When I was a little girl, I loved the water. I learned to walk on Florida beaches and at home you couldn’t get me out of the pool. I started young. I’m still reminded of the time when I was two years old and just jumped in the pool and right onto my head. My mother jumped in right after to pull me out, so tragedy averted. Still, I was definitely a water baby.
Along with my eyes, I inherited my love of the water from my grandmother. I remember my grandmother showing me her medals from when she was a competitive swimmer in New York in the late thirties and forties. I’m especially grateful for these stories and for the time I had with her now that she’s passed. It was a year ago this month.
My grandmother, born Lauramay Mary Martin (try that three times fast!) on April 14th, was such a sweet and special lady. There was an innocence about her, even after raising six children and losing two sons and a husband. She was tough, though, too, not a little stubborn and very competitive. You didn’t want to sit down with her for a game of Yahtzee without knowing that up front. Even though she was not even allowed to watch PG movies, I’d heard her cuss like a sailor at the game table. The lady did not like to lose. And, she didn’t let it happen very often.
Like a hummingbird always in motion, one of the many activities that my grandmother won at was baking. Even in her baking, though, she was competitive. Example: when I asked her why she stopped subscribing to Martha Stewart Living after being a charter subscriber and years of gifting me Martha Stewart cookbooks every.darn.holiday, she replied, and I quote, “Because that [rhymes with witch] keeps stealing my ideas.”
Grandma loved nothing better than to throw themed parties she would cater herself and often sold cakes and pies to local restaurants. One of the deserts she was known for were her cream puffs. They were always light and airy, filled with delicious custard cream and topped with dark chocolate.
In honor of what would have been her 96th birthday today, I’m sharing her cream puff recipe. Make them, and I promise you will love them as much as we all loved her.
Grandma’s Cream Puffs
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cake flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups milk, separated
6 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split
2 T unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
BRING water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add butter and stir as it melts, then return to a boil. Add flour and salt all at once and stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and add eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously after each until smooth. Drop by heaping tablespoons, 3 inches apart, on a cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes in the preheated oven at 450 degrees F then reduce heat to 325 degrees F and bake 25 minutes more. Remove puffs from oven, split and remove soft dough from center. Turn oven off, and replace puffs to dry in cooling oven, 20 minutes more. Cool completely on wire rack.
SIFT flour and sugar together. Whisk 1 cup of the milk into the egg yolks. Then add the flour and sugar, whisking until completely smooth. Heat remaining milk with the vanilla bean in a heavy saucepan. As soon as the milk come to a boil, whisk approximately ½ of it into the egg-and-flour mixture and blend completely. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Stir constantly until the custard thickens. As it thickens, the custard will go through a lumpy stage. Increase the speed of your stirring. Continue to stir vigorously, and the custard will smooth out and thicken right before it begins to boil. Allow the pastry cream to boil for approximately 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove the cream from the heat and immediately pour it into a clean mixing bowl. Fold in the butter just until melted. Do not over mix. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream, and chill over an ice bath.
PLACE chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring 4 ounces heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour hot cream over chocolate and whisk until chocolate is completely melted and ganache is shiny and smooth.
REMOVE vanilla bean from the pastry cream, and transfer cream into a piping bag with a star tip. Pipe cream into each puff shell.
DRIZZLE melted chocolate over tops of cream puffs. Serve immediately.