(Norwegian version: Verdens Lengste Vannbakkelsoppskrift)
As the overly optimistic amateur baker I am, I decided to try out Cream Puffs. I have never made Cream Puffs before, so I was confident that I could do this.
After a very promising start (before I took them out of the oven) – they collapsed like punctured balloons as soon as I sat them on the counter to cool off, but without the panache and loud bangs that usually follows puncturing of such air container devises.
My son, the Karate Kid, will do his Confirmation in the Norwegian Church Abroad on Sunday (in Copenhagen, Denmark), and seing as this is a big deal for us Norwegians, there will be a party. And at that party, the Kid wants Cream Puffs. Old Mamasan must therefore master the great art of Cream Puffery.
Failure is not an option, and will be seen as totally flawed mommy-politics. And that is not how I roll. That is why I rolled up my sleeves and had a new go at the stupid Cream Puffs – because that is the type of mom Old Norway needs. (My son’s name is not Norway and he is not old, but it did sound really good in my head when I wrote it. I might be wrong, though. I have been wrong before, in August 1996.)
This mom is intelligent enough to know that the very definition of lunacy is to repeat the same action over and over, and still expect a different result. (It is totally possible that I am insane. I have never been tested.) Therefore I sought the advice from seasoned bakers in a Norwegian baking group on Facebook. I was certain that at least one or two of the members of that group have made the same mistake as me, and they might even have cracked the code of the mysterious act of Cream Puffery, and thus could give me a nudge. Or advice. An advice would be better, although a gentle nudge is nice. By all means.
I really do want to serve really pretty and really tasty Cream Puffs for my little son’s Confirmation party. Well, he’s not little anymore, he stands a 1.80 meters tall. Anyways, Cream Puffs he wants, and Cream Puffs he shall have. Simple as that. And sooooo hard!
I will not even attempt to try to hide the fact that Old Mamasan has a desire to impress the guests (our entire family is coming, all generations) with the world’s most delicious Cream Puffs. Inside my head, the following scene unfolds:
The warming May sun is shining (Of course!), and there is not a cloud in the sky (weather forecast sais rainy, but when are they ever right?), and all the Bunad-clad (National costume) guests have changed into light summer dresses as to avoid heat stroke, and are sitting in the shade in my garden in pleasant chatter. The Kid is enjoying and basking in the admiration and attention that is bestowed on him on his special day. Yet there is room for a shift in attention as Old Mamasan presents a tray full of the most glorious Cream Puffs filled with vanilla cream and fresh berries. Accompanied by a standing ovation, the tray of Cream Puffs is placed on the table.
For decades tales will be told about these glorious Cream Puffs, and Old Mamasan will be brought in as a guest judge on every cooking show there is, that involves the Magic of Cream Puffery. Book deals will be offered and signed, and the bestseller list will not just be topped, it will be totally pulverized! Terry Pratchett, Jo Nesbø and even the Bible’s selling numbers looks like a newbies feeble attempt at some writing, compared to the Queen of Cream Puffery’s grand numbers. The literary stylings of Old Mamasan will be turned into a movie, and although I will not interfere (too much) in the casting, I will ever so elegantly drop a few names: Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Martin Clunes.
Ok. I might have taken it a tad too far there. But to my defence I can only say that if you are going to dream, you might as well dream big – it won’t cost you a penny!
Didn’t I promise you a recipe? Here it comes (To you who have been reading all this just to get the recipe and are in a hurry: I’m sorry! I truly am!)
12 large Cream Puffs:
(be sure to measure carefully – I have been told that is vital to ensure good results):
2.5 dl water, boiled together with
125 grams butter (the real thing, no nonsense)
Then stir in 125 grams sifted flour and
4 room temperature eggs, lightly beaten together and stirred into the dough in four instalments.
Make sure you take the pan off the heat before you start stirring in the eggs – unless you like scrambled eggs, but then you might have gotten the wrong recipe here…
If you want, you can put the dough into a costly Tupperware piping bag (I have one of those), or you can just put the dough with a tablespoon on a baking tray lined with baking sheet. If you go for the tablespoon method, then you might be well advised to use two spoons, so you’ll be able to get the dough off the first spoon. Or you can use a spatula. Or your finger. (We are not judging)
At this point, i.e. between placement of dough on baking tray and inserting said baking tray into heated oven, I sent the Doodz out for a long walk with the dog, to avoid any curious openings of the oven door. I also did not want any stomping on the floor anywhere near the oven, in fear of collapse. I even put the cats outside. You would not believe it, but a four kilo cat can stomp so hard on the floor that it feels like a series of earthquakes measuring 10 on the Richter’s Scale (For comparison: The strongest measured earthquake was in Chile on 22 May 1960 (measured at 9 , 5). Remember this, as it might come in handy at the Pub Quiz. You’re welcome!) The moral here is: Do not open the oven door – as the Cream Puffs will deflate and will look more like road kill then Magic Cream Puffs!
I do not really know that stomping will trigger a collapse in the Cream Puffs, but that is not a chance I am willing to take. Also, as a bonus, I got the entire house all to myself for a while, which was much welcomed. The Doodz are absolutely clueless about baking in general and Cream Puffs specifically, so they stayed out for the rest of the evening, just to be sure.
Bake the Puffs at 200 degrees Celsius, and my recipe said for 20 to 25 minutes. This was far too little, and as mentioned at the top of this post – the puffy Puffs failed to stay puffy! Sucky McSuckface!
The recipe also failed to give any geographical indications as to how high or low to place the tray while baking, so I put it in the middle of the oven. Because I can.
