Right out of college, my mom got me the piping set from my Christmas list. I saved the little paper booklet from the box with the cream puff recipe. Though I intended to use the set for icing practice, I wanted to make profiteroles first. For a New Years Eve party. I arrived with my first homemade baguette too. I’ve always been the life of the party.
I had watched Martha Stewart make cream puffs numerous times on her show. Pâte à Choux she called them—the base to cream puffs (also called profiteroles) and eclairs. To incorporate this thick paste of a dough together, she clutched the tall whisk in a way I’d never seen before. It was a power hold, not finesse. Her finger tips faced inwards with her thumb overlapping them, squeezing the tops of the wires. She whisked the mixture into a smooth paste, pouring the eggs in one at a time. The eggs alone provided the lift and lofty insides, much like a Dutch Baby. No chemical leavener necessary.
For something so beautiful and elegant, with a name that gets caught in the back of your throat, they came together easily. I pipped my cream puffs full of pastry cream and dipped them in a chocolate that would harden. Little tiny works of art. New Years Eve almost a decade ago—that was the first and last time I made them.
When Yossy’s book, Sweeter off the Vine, landed in my mailbox, I knew I should start with one of her pies. Yossy, Apt. 2B Baking Co., is a profound baker. A quick scroll through her instagram, and you’ll dub her the queen of all pies. But it was page 80, the Blackberry Sage Cream Puffs, that I bookmarked first. “Cream Puffs are a super classic and impressive-looking French dessert that actually come together fairly quickly,” she writes in the headnotes. Memories of that New Years Eve came flooding back. I clung on to the word quick, stuck an invoice scrap in the book, and left for the store to grab a container of blackberries and mascarpone. Everything else was in the pantry or fridge.
I like to have a couple fairly simple but impressive desserts up my sleeve. The kind that can be prepped (mostly) ahead of time. These strawberry puff pastry bites fit the bill too. In my pre-motherhood days, I’d spend the whole day making dessert for a dinner party and then build the meal around it. In this segment of life, with a toddler at my feet, dessert is nothing more than an afterthought. Sometimes Kev still has withdrawals. Me too if I’m honest.
Yossy fills the cream puffs with a quick blackberry sage sauce. I subbed in the leftover rosemary from the fridge. I imagine thyme would make a nice flavor profile too. She tops the sauce with a whipped cream elevated in flavor by the subtle notes of mascarpone, an Italian cream cheese.
It’s elegant in presentation, delicate in flavor, and profound in flavor. Fit for NYE or your next last minute dinner party. Tiny human approved.
Make cream puffs 1-2 hours before serving. Preheat oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Set aside. Into a saucepan, add water, butter, sugar, and salt. Melt butter completely, and bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat. Pour in flour and whisk to combine. Mixture will be thick and pasty. Allow mixture to cool for a minute or two so we don’t cook the eggs. Then add in 4 eggs, one at a time, incorporating completely before the next addition. Place pastry dough into a wide-mouth piping bag or into the corner of a ziplock bag. Cut the tip. Pipe out 12 large puffs. With a wet finger, gently press down the points. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg. Brush each puff with the egg wash and sprinkle semi-generously with turbinado. Place in oven and bake from 25-30 minutes. Pastries will puff and golden. Allow to cool completely before filling.
Make blackberry sauce. In a sauce pan, add 2 cups of the berries, sugar, lemon juice, and herb sprigs. Smash fruit using the back of a fork or a potato masher. Heat for 7-10 minutes on medium heat until sauce begins to thicken. Allow to cool. Remove herb sprigs. Add in the remaining berries, lightly smashing to combine. Store covered in the fridge until ready to serve. This can be made ahead of time.
Make whipped cream. In a large bowl, add cream, sugar, and extract. Using an electric mixer, mix together until soft peaks form. Add in the mascarpone and mix until medium peaks form. Store covered in the fridge until ready to serve. This can be made ahead of time.
Assemble. Just before serving, carefully remove cream puffs from baking sheet. Cut open using a serrated knife. Spoon on blackberry sauce and top with cream. Serve immediately.
I adapted Yossy’s recipe to our pantry, swapping out the rye flour called for with white whole wheat flour. I swapped the sage for the rosemary, and the pearl sugar for turbinado. I added a bit more sugar from the original recipe since I used out of season blackberries.