You’ve probably heard of The Great British Baking Show. You know, the one with the pastel tent in the countryside where all the bakers are earnest and the judges unyieldingly cold?
I started watching the show long before it became a sensation. In 2014, when I was living in Boston and working at Wayfair, I watched three whole seasons via bootleg version on Youtube. The screen was surrounded by a blaring fluorescent blue border that made my eyes ache after each episode (#worthit). Back then, it was called The Great British Bakeoff. They changed the name for American Audiences; I think “bake-off” implied cut throat competition and bad mouthing, both of which are blissfully absent from the show.
Everyone I told about the show looked at me like I was crazy, and those who actually agreed to watch for a minute or so usually fell asleep. But I watched with rapt attention; the show spoke to my soul. The contestants were just Average Joes who happened to be excellent bakers. They were kind, humble, and so genuinely excited to be there. There was the grandmother from Surrey who baked for her small grandchildren, or the stay-at-home dad from Shropshire who’d gotten into baking as a science. They were all just so gosh-darn earnest! It was a much needed antidote in the age of Chopped. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Chopped, but the forced rivalries and bad-mouthing seem so superfluous).
Needless to say, the British accents accounted in large part for my addiction to the show. Those, and the two irreverent hosts, Mel and Sue, who wafted around making bad puns and distracting the bakers from their work.
I loved hearing the bakers talk about their process, especially when they had to make pastry cream, or creme patissiere, which they called “creme pat.” “I’ve just got my creme pat going here, and then I’ll start in on my choux buns.”
At the time of my first GBBO binging, I never dreamed I would be able to make cream puffs. They seemed to fall into the category of Fancy French Things I’d never achieve. I was in a pie and cookie phase, and thought I’d stay there forever.
Fast forward three years, and I’m sitting in my Minneapolis kitchen looking at a perfectly light and airy choux bun filled with sweet whipped cream and topped with powdered sugar. It feels like biting into a cloud and tastes like airy goodness.
And I’m here to report that these are EASY to make. I repeat, EASY!! Watch this video from Bon Appetit and you will see that the process is quite straightforward. Don’t have a pastry bag? Worry not! Just cut the corner off a large zip-lock freezer bag!
Cream Puffs, from Bon Apetit (my notes in bold)
1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
6 large eggs (5 for dough, 1 for egg wash)
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
Powdered sugar (for dusting)
- Preheat to 450°
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit 1 large pastry bag (or a plastic freezer bag with 1/2-inch cut from one bottom corner) with plain 1/2-inch tip.
- Bring milk, butter, 1 tsp. sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium sauce- pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add flour all at once; reduce heat to medium-low. Stir vigorously (your arm will hurt) with a wooden spoon until a dough forms and pulls away from sides of pan, 1–2 minutes. Continue beating vigorously until a thin dry film forms on bottom and sides of pot, about 1 minute. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Add 1 egg and mix on medium speed until egg is incorporated and dough looks dry again, about 2 minutes. Repeat with 4 more eggs, adding one at a time and mixing to incorporate before adding the next. Dough should be smooth, shiny, and thickened.
- Spoon dough into prepared pastry bag; pipe out 2 1/2-inch-diameter rounds on pre-pared sheets, leaving 2 inches between rounds.
- Arrange racks in upper and middle thirds of oven and . Whisk remaining egg with 2 tsp. water and brush dough rounds all over with egg wash.
- Transfer baking sheets to oven; turn oven off. After 10 minutes, heat oven to 350° and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate pans front to back and top to bottom; continue baking until deep golden brown all over, about 10 minutes longer (puffs will deflate if removed from oven before fully baked). Once deeply golden brown (this may take closer to 25 min, just watch them closely) transfer puffs to a wire rack and let cool completely.
- Using a serrated knife, gently slice the top quarter off each puff; transfer tops to a plate. With your finger, gently push down the soft film of cooked dough inside each puff.
- Prepare a second pastry bag (or freezer bag) with 1/2-inch open-star tip. Beat heavy cream and remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form. Spoon whipped cream into prepared pastry bag. Fill each puff with cream, finishing with a generous ring of cream on top. Dust tops of cream puffs with powdered sugar; place atop puffs.
Have you ever made cream puffs? Try them and tell me what you think. I challenge you not to feel effortlessly fancy and French when serving them at your next dinner party…
Little Sister Links:
- Here’s the recipe for the hasselback butternut squash I posted to Instagram a few weeks ago. If you’re looking for a way to change up your squash course this Thanksgiving, I highly recommend this (make sure your knife is sharp).
- For anyone still wondering what to do with their lives (me), watch this.
- Calling all bookworms: this site should be a part of your morning routine.
- How many of these cookbooks do you own? I only own ONE! (But have borrowed several others from the library…)
- In case I didn’t convince you to binge already, watch an episode of GBBO and tell me what you think!