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Chocolate Cream Puffs with Spun Sugar



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since it will be the last thing your guests remember before
they pass out all over the table."

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Chocolate Cream Puffs with Spun Sugar

A Year in Chocolate:
Four Seasons of
Unforgettable Desserts

by Alice Medrich, 2001, Warner Books

“For Christmas or New Year’s Eve, I deconstruct the traditional
croquembouche (omitting its precarious architecture) and fill
crisp caramel-glazed puffs with chocolate rum custard. It’s still
a little involved, but wildly worth the effort. Spun sugar is far
easier than it looks and your guests will love watching you do it.”

Serves 6 to 8

Chocolate Rum Custard
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet
chocolate, chopped fine
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons rum
4 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups milk

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted
butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 teaspoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour,
sifted after measuring
3 eggs, lightly whisked

1 cup sugar, for glaze and spun sugar

Heavy cookie sheet or sheets, greased and floured
Pastry bag
Plain pastry tip with a 7/16-inch opening (Ateco #805)
and a star tip (Ateco #823 or #824)

To make the custard, place the chocolate, vanilla, and rum in a medium bowl. Set aside. In another medium bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and cornstarch. Add the egg yolks and beat with a hand-held mixer until the mixture is pale and thick, 1 to 2 minutes. Set aside.
Heat the milk in a small nonreactive saucepan until it forms a skin. Pour
the hot milk gradually over the yolk mixture, whisking constantly until all
of the milk is added. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on
medium heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk, reaching all over the bottom and sides of the pan, until the custard thickens considerably.
Continue to cook and whisk for 1 1/2 minutes more. Scrape the custard
on top of the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted and completely combined with the custard. Cover the surface of the custard with plastic
wrap and refrigerate until needed. Custard may be kept refrigerated for
2 to 3 days.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400
degrees F.
To make puffs, combine the butter, sugar, and salt with the milk and 1/3
cup water in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, so that butter is completely melted
by the time the mixture boils. Remove the pot from the stove. Pour the
flour all at once into the pot and stir with a wooden spoon to form a thick paste. Return the pot to medium heat and dry the paste slightly by stirring
and pushing it all over the sides and bottom of the pot until the pot looks
clean but coated with a buttery film.
Transfer the hot paste to the bowl of an electric mixer or a bowl in which
you can operate a hand-held mixer. Mix for 1 minute to cool slightly. Pour
about 2 tablespoons of the egg into the paste and mix until incorporated. Gradually, in 3 or 4 additions, add nearly all of the rest of the egg, beating well after each addition until all the eggs are absorbed and the paste is
smooth, very thick and shiny, and falls slowly from a wooden spoon.
Add the remaining egg judiciously, only if the paste seems too thick.
Fit the pastry bag with the plain tip and fill it with warm paste. Pipe
mounds a scant 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 1/2 to 5/8 inch tall, about
1 1/2 inches apart, on the cookie sheet or sheets. Brush gently with
water. Place a pan of hot tap water on the floor of the oven.
Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the pastries are puffed and golden brown,
18 to 20 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 375 degrees F.
Remove the pan of water. Stab the sides of each pastry with a sharp knife
to release steam. Bake 5 to 10 minutes more. Turn the oven off and leave
the pastries inside 5 minutes more. Remove and cool puffs on a rack.
Cooled puffs may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator up
to 3 days or frozen up to 1 month. Recrisp the pastries in a 400-degree F oven for a few minutes if necessary.

To fill the puffs
, fit a clean pastry bag with a star tip. Fill the bag with
the custard. Puncture the bottom of each pastry with the pastry tip and
fill it with custard. Set aside.
To make the caramel glaze, have ready a shallow pan filled with ice
water. Stir the sugar with 1/2 cup cold water in a 3- to 4-cup saucepan
until the sugar is completely moistened. Do not stir again during the
cooking process as this may cause the syrup to crystallize. Cover and
bring to a simmer over medium heat. Uncover and wash down the
sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush. Cover and cook 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar completely. Uncover and cook until the syrup looks
pale amber when 1 or 2 drops are spooned onto a white saucer. Swirl
the pan gently and continue to cook until drops are medium amber.
Plunge the bottom of the saucepan in the pan of ice water for a few
seconds to stop the cooking. Prop the caramel pan in a tilted position.
Holding a pastry with your fingers or a pair of ice tongs, dip the top
about halfway into the caramel (if using your fingers be very careful)
and set it right side up on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or parch-
ment. Repeat until all of the pastries are dipped. Pastries may be pre-
pared to this point and refrigerated up to several hours. Set caramel
aside in the saucepan until needed.
About 5 to 10 minutes before serving heap the glazed pastries into a
serving bowl or pile them onto a platter.
Heat the leftover caramel and spin the sugar as follows:
Have ready a wire whisk altered by cutting each wire before it begins to
bend back toward the handle, or several skewers in lieu of the whisk.
Dip the end of the snipped whisk, or the fanned skewers, into the hot
sticky caramel and lift it about 12 inches about the pot. The caramel
will thicken as it cools. At first it will flow from the wire tips in very
thin threads. The caramel must cool a bit more before it is ready to spin. Continue to dip and lift the whisk repeatedly, watching the threads. Cara-
mel is ready to spin when the threads become slightly thicker and more
golden and flow more slowly. You will be able to grasp the threads in
your bare hand, and pull them aside, stretching. Threads of caramel are
not hot, but the caramel in the container is very hot and so are all the
droplets thick globs that fall from the skewers or whisk. Each time you
dip into the caramel, hold the whisk or skewers high and wait until the
heaviest flow of caramel subsides into threads before you touch it. Pull
the threads aside immediately, out from under the whisk so that any
drops of caramel that fall cannot burn you. Continue to tip and wait
for the threads, pulling them aside and onto the dessert [cream puffs].
If the caramel gets to cool to spin, reheat gently over very low heat,
without boiling. Spun sugar lasts a very short time.
Serve as soon
as possible.

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