Grammy's Cream Puffs

As I look back on the recipes pulled from my paternal grandmother, it has occurred to me that she was the queen of all things rich and delectable! From ricotta cheesecake to pizza gaina, the woman knew how to make all the over-the-top dishes and dessert that we all came to love! And this week's recipe is another example of that. 


Grammy's cream puffs were served for any and all occasions! Just being together was enough of a reason for her to make them. They would show up piled high, dripping with cream and dusted in powdered sugar.

Now I will admit, her original filling recipe used a little short cut; it had boxed vanilla pudding in it. But when I read the current list of ingredients - I couldn't, in good faith, tell you all to use that. So I adjusted her filling recipe to a true, homemade, custard cream. 


Make no mistake - there's nothing "healthy" about cream puffs. And even though holidays are all about ditching "diets" there's never a reason to eat chemicals or "edible, food-like substances" (thanks Michael Pollan!). So go ahead and indulge this weekend - just make sure it's worth it! Make real food from real ingredients - and definitely try Grammy's recipe!

Buon Appetito & Buona Pasqua!

Cream Puffs
Makes about 36-40 puffs

For the Custard: (can be made 1 day in advance)
3 C. whole milk
3 egg yolks
1/2 C. sugar
1/3 C. corn starch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the Puffs:
1 C. water
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick (8 Tbs.) butter
1 C. flour
4 eggs

powdered sugar for serving (optional)

To Make the Custard:
Whisk together egg yolks and milk.

In a deep saute' pan, combine sugar, corn starch and salt. Heat over medium-low heat. Pour in a few tablespoons of the milk mixture, just enough to form a thick paste. Cook until the mixture begins to brown and is smooth.

Slowly pour in the remaining milk mixture. Continue whisking to prevent burning. Cook the mixture for 20 minutes or until thickened and bubbles begin to form in the center. 

While the mixture cooks, prepare an ice bath with a bowl, large enough to hold all of the custard, set inside a larger bowl filled with ice.

When the custard is cooked, immediately remove from heat and pour into the prepared bowl. Slowly whisk in the vanilla. Continue whisking gently for 5 minutes to help the custard cool. Place a piece of plastic on the surface of the custard to prevent a film from forming and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

To Make the Puffs:
Preheat the oven to 400°. The key to these is a VERY hot oven. 

In a medium saucepan, combine water, salt and butter over medium heat. Bring to a boil.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in flour. Continue stirring rapidly until a ball of dough forms. Remove from the heat. 

Beat in one egg at a time, either by hand or using an electric mixer. The dough will become very sticky. 

Prepare 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Grease the paper with butter or oil. 

Drop the dough by rounded spoonfuls about 2 inches apart. Get all your dough onto the cookie sheets before baking. They all have to bake together. 

Bake the puffs at 400° for 15 minutes. Then reduce the temperature to 350° and continue baking until they turn a light, golden brown. About 10-15 more minutes. Remove the puffs from the oven and allow to cool completely before assembling.

Slice the puffs almost in half, creating a clam shell. Spoon a generous amount of custard onto the bottom half and close up the puff again. Set onto a serving platter. Continue until all of your puffs are made. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.