Black Forest Cream Puffs

Black Forest Chocolate Cherry Cream Puffs

I feel like cream puffs don’t get as much love as they should. Their first cousin the eclair does, but not sure why the simple and understated cream puff does not. I’m about to change that; or a least try with this elegant recipe that uses the fresh harvest of cherries that are in stores right now. These puffs are great for a party as you won’t have to worry about slicing anything last minute. It also solves the annoying “just a sliver” request some people call for. #Sorrynotsorry . The flavor is very chocolate forward with some softened cooked cherries hiding inside the filling to give a nice burst of freshness and flair to break up all the rich chocolate. They are so dainty and small that some hungry men or women may even go for seconds. This I have witnessed firsthand. The recipe makes a dozen or bakers dozen, so nothing too crazy, but it can be easily doubled if you want to.

I decided to go with a thicker and more rich filling with a chocolate cremeux and inserted a couple of fresh cherries that I cooked down to a softer texture. A stabilized slightly sweetened topping of whipped cream tops the little morsels and a quick dusting of confectioners sugar adds the elegant finesse on top.

This recipe can be made easily in stages and it’s much easier to assemble if you do to save some time.

I made the chocolate cremeux a couple days in advance and the cherries also the day prior so they have time to chill. I had some cherry syrup by way of cooking the cherries so I took advantage of it and poured a little over the whipped cream; but you should do this right before serving if you can.

These were a big hit for a party I attended. I always bring a dessert; and I not only love bringing the dessert, but everyone expects it. Don’t you just love cherry season?

Cream puff dough (pate choux)

(yield ~ 12 or 13 puffs)

45 g whole milk

45 g water

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

tiny pinch of white pepper (optional)

tiny pinch of cardamom (optional)

tiny pinch of cinnamon (optional)

103 g. bread flour

36 -37 g. whole eggs lightly mixed in a separate small bowl.

In a 3 quart saucepan or similar size place the milk, water, butter, sugar, salt, and spices if using . Bring to a full boil and remove from the heat and dump in all the flour at once. Return to a medium heat and stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, or heat proof spatula; heat the mixture for exactly five minutes. I use a motion of flattening the mixture to the bottom of the pan, then turning/or flipping over the dough back again to a flattened state, and repeating this continuously for five minutes. Why 5 minutes? it removes a lot of the steam so that you can add more eggs which helps create a nice crispy puff and helps the puffs rise better. As you are cooking the dough, the mixture will leave a film on the bottom of the pan (normal) and the don’t try to scrape up the hardened cooked film. After five minutes remove the dough mass from the pan; leave the dry film on the bottom behind; don’t attempt to scrape if off. Remove the dough ball and place into a stand mixer on stir setting [first setting on a kitchen aide] and stir the dough for exactly five minutes with the paddle attachment. This will help cool down the dough to just the right temperature so that you can add in the eggs gradually. Once the 5 minutes are up, increase the speed to medium and slowly add in a bit of the egg at a time, stopping and scraping both the sides and the bottom. Don’t beat the mixture at too high of a speed as you are tying to avoid incorporating too much air. I use just a medium speed. You are looking for a smooth dough that is somewhat sticky but the key is when you lift up the paddle attachment you see a “V” shape on the paddle. If the dough is too sticky; you’ve not added enough eggs in. See pic below. Stop several times and add in the eggs a little at a time until you see this “V”shape; it will depend on your environment and humidity etc. whether you’ll need the full amount of eggs. I live in Arizona desert and the day I made mine I actually ended up putting a wee bit extra . Place the dough into your prepared piping bag fitted with a large plain tip; I use an Ateco #809. Pipe round mounds of dough onto a silpat or parchment lined sheet approx. 1.5 inches in size. Tap down any peaks of dough with a dab of water on your finger. Sprinkle a light dusting of confectioners sugar over all the dough puffs once piped, and repeat another dusting one more time. Place in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature ; don’t open the door! and bake for another 20 minutes at 335 or something close to that degrees F; depending on if your oven ; I have a digital so I use 335 degrees, but keep watch on them. You are looking to dry them out on the inside a bit so they are not too doughy. I usually sacrifice one and slice open the top of one to check at around the 18 minute mark [slicing through as an equator motion]. If too doughy then keep baking a minute or two. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a couple minutes until you can handle them and then poke with a wooden skewer through the top 1/4 portion going through to the other side to remove excess steam {this helps them not deflate}. Allow to cool completely over a wire rack before filling.

V shape: This is is the consistency you are looking for when you pull the paddle up out of the dough; you are looking for the classic V shape. Once you reach this; don’t add anymore eggs.
Pipe round shapes about 1.5 inches wide by about 1 inch in height. I bake mine on a perforated eclair mat, but you can use a Silpat or parchment lined tray. Tap down any peaks with a slightly wet finger. Sift confectioners sugar over the dough twice right before baking.

Chocolate Cremeux Filling

150 g heavy cream

150 g whole milk

100 g large eggs (about 2 large eggs)

15 g granulated sugar

200 g finely chopped dark chocolate

In a small bowl combine the eggs and sugar and whisk to combine. Meanwhile in a saucepan place the cream and milk and bring to a boil. Once the milk mixture is up to temperature, temper in the mixture to the egg mixture and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat over a low temperature until the mixture is thickened, (you’re not looking it to be as thick as a pastry cream, but slightly thickened, then remove from the heat and pour in the chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. The mixture will be quick thin. Pour it into a heatproof container and place plastic wrap directly over the surface and allow to chill in the fridge until thickened; its best to do the day before to save time. Once cold it will be much thicker.

Cooked softened cherries

200 g fresh cherries (weighed w/ the stone in), then rinsed & pitted

50 g granulated sugar

8 g fresh lemon juice

In a small saucepan place the cherries, sugar, and lemon juice and cook over low heat stirring constantly until the cherries are softened but still mostly whole; some will break apart and that is fine. It will create a cherry syrup as a result, and strain the cherries and reserve the juice for pouring over a little once ready to assemble, reserving leftover cherry syrup for another use as desired. Reserve in a glass jar in the fridge.

I used a French star tip to pipe both the filling and the whipped cream.

Stabilized Whipped Cream

1 cup very cold heavy whipping cream

1 1/2 Tbsp. confectioners sugar

1 1/2 Tbsp. non fat dried milk powder

In a stand mixer bowl or a medium bowl whip the cream until you reach stiff peaks. This is my go to method for stabilized whipped cream; I know there are several methods people use, but this is my favorite by far. The milk powder does not add or mask any flavor in my opinion, and I find it really helps the shape hold once its piped and does not weep over time.

To assemble:

Cut off about 1/4 of a cooled puff and pipe a rosette of chocolate filling into the bottom of the puff. Then stuff 2 cherries down into the chocolate filling, and pipe another dab of filling on top of the cherries. Pipe a rosette of whipped cream and if serving right away; spoon a tiny amount ~ 1/4 tsp. of the reserved cherry syrup. Cap off with the top portion of the puff and dust with confectioners sugar. You can assemble them on a tray also about an 30 minutes before serving and put back into the fridge to keep cold. You can forgo the cherry syrup drizzle if you want a neater cleaner appearance but I happen to like the color it gives; you only need a tiny bit to achieve a small cascade of color.

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