Sunday, February 25, 2018

Cream Puffs: An Ideal Wood Cookstove Dessert

Cream puffs are one of my favorite desserts, and they are an ideal recipe for the wood cookstove.  If your chickens are like ours and the lengthening days have resulted in increased egg production, cream puffs are also a great food to make during this time of year.  For one thing, the weather has not gotten warm yet.  This allows the cream puffs to keep better, and standing over the stove while you make the filling is still a pleasant experience.

Cream puffs are very simple, and if you have your own chickens and a dairy cow or goat, you can produce a great deal of the ingredients for them on your own.  Here is what you will need:



1 cup water
1/2 cup cold butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs

1. The first thing to do is to build your fire so that you will have a hot oven (400º F).  As you do this, keep in mind that your baking time is going to be 45 minutes long.  I find that it is best to have a lot of pieces of firewood that are small in diameter.

2. Once the top of the stove has gotten good and hot, put the water and the butter in a medium saucepan and place it directly over the fire.  You want to bring this mixture to a full boil.

Note: I find that I have better results when the butter is cold when I put it in the water.  I don't know why, but it seems to make a difference.



3. While the water and butter are coming to a boil, crack four eggs into a measuring cup and measure your flour.  This is also a good time to grease the cookie sheet you will bake these on.

4. Once the water/butter mixture has come to a full boil and the butter is completely melted, take the pan off the fire and immediately stir in one cup of flour.  This will make a paste that smells awful and doesn't really look very nice either.



5. Stir the eggs into the paste one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Do this quickly because you don't want the eggs to cook before you've beaten them in.  Now your paste will be a sticky, bright yellow goop that still looks and smells unappetizing.





6. Drop or pipe the puff paste onto the greased cookie sheet.  You can make these as big as you want.  In stores, they seem to always be bitesized.  I tend to prefer a more bold cream puff, so I drop them by the 1/4 cup.  



7. Bake in a hot oven for 35-45 minutes, watching to be sure that the edges aren't turning too dark.  

If you are going to fill the cream puffs with a cooked custard, it is best to cook it during this time because your stove is already hot for the baking. My favorite filling is my great-grandma Gladys's vanilla cornstarch pudding. You can find the recipe here.



7. When done, remove from the oven and cool completely.

8. To serve, either slice the cream puff in half to insert the filling, or you may use a pastry gun to squirt the filling inside the cream puff.  I like to sprinkle powdered sugar over the top, but for fancier occasions, I have diluted strawberry jam with strawberry syrup and drizzled that on top of the cream puff and then dusted it all with the powdered sugar.  I know I'm weird, but I also like my cream puffs warm, so I often pop them in the microwave for a few seconds before eating them.  


I consider cream puffs an excellent wood cookstove recipe because you take advantage of the heat of the fire to make the paste while your oven is heating, and then while they are baking, you again make double use of the fire by making the custard filling.  Really, your fire is always serving a double purpose as you make these.  Also, with the exception of the butter, these are a very economical but fancy dessert.



Note: This is the same recipe for eclairs.  The difference is that eclairs are usually piped onto the cookie sheet in oblong shapes, and they have chocolate on the top. 


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