This week I made something that you could serve as a delicious, hand-held party dessert. These cream puffs sparkle with a coat of crunchy caramel and are equally perfect for a low-key gathering or something bigger. They’re filled with orange-scented mascarpone cream, which is super-rich and delicious. Vanilla cream folded with plain whipped cream would also be lovely and a slightly less rich. The puffs are best the day they're made.
- 180 g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 180 ml (¾ cup) water
- 110 g (¾ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 3 eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- ¼ cup cornflour
- 75 g (⅓ cup) caster sugar
- 1 tsp finely grated orange zest (or 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped)
- 310 ml (1¼ cups) full-cream (whole) milk
- ½ cup mascarpone (see note)
- 250 ml (1 cup) cold thickened (heavy) cream
- 60 ml (¼ cup) water
- 330 g (1½ cups) caster sugar
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Cooling time 1 hour
Chilling time 4 hours
Preheat the oven to 230°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
To make the puffs, place the butter, sugar, salt and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring with a wooden spoon to encourage the butter to melt. As soon as it comes to the boil, add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute or until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and stand, stirring the dough occasionally, for 3–4 minutes to cool slightly (you don’t want the eggs to scramble in the next step).
With a wooden spoon, add the eggs, one at a time, stirring vigorously between each addition (the dough will break apart and slide around in the pan before it comes back together). Drop the dough in 2 tablespoon scoops about 7 cm apart on the prepared trays. With an offset spatula, shape the scoops into neat, rounded mounds and flatten any points. Bake, rotating the trays halfway, for 22–26 minutes or until deep golden and puffed. Pierce the side of each puff with a toothpick to allow the steam to escape. Cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the mascarpone cream, whisk the egg yolks, cornflour, sugar and orange zest (or vanilla bean seeds) in a saucepan. Slowly whisk in the milk until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it comes to a very low boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, whisking, for a further 1–2 minutes or until very thick. Transfer the custard to a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until cold.
Whisk the cold custard to loosen – it will be very stiff. Whisk the mascarpone and cream in a large bowl until stiff peaks form, then fold into the custard. Transfer the mascarpone cream to a pastry bag fitted with a 0.5 cm nozzle. Pierce the bottom of each puff with the tip and fill with cream.
Set a bowl of iced water on a work station near the filled puffs. To prepare the caramel, place the water in a saucepan. Pour the sugar into the centre of the pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, for 6–8 minutes or until an even amber colour. (Remove the pan from the heat a little bit before the caramel is an amber colour as it will continue to cook for a few minutes after you remove it from the heat.)
Carefully dip the tops and sides of the filled cream puffs into the caramel (be very careful as it is extremely hot). Take care to swirl the puffs and set back on the trays without getting any caramel on your fingers. If you do get any caramel on your hands, immediately plunge in the bowl of iced water to prevent burns. Let the puffs stand at room temperature for 1 hour or until the caramel is hard.
• If you’d like to omit the mascarpone, simply increase the cream to 310 ml (1¼ cups).
Recipe from Love, Cake by Samantha Seneviratne, with photography by Samantha Seneviratne.
Read our interview with Samantha and find more recipes from her blog here.