PUFF choux PASTRY ricotta cream ZEPPOLE style

Fellow Canadians provided insight on the PUFF in Choux PASTRY.
BAKING from the perspective of SCIENCE to get the perfect pastry puff.

I had once succeeded in 'poofing’ the puff to later fail by roofing the puff.
Here's the journey of a once upon a time baker with misplaced pride.

     Canadian raised Anne Gardiner and Sue Wilson also known as the 'Inquisitive cooks' grew up in the lush Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.  As youngsters they were introduced and always blessed with fresh produce and food preparation experimentation.  Although they both got educated on different career paths...they never let go of their united fascination with food.
The evolution of ‘The Inquisitive Cook’ garnered much interest.  As time went on, they found themselves learning and answering questions on solving ongoing mysteries about how food works.  As most of us have had to admit to ourselves (especially after failed recipes)...there really is a scientific reason behind how we bake and cook.

November 27th, 1991...
through the Montreal's Gazette Newspaper...
I was indirectly introduced to these fascinating ladies through the posting of:
"Putting the POOF in cream PUFFS"

This newspaper's culinary column had intrigued a very young and adventurous baker at heart.

Now, you may be wondering...
why would Claudia bring up this fairly old newspaper clipping?

About 23 years ago...
with a recipe taken from a French Desserts book, I had made some very successfully 'poofed' puffs...
to be later followed by terribly gone wrong 'roofed - collapsed' puff not even a month later.
I guess the expression beginner's luck certainly applied to a very young, naive baker such as myself.
I remember being so disenchanted that I had gone back to pouting and sticking with what I did best.

I figured...if I needed pastry puffs...
I had shops galore to choose from...
why risk another disappointment?
     Just a few years later, during my early morning paper reading, I came face to face with science and that darn poof puff again.   After having read the catchy title I continued past that page to quickly get to the financial section.  I had actually gotten distracted by the movie listings...closed the paper and left it on the table.
The next day, a friend had come over and just felt like flipping through yesterday's paper.   Wouldn't you know it...she just had to pay attention to cream puff story.    Now, what do you think came next?  Yep, more talk about my puffs getting 'roofed' instead of 'poofed'.   I'm so glad my friends can always count on me to be amused.   I quickly grabbed that paper out of her hands and tossed it into the bin.
The rest of my day went swell, although, I felt a slight haunting from the 'inquisitive cooks' Anne and Sue.  Why, wasn't I willing to let go my misplaced pride and maybe learn something in the process?  Dare I say try baking these again?  

What I did end up doing, was to cut the column out and...
file it for when I'd be ready to face the crispy, perfectly hollow baked puff shell.

Later came 20 years after.
Who can beat that?
I couldn't believe I had stored this clip for this long.

So, what brought this on?
Who else...my gentle nudge Hubby who had been asking me to make...
Italian 'Zeppole di San Giuseppe' for his Father on March 19th.
I had initially said no and not to bother asking me again.
He surprisingly backed down.

However, the puff came haunting me again.
Now that my Foodessa is on her culinary journey...
this might as well be the right time to get up my nerve to give cream puffs another go.
The puffs weren't going to be exactly like the original 'Zeppole'...
however, it was going to be good baked substitute.

Did I make them?...
Did I succeed?...
I sure did...and mighty impressive they turned out to be ;o)

As I saw them 'poof' perfectly in the oven...
I actually felt the tears of joy slowly gushing from my eyes.
I couldn't believe how sensitive I had become and it wasn't the hormones this time.
Here are some excerpts from that column which contributed to this successful pastry:
(with a few liberties of my own of course).
GUIDELINES to successful pastry PUFFS

Quantity ratios generally required:
. The volume of WATER should equal the volume of FLOUR.
. The ratio of BUTTER to FLOUR is 1:2
. The ratio of FLOUR to large EGGS is 1:4
note: As fat floats on the surface of the boiling water, it coats many of the flour particles to discourage lumping as flour and water mix.

WATER...is the key to a successful POOF
. Some of the water binds the ingredients together.
The remaining water evaporates in the oven to create hot, moist vapours that lift and hold the batter during baking.
. If too much water boils away as the dough paste is made, there's not enough left to form steam.
Without steam, there's no rising.

