover well with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator overnight.

  • Prepared filling should chill 8-12 hours for best flavor.

  • For best results, fill shells just before serving.