On that basis I turned to the above mentioned facebook group. (It is a Norwegian group where everything is written in Norwegian, so I see no point in providing a link to non-Scandinavian readers.)
I got lots of good answers and good advice, and the best must have been the tip about Scam puffs, and this is how to make them: Cut your Collapsed Puffs in half. Put vanilla cream, ice cream, whipped cream, fresh fruit, jam, jelly, or any combination of those onto the bottom half. Place the top half on top (duuuuh) and decorate with icing sugar or icing. No one will ever suspect that your Cream Puffs are in fact Collapsed Puffs! Ingenious! I guess it is common knowledge that icing totally covers up and outweighs any mistakes, and it even makes life worth living! (Errr… Did I mix icing up with wine now? Yes, I did. Wine makes life worth living! Sorry for the misinformation!)
Thus, Old Mamasan proudly presents Scam Puffs, with strawberry cream filling and a good ol’ dusting of icing sugar on top:
I was also advised to wait with the wine until after I had finished baking the Puffs, to which there is only one possible answer: If you think it’s too early to drink wine; you are an amateur, and we cannot be friends! The advisor turned out to be a smart person, who said that it’s not too early to drink wine – it’s too late to make Cream Puffs! I totally buy that argument, and the friendship was thus salvaged.
Old Mamasan read all the replies from the questions I posted in the Norwegian Cake Group. All tips and tricks were noted, and all links were clicked both four and five times. All advice and lessons learned were entered into a spreadsheet, categorized, cross-referenced and prepared as a mighty impressive Pie Chart.
“Leave it in the oven longer” topped all charts and collections of data. “After the bake is done, turn off the oven and leave the oven door slightly open for 5 minutes” were the other.
After carefully analyzing the massive data, I was ready to have a second go at the ol’ Puffaroos:
I nonchalantly sauntered into the kitchen, as to send a message to the waiting eggs on the counter top, that “No one is nervous about this, at all!” The pan in which puffery were to happen was picked up from the drawer, where it sits when not in use. Unfortunately, I had not been foresighted enough to put on my protective foot ware, so an impressive session of cookware juggling did not take place. I am confident that my neighbors would be utterly impressed by my cookware juggling skills, as this act would have been both really cool, fun, and honestly; epic!
Butter is carefully weighed. Water is carefully measured up; I think I spent five minutes just doing the water measurements. It had to be just right! I am normally quite nonchalant about following recipes; I’ll alter any recipe to suit my needs. I guess it is a result of a rebellious opposition to authority. I will not stand for anyone telling me what, and how much of what, to put in my cookware! No, recipes are great provocations on Old Mamasan.
-Except for cake recipes! I am willing to stick more faithfully to the manuscript of cakes. But I don’t have to like it!
I weigh the flour and break the eggs into a bowl. As long as I’m being unoriginal, I might as well do it good… Now, all is ready for the great Puffery – and I do everything exactly the same way as stated in the recipe above (until we come to the actual baking of the Puffers)
Who came up with the idea of making Cream Puffs, Profiteroles, and Eclairs the first time? Seriously! Boiling water and butter to make cake is sheer lunacy! I am thinking this must have been a mistake, perhaps someone lost their last bit of butter in a pot full of boiling water, and decided to make dinner rolls. But then they didn’t have any yeast or baking powder, and so the Puff was invented?
Now I did boast way up above about owning an expensive Tupperware piping bag – and there I was also reminded why I never use the stupid thing – because it is anything but fun to clean! So this time around, and it still being a practice run, I used the spoon-method when putting the dough on the baking tray. Also I kind of thought that the Puffers deserved some artistic freedom. So inspired by Picasso himself,
I cut off my ear I let the art naturally happen. I have actually seen several original drawing of Picasso, as they were displayed in an art museum in Barcelona. So not impressed! By Picasso’s drawings I mean. Barcelona was fab! Here is a bit of trivia for ya that might come in handy in a Pub Quiz (if you can remember it): Picassos full name was: Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruiz y Picasso. (Old Mamasan is so uncultured that she thinks the name is the most impressive about ol’ Picasso)
Ok, enough digressing, no more of this “Where are we, where are we going – and what does beer cost there?” Now you need to pay attention actually: The baking tray was placed a little lower in the oven this time, still on 200 degrees Celsius – and then I left it there for a whopping 35 minutes! Now it is utterly important that you refrain from opening the darn oven door until they are done! I am not using reversed psychology on you here! DO NOT OPEN THAT OVEN! After 35 minutes you turn the oven off. And open the door just a bit. And then you leave it like that for another 10 minutes.
If the Puffers suddenly unpuff after this treatment, then you are doing it wrong, and do not deserve any Puffers. So there!
Although just a Beta-test, we still had to complete it – which (luckily) involved test-eating, rehearsal tasting and filling research. So as soon as they (the Puffs) had cooled down, I whipped up some cream, and mixed it with some thick apple sauce, for no other reason than we were out of strawberries (I do have a vague, but blissful memory of dipping strawberries in balsamico and enjoying them out in the sun in the garden.) I might add that I really like apples.
The Puffers were duly approved by the Kid, and the order for his Confirmation party was changed to some Puffers with vanilla cream and berries, and some with cream and apple sauce. Old Mamasan did good!
Now I can finally sleep at night, knowing that it was the recipe that was stupid, and not me!(Although we all knew that it had to be the recipe, as there is no way Old Mamasan is stupid. Right?)
To all you health freaks out there who are having a fit over me stuffing two of these deliciousnesses into my mouth at 10 pm on a Monday night:
Remember, the woman with a wide sit-upon, lives way longer than the man who points it out to her!