. Eggs as well as the butter, help 'choux' paste stretch as the steam builds.
. If the eggs have cooked before the steam is generated, the batter is no longer elastic.
Hence, the reason to take pot off the heat in order to incorporate eggs appropriately.
. As the eggs' natural emulsifiers hold water and butter harmoniously together, the appearance of the batter changes from dull and uneven to smooth and glossy.

. If the batter looks curdled, it's because, too much water has evaporated as the paste has cooked.
Tip: to remedy this, gradually add a little hot water until the batter glistens again.

. Always start baking puffs in a hot oven to jump-start the process of creating steam.
. Baking is completed at a lower heat, so they set without toughening.
. The puff shells are done when they're well-puffed, crisp and golden.
Tip: Do not remove them from the oven too soon, or the remaining steam softens the crust so they collapse.

Thanks 'Inquisitive cooks' for indirectly having me face my fears and...
getting me back on the track of self-confidence.

First, here's the RECIPE for the CUSTARD FILLING of the ZEPPOLE cream PUFF.

Ricotta - Maple syrup 
Custard Cream

Click HERE for PRINTER version of this RECIPE

(American / Metric measures)

. 4 xLarge egg yolks
. 8 Tbsps. or 1/2 cup (110g) granulated sugar
. 6 Tbsps. (36g) unbleached All-purpose flour
. pinch of sea salt
. 2 cups (500ml) milk (low-fat+)

. 5 oz. (1 pkg.) x 300g fresh Ricotta cheese
. 1/2 tsp. (2.5ml) premium vanilla extract
. 1/4 cup (50ml) pure Maple syrup

1. In a small-medium saucepan, hand whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt and flour all at once until a smooth paste has formed.
2. Add just a little quantity of milk to soften the thick paste.  Whisk again until combined.
3. Afterwards, continually whisk in the remaining milk.    Note: this is one of the better ways to avoid getting  curdles in the egg mix.   It will assure a smooth, lump-free cream every time.  It also avoids having to later strain it.
4. Over medium-high heat, start whisking the custard gently at first and then a little quicker as the cream starts feeling thicker.  Wait for a very light simmering boil to appear.   At this point lower the heat to very low as you finish getting the perfect cream consistency.  As the whisk leaves an evident trail , this is the indication that the cream is ready.   
5. Remove the pot from the heat.  Let the cream rest for about 15 minutes more while giving it a stir every so often.
6. Transfer the cream to a medium bowl and cover it with a plastic wrap to touch the surface.  This will avoid a dry skin from forming.  When the cream has cooled at room temperature, cover and refrigerate for a few hours until cold and thickened.    This cream keeps well for 2-3 days.
...ASSEMBLY...combo with Ricotta:
7. In another medium-large bowl, place the fresh Ricotta cheese, vanilla and Maple syrup together.  
8. With an electric beater, whip the cheese into a smooth consistency.   Afterwards, use a spatula and gradually fold in the custard cream until all combined.  
9. Cover and place into the refrigerator for at least two hours before using.  The final combination of this cream should be consumed within a 2-3 day period.   

Choux pastry Puff shell
note: for this particular recipe...12 large puffs were made

Click HERE for PRINTER version of this RECIPE

(American / Metric measures)

. 4 xLarge eggs
. 1 cup (250ml) water 
. 1/2 cup [1 stick] (125g) unsalted butter
. 1 Tbsp. (15ml) granulated sugar
. 1/4 tsp. (1.25ml) sea salt
. 1 cup (150g) All-purpose flour, sifted

. Position the rack in the center of the oven.
. In order to jump start the process of creating steam, pre-heat the oven at:
425F/220C/Gas7...will later be lowered to 350F/180C/Gas5.  Refer to the Baking Guideline.
. Prepare 2 large parchment paper lined baking pans. 
Note: Do not use a Silicone mat for this pastry.

