“I realised in the run-up to the canape party that while I had a lot of “vintage” cookbooks, the majority of them were by writers like Elizabeth David and Edouard de Pomiane and somehow… not quite right. Luckily I was saved by the discovery of my mother’s copy of Nina Nicolaieff and Nancy Phelan’s 1981 Russian Cookbook, which promises that “all the romance and variety of th[is] vast country is contained in [Russian] cooking – a fusion of the exotic tastes of the East and the more familiar flavours of the West”. And so it is with this recipe! — okay, okay, actually these are pretty straightforward choux-and-crème-pâtissière cream puffs, nothing in the least exotic about them. But the name’s in Russian and that’s got to count for something.
I halved (and somewhat metricised) the original recipe and still ended up with too much crème pât– but, well, one can always find a way to use that up. (e.g. a spoon)”
half a cup of oil (i used a mix of grapeseed oil and unsalted butter)
1 cup boiling water
125g plain flour
half teaspoon sugar
BOILED CREAM FILLING
two cups milk (i used whole milk)
200g sugar (i.e. caster)
60g plain flour
half tsp vanilla extract
(50g butter that i forgot about)
icing sugar for dusting
First make the pâte à choux:
1. boil together oil and water, whisking; 2. remove from the heat, swiftly add the flour and mix it in, plus salt and sugar; 3. beat in the eggs one by one while the mixture is still hot; 4. Let it cool: let it stand in the fridge for a couple of hours. (a later attempt suggests you shouldn’t, however, let it stand overnight)
Then make the crème pâtissière:
1. boil up one and a half cups of the milk in a heavy-bottomed saucepan; 2. beat together eggs and sugar, then the remaining half-cup of milk, the vanilla, and the flour; 3. add sugar-etc mixture to the boiled milk, and bring the lot of it back up to the boil, stirring it as it thickens; 4. let it cool, then beat it until creamy, adding butter. Then fridge.
(I skipped the butter bit and the mixture did not suffer: on a later attempt at the recipe where I remembered this stage, the extra beating and butter made it go runny. I suspect that if you’ve been reasonably diligent about stirring it in the saucepan it won’t go lumpy and need the butter to smooth it out.
What I did add at this point was a few tablespoons of cocoa, because I thought the whole thing was way too sweet – not sure if I’d accidentally upped the sugar content or just don’t have a sweet enough tooth. )
Then make some CREAM PUFFS!
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees centigrade, or a bit higher (i have a fast oven).
2. Grease a baking sheet: drop on here spoonfuls of the choux pastry, “about the size of half an egg or a large walnut”. You can make slightly prettier puffs if you use a forcer or piping bag.
3. Bake for 30-40 minutes and make sure you don’t open the oven at all in the first 20 minutes – even if they look cooked, they aren’t. (if they look burnt, you probably have the oven too high). They generally seem to be done after half an hour – the ideal we’re going for is “not wet in the middle or burnt outside”.
4. Let ’em cool.
5. FILL THEM! This is another place where having a forcer or piping bag comes in useful: it’s kind of cute if there isn’t a visible place where they’ve been cut open and filled.
6. Dust them with icing sugar just before serving.