I love it when the trees get green, and the bluebonnets begin to bloom!
It means spring has arrived, and with it all kinds of light and fruity desserts that I so adore. Keep your pumpkin spice and gingerbread, I will take fresh berries and sharp citrus any day! Right before I went in for shoulder surgery in February to repair a torn rotator cuff I jotted down a list of recipe ideas to make when I was better. I had a huge brainstorm just a few days before I would be unable to do more than make toast for at least a month. Isn’t that always the way? Well, I have been feeling much better these last few weeks, thanks to physical therapy, so I got back into the kitchen. I had been thinking about these puffs through my recovery, so once I hit the kitchen these were the first thing I made! You know, because what you really need when when you have been laid up on your rear for two months is cream puffs! Don’t judge!
What I like best about these little puffs is how refreshing they are. They are certainly not light in the calorie department, but they have an inviting flavor that begs you to keep eating! I love the vanilla filling as it contrasts with the sweet/tart strawberries and the aromatic orange in the pastry dough. If you want an even lighter filling you can fold in a half a cup of cream that has been whipped into soft peaks. This will give the filling a mousse like consistency, but it is very perishable so only do this if you are serving within an hour of filling them. These would make a great ending to a heavy dinner, such as barbeque or steak, and would also be the perfect treat after a spring tea, or light lunch. Heck, these are perfect anytime!
- For the filling:
- 1½ cups half and half
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 eggs
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- For the pastry:
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- For the glaze:
- ¾ cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon orange juice
- 2 teaspoons butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- ½ cup finely diced strawberry
- Begin by preparing the filling.
- In the work bowl of a blender of food processor add the half and half, sugar, cornstarch, eggs, and salt. Blend until completely combined, about 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly until the mixture just comes to a boil, about 8 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and cook, whisking constantly, for 30 seconds more. Turn off the heat and add the butter and vanilla. Stir well to combine. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least 2 hours.
- Next, prepare the pastry.
- Heat the oven to 375F and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat add the water, butter, orange zest, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once. Stir until the mixture forms a smooth ball. You will notice a light film form on the bottom of the pan.
- Transfer the dough to the work bowl of a stand mixer, or in a medium bowl with a hand mixer, and let cool for 10 minutes. Once the dough has cooled turn on your mixer to low speed and add the eggs, one at a time, making sure the first egg is fully incorporated before adding the second.
- Put the pastry dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large round or star shaped tip and pipe out the dough about 2 inches apart. For this recipe I piped out golf ball shapes, but you can also pipe out line approximately 1½ inches long. Bake for 18 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown all over and is shiny and dry to the touch. Remove from the oven and turn on their sides. Poke a small hole in the bottom of each pastry with a toothpick and allow to cool completely to room temperature.
- Once the pastry is baked and cooled prepare the glaze.
- In a small bowl combine all the ingredients and mix until smooth.
- To assemble slice each pastry in half horizontal. Pipe or spoon a heaping tablespoon of filling into the base of the pastry. Sprinkle with diced strawberry and top with the other half of the pastry. Drizzle the glaze generously over the top. Chill for 1 hour before serving.