Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July Treats

So, I was not feeling a fruit pizza, Jello, or a trifle...and cupcakes are not exactly my forte...but I still wanted to make something fun and 4th of July-themed for the bbq my dance instructors were hosting. If that's not a challenge, I don't know what is. So, I asked the What's Cooking board on The Nest for some inspiration...and, lo and behold, I found it. I bring you...Strawberry and Blueberry Cream Puffs and Honey Cream Cheese-Stuffed Strawberries. Apologies in advance for the poor quality of the pictures...I snapped them at the last second at my gracious hosts' house.

Strawberry and Blueberry Cream Puffs (recipe from Brownie, who adapted it from Le Cordon Blue's baking textbook)

  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. skim milk
  • 9 Tbl. butter
  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
Heat milk, water, and butter together in a saucepan until it comes to a full boil. Remove from heat and pour in flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer dough ball into the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in eggs and yolk one at a time, waiting until each one is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next.

Pipe cream puffs onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 25 minutes (depends on size of cream puffs, but that's what worked for me), or until golden brown and full puffed. Turn the oven off. Poke a small hole with a toothpick in each puff, then return puffs to the (turned off!) oven--leaving the door ajar--for 5 minutes to let the puffs dry out.

A few notes...1) according to Brownie, don't lick the spoon, because it's called "paste" for a reason. 2) According to me, if you forget to poke the holes in your puffs, they will deflate and not be as puffy. 3) If your oven mysteriously turns itself off between batches, and you put the piped dough in a cool oven, the puffs will not puff in the first place. And, 4) If you completely forget about the drying out step for both batches, it will probably also negatively affect the puffiness of the final product. So my cream puffs weren't very puffy. However, that didn't stop me from trying to stuff them with pastry cream anyways!

Pastry Cream

  • 2 c. skim milk
  • 12 Tbl. sugar, divided
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg
  • Rounded 1/3 c. cornstarch
  • 2 Tbl. butter
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2-3 Tbl. strawberry wine or mead
  • 2-3 Tbl. blueberry wine or mead
Combine milk and 6 Tbl. sugar in a saucepan, and bring just to a boil over medium heat.

Whisk together 2 egg yolks and 1 egg until light in color. Whisk in a rounded 1/3 c. of cornstarch and remaining 6 Tbl. sugar.

Temper egg mixture by adding in about 1/3 of the hot milk mixture in a SLOW, STEADY STREAM, WHISKING CONSTANTLY. Hint: use a measuring cup to accomplish the transfer, rather than trying to pour from the saucepan using only one hand. Add egg mixture (that now contains some of the milk mixture) to the saucepan of milk, and whisk constantly until mixture thickens.

Remove from heat. Stir in butter and vanilla extract. Pour through sieve into two separate bowls. Add strawberry wine to one and the blueberry wine to the other, and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap (make sure to press it down against the surface to prevent a skin from forming!), and refrigerate overnight.

Notes...1) If you're just making vanilla pastry cream (and therefore not adding additional liquid at the end), just use 1/3 c. cornstarch, rather than the rounded 1/3 c. 2) Feel free to substitute your favorite liqueur or fruit puree or whatever for the strawberry and blueberry wine. 3) I used strawberry and blueberry melomel from Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, one of my favorite vineyards in Virginia!

To assemble

Pipe pastry cream into cream puffs. If you're really good, you can do this without having to split the cream puffs, so they look prettier. If they happen to be not very puffy, you will have a lot of pastry cream leftover...but that's ok, because it tastes good on its own. You'll want to use a piping tip that's small enough to pierce the cream puffs easily and won't mar their appearance too much, but big enough for the pastry cream to pass through relatively easily.

Honey Cream Cheese-Stuffed Strawberries (adapted from Food Network)

  • 2 lbs. fresh strawberries
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c. powdered sugar
  • 2-3 Tbl. honey
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • Blue candy melts
Wash strawberries, and cut a circle around each stem...the top of the strawberry should then easily pull off, revealing a lovely hollow area inside the berry that is perfect for stuffing with cream cheese.

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, honey, and almond extract in a bowl. I used about 3 Tbl. of honey and 1/4 tsp. of almond extract, and the honey flavor overpowered the almond flavor more than I wanted, so taste as you go, and adjust the balance of these two flavorings to your taste!

Fill each strawberry with cream cheese mixture (a piping bag makes quick work of this). Melt the blue chocolate melts (you won't need many), and drizzle over the strawberries. Or, if your chocolate craving is a little more insistent, dip the strawberries into the melted blue chocolate (be sure to leave some of the red strawberry showing so you've still got your red, white, and blue!).


  1. I agree, the honey cream cheese sounds delicious! I think I am going to have to try these out! Gotta love the nest lol

  2. Glad you like the idea! They were a big hit. I thought the honey went well with the cream cheese.