It’s been a rough year thus far and I expect the turbulence to continue for another twelve months. Corporate mergers and acquisitions, downsizing, increased workload, learning new systems, unrelenting deadlines, higher cost of my medical plan, fewer vacation days, editing two thousand pics I took recently at a wedding in TnT, mummy undergoing knee replacement surgery, too many birthday parties when I want to relax on the weekend, kids studying for the ELA exam in April, the frigid tundra that is now the norm in NYC and oh, turning 40. Who woulda thunk that turning 40 stunk???!! :-)
Luckily, I have learned to manage stress over the years; yoga, meditation, prayer, prioritizing, cuddling, music, food (cooking, eating, reading and talking about it)...Not in any particular order.
While you don’t see many recipe posts from me, rest assured that a new recipe is born every time I enter the kitchen. I made these recently on the morning of my birthday. The challenge was not the making of the puff, but the emotional distress related to turning 40, but that’s a whole other post. I just want you to know that these puffs are so delicious your guests would not believe you when you tell them you made it yourself. My sister Rye (short for Raya) was under the impression that I ordered them and called my hubbie at work to confirm. That’s how good they are.
Puffs are basically choux pastry or pâte à choux, a light pastry dough used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, éclairs, French crullers, beignets, St. Honoré cake, Indonesian kue sus, and gougères(Wikipedia). All cooks have their own variation/technique. It’s versatile in that it can be filled with cream or drizzled with chocolate and enjoyed as a dessert. In Trinidad and Tobago we enjoy a savory variation, stuffed with chicken, tuna, egg or cheese paste and served as an appetizer. I’ve had dreams of making it into a huge sandwich and even packing it for the kids’ lunch.
You may think that preparing puffs is a painstaking affair, but if you are equipped with the right instructions, it will be effortless to prepare. This is where I would like to help.
Like all my recipes, I tested this recipe several times. The first time the batter was too runny, which resulted in very flat puffs. That problem was rectified by bringing the butter and water to a full boil and then continuing to cook the batter after the flour is mixed in. This facilitates evaporation and prevents “flat” puffs. I urge you to rely not only on this recipe but also your judgment. Sometimes three eggs are sufficient, other times four, as I explain below.
Not only are they a great appetizer to impress your friends with, ever so often, I make these on a Saturday and keep them in a re-sealable bag in the refrigerator. [When last did you do something for you?] This way I can enjoy one or two while I prepare dinner during the week(or whenever the kids start fighting!). If done right, they never get soggy and are always delicious, even one week later. Furthermore, since they are bite size, you won’t eat yourself fat with only one or two, unless you make it four consecutive weeks like I did. Have you seen me lately? I look like a stuffed puff!!
[Find my "munster" nephew in the pic below..]
Trinidad Puffs (Choux pastry)
Makes about 30
1 stick (8 tablespoons) organic sweet cream butter** (or regular pure butter), cut into pieces
1 cup water
1 teaspoon fine Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3-4 eggs, room temperature
**I have used both salted and unsalted butter using the same amount of salt called for in the recipe, with no noticeable difference…and I wasn’t drunk..I swear…
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium saucepan over medium high heat, add butter(cut into pieces first), water, salt and sugar. When the butter has melted and water comes to a boil, immediately remove pan from the heat (lower heat). Add all the flour at once and stir vigorously, with a wooden spoon, until thoroughly combined.
Return pot to heat and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until it comes away from the pan and combines into a ball of dough and there is a thin film on the bottom of the pan.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool about 5-7 minutes or until lukewarm (that’s when you can leave you finger in the batter for about 10 seconds comfortably).
Add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously until combined, smooth and creamy. I beat in each egg with about 40 vigorous strokes (a good workout). [One may also use an electric hand or kitchen aid mixer, but I am not that "one". I need the workout.] The batter is the right consistency when it drops from the spoon. Sometimes, it comes to the right consistency after 3 eggs, other times 4, depending on the size of the egg and the amount of water that has evaporated.
One egg(top left), two eggs(top right), three eggs (bottom left)--smooth but didn't drop from the spoon, four eggs (bottom right)--just right....
Drop 1 tablespoon full---2 inches apart---onto a parchment paper lined baking tray, until you have used up all the batter. [I use two spoons, with a scooping upwards motion, to help me make it round.] Alternately, fill a piping bag or re-sealable bag (snip edge) with batter and pipe dough into evenly sized balls on the parchment paper. Brush with whisked egg.
Place in preheated oven (375 degrees F) and bake for 20-25 minutes OR until light in weight and light golden brown(took twice the time in Mummy's oven!!!). Remove from oven, pierce with toothpick to release steam and place back into the oven for 5 minutes, until they darken and feel even lighter. [Open one to test to see if the insides are actually cooked. If not, return the puffs to the oven.]
When the puffs are cool, cut with a serrated knife and fill with 1 heaping teaspoon of chicken paste, or more depending on the size of your puffs..
Ria's CHICKEN PASTE FILLING
This makes enough delicious, flavorful, chicken paste for about 30 puffs (recipe above) and a sandwich or two……
To boil chicken:
1 pound chicken cutlet (chicken breast)
2 cups water
2 tablespoons green seasoning
6 sprigs thyme
1 tablespoon Himalayan salt
1 teaspoon peppercorns (or ground black pepper)
To make chicken paste:
¾ cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup finely chopped red sweet pepper
¼ cup finely chopped celery
3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2-4 pimento peppers, finely chopped (caribbean seasoning pepper)
2 scallions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1. Rinse chicken cutlets with lemon juice and water. Drain. In a small saucepan, add chicken, water, green seasoning, thyme, salt and peppercorns. Boil until cooked, about 7-10 minutes. Drain. (I reserve the broth and usually add more hot water to dilute the saltiness, then sip it while hot, but that’s just me! In my kitchen, nothing goes to waste! It just goes to my waist..)
2. Place chicken in a food processor and pulse until fine or shred/chop until fine.
3. Remove to a bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix until combined.
4. Taste for salt and pepper and add more to your liking.
Until next time,
With love EVERYDAY...(not just V-day)
......and splendiferous dishes!