Happy New Year!
Can you believe it’s 2011? Already? What happened to 2010?
Well, to answer one of the aforementioned questions, no. I can’t believe it’s 2011.
I can’t believe I’m graduating this year.
Back in middle school, we were given ID information to log on to the school computers. I became known as 11kkarter. The “k” for my first name, “karter” for my last, and the “11″ for the year I was to graduate. In 2004, when I was only 11 years old, 2011 seemed like it was an eternity away.
But it wasn’t. Here we are – 2011.
It’s weird to think about everything that will be happening this year. Graduation, of course, going to college, moving away for the first time. There’s so much certainty – and uncertainty – it’s almost hard to process.
I’ve always been the kind of person to think ahead, plan ahead. For now – and for my last few months of high school – I want to be the kind of person to live in the moment, too. Maybe that’ll be my resolution.
I spent my last few hours of 2010 making cream puffs. Cream puffs piled high and embraced by spun sugar. Croquembouche.
I had never made croquembouche before. I had never even made pate a choux or spun sugar before. This was definitely an adventure – a messy, sugar-filled adventure.
A rewarding adventure.
The cream puffs were delicious and the tower of them, though slightly lop-sided, was beautiful.
Hopefully my adventures of 2011 prove to be just as sweet.
Pate a Choux
Adapted from Joy of Baking
- 1 C. All Purpose Flour
- 1 C. Water
- ½ C. Butter
- 4 Eggs
- ½ tsp. Kosher Salt
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 2 tsp. Half and Half
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat, bring water and butter to a boil. Once boiling, whisk in salt and flour. Continue mixing for about 4 minutes over medium heat, until the dough changes from being shiny to matte and starts to form a ball.
Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the whisk attachment for a few minutes to release steam. Then, slowly add in one egg at a time, waiting for each egg to be fully absorbed before the next addition. The final product should be smooth and thick. Transfer to a piping bag.
Pipe rounds 1 inch in diameter and 1 inch high. Gently pat down any tops that may have formed.
In a small bowl, beat together egg yolk and half and half. Brush over piped mounds.
Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Lower the heat to 325 and bake for another 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
- 3 C. Half and Half
- 1 C. Granulated Sugar
- 4 Eggs
- 2 Egg Yolks
- 4 Tbsp. All Purpose Flour
- 4 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Bring half and half to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk sugar, eggs, egg yolk and flour in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot half and half. Transfer to saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes to boil, about 5 minutes. Boil 1 minute. Pour through a fine mesh sieve into large bowl. Stir in vanilla. Press plastic onto surface of pastry cream. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours.
Caramel (For Spun Sugar)
From Martha Stewart
- 2 C. Granulated Sugar
- 4 Tbsp. Water
- 2 tsp. Fresh Lemon Juice
Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, washing down sides of pan often with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. Cook, without stirring, until sugar dissolves, 5 to 6 minutes. Raise heat to high, and cook, swirling pan to color evenly, until syrup is amber, about 5 minutes. Remove caramel from heat, and set bottom of pan in ice-water bath for a few seconds to stop the cooking. Use immediately.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Transfer pastry cream to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip. Insert tip of pastry bag into base of each puff, and fill each. Return to sheets in a single layer as you work.
Carefully dip bottom half of 1 puff into caramel, letting excess drip into pan. Transfer puff, hot caramel side down, to a serving platter. Repeat with remaining puffs, working your way upward (like a pyramid).
For spun sugar, dip tines of the fork in remaining caramel and swirl around the stacked cream puffs. Continue to work around the croquembouche until desired look is achieved.