1. Crack eggs and place them individually into 4 small bowls. Set aside.
...BATTER-dough (Choux paste):
2. . In a medium-small saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt and sugar.  On MEDIUM-HIGH heat, bring these ingredients to a rapid boil and then immediately remove saucepan away from the heat source.  Note: It is very important that this initial step is done quickly, since the water evaporation has to be limited. This water content is needed for the magic to happen in the oven.
3. Immediately add all the flour at once.  With a strong spatula, vigorously combine into a smooth ball which has pulled away from the sides of the pot.
4.Then, either manually or an electric beater, very gradually incorporate one egg at the time.  Once combined, the dough will have a soft consistency as well as show a glossy appearance. The batter should be just stiff enough to hold its shape when transferred onto the baking sheet.
5. Prepare to either use a spoon or appropriate size scoop to place the dough onto the baking pan.  Note: a pastry bag can also be used.  Leave them at least 2 inches (5 cm) apart.  Also, lightly flatten any protruding pointed edges with a slightly wet finger.

Dough quantity GUIDELINE for different sized puffs:
1 inch (2.5 cm) quantity for SMALL sized puffs
2 inches (5 cm) quantity for MEDIUM sized puffs
3 inches (7.5 cm) quantity for LARGE sized puffs.

...BAKING:  Always start baking puffs in a very hot oven.

Depending on which shell type and size required...
it is suggested to follow this...Baking Time Guideline:
. Two oven temperatures will be used:
. 1st temp. will be at: 425F/220C/Gas7
. 2nd temp. will be at: 350F/180C/Gas4

. Baking for 48 SMALL puff shells
. 1st temp. will be for 10 minutes
. 2nd temp. will be for 15 minutes
. Baking for 24 MEDIUM puff shells
. 1st temp. will be for 15 minutes
. 2nd temp. will be for 20 minutes
. Baking for 12 LARGE puff shells
. 1st temp. will be for 20 minutes
. 2nd temp. will be for 25 minutes

. BAKE for the time required.  When the puffs are ready, they will have a golden appearance. Then, once out of the oven, They will sound hollow when lightly tapped.  Poke each one on the side with a toothpick so that the remaining moisture can evaporate.  Transfer them to a rack to completely cool.

. Puffs can be left out on a cooling rack and at room temperature for about 24 hours. They can also be made a few weeks ahead of time gently placed into an airtight freezer bag.
If not using puffs within the next few hours: 
 . Before filling the puffs, crisp them back up in a pre-heated 300F/150C/Gas2 oven for about 5-7 minutes/ 10-12 minutes if they were directly out of the freezer. Cool on rack and slice in the center to fill with cream.

...final ASSEMBLY:
. Usually, the puffs will be sliced horizontally at mid-point and filled. 
On this large 'Zeppole', the puff got an extra topper.  Cut the puff in thirds. 
Fill with the Ricotta - Maple Syrup custard cream recipe mentioned above.

Well, this is where I'll stop for now.
There will surely be more about cream puffs in my future journey...
especially about offering other cream type filling variations.

I hope this post helps all upcoming bakers who face the challenge of getting the perfect poof in the 'choux' puff ;o)

Flavourful wishes,

Comments or suggestions ... write me :o)
Claudia at: foodessa [at] gmail [dot] com

Go HERE for more SWEET creations.

Please take note on how I bake and cook...
Here’s a 101 of sorts to make sure that there are no disappointments when trying my creations.  
Also...just so you know...feel free to increase the salt and sweet factor since I'm not high on either of them ;o)
. Use DRY cup measurements for...you guessed it...all DRY ingredients.
Anything DRY gets measured by spooning the overfilled ingredient (never shake the cup) and then level off with a flat edged tool.  Exception...Brown sugar should be packed in and leveled.
. Use LIQUID cup measurements for...all LIQUIDS that cannot be leveled like for example butter, yogurt...etc.  Measure the liquids at eye level to avoid overdoing what the recipe truly needs.
OVENS are unfortunately not created equal.  Mine is so old that it has reached many degrees off it's norm.  It's really worth investing a few dollars to test yours with an appropriate oven thermometer.  You'd be surprised how many ovens I've heard about not being where they should have been.  Before you lose any more ingredients and much time preparing a new recipe...run to the store...you'll thank me later. 

Here are other PASTRY and CREAM recipes that may interest you:
- Chocolate Apple Nut Phyllo triangle pockets...Food 101-How to Triangle Phyllo pastry