matcha strawberry cream puffs

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HELLO FOLKS of the internet. where has july gone?! the days all rolled into one and suddenly it’s august and we’re left with only. 3. weeks. left of summer. tragic.

the thought of matcha cream puffs was pinned in the back of my brain from one of those random videos that show up on your fb feed. and it’s one of those rare times that they’re actually relevant to you… like a short clip of nothing but a close-up of someone’s hands bursting open matcha cream puffs, shot in different angles, to show all its luscious glory.

so despite there being plenty of other things on my “to bake” list, such as brooks headley’s chocolate & eggplant dessert,  and many flavour combinations brainstormed: earl grey tea caramelized white chocolate, lavender & apricot, pistachio & raspberry– i somehow always fall back onto matcha.

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it’s just funny to me how the end results of these photos are the farthest from reality that can be. it’s very zen. pretty and proper puffs.

but actually, what happened was…

my friend came over after we both finished work, and after a take-out-sushi-and-gossip-sesh combo (sans alcohol, to her dismay), i started on these cream puffs while we continued talking. which was punctuated by us scream-singing along to ariana grande and justin bieber. her musical muses, not mine, just to be clear.

the craquelin was done by the time she left, and i finished the choux and started the pastry cream before midnight. except it was turning out too thin (in retrospect, this is most likely because i used 2% milk) and i added more cornstarch to compensate, but in the end it turned out too floury and not custardy enough. so bright n early the next morning, i ran over to my grocery store for some half n’ half and more eggs to remake the cream. just the right amount of hectic, i’d like to think, that isn’t shown through these photos.

the prep for these puffs, although there are 3 components, doesn’t require much work. a lot of it is waiting for things to freeze or the cream to set, or the puffs to bake up nice and golden.

as you can tell, the vibrancy and greenness of the craquelin is much more muted after baking. an inevitable result of heat, i suppose, but it also made me suspect the use of food colouring in more commercial matcha cream puffs. OR actually they probably dusted it with matcha-icing-sugar mix. duh, i should’ve thought of that.

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i wanted to do something artsy and destructive with the photo set up… i was imagining, perhaps smashed cream puffs. craquelin crumbs astray. overfilled pastry cream. editing would be underexposed, maybe a few black and white photos. hashtag #moodycreampuffs. haha, well. maybe another day.

the verdict for these puffs? they turned out the best so far (see my red bean matcha and earl grey renditions). it’s imperative that they bake long enough in order for them to expand and puff up and for the craquelin to be crispy. unlike cakes or breads or whatever else, it’s quite evident when they’re done. a golden crispy brown, and a little more on the brown side is okay too.

the pastry cream was light yet rich, not floury but slightly grainy from my matcha powder, despite being sieved. a definite matcha grassy flavour. (although i did get one “it’s good, but why is it green?” comment, which is beyond me, haha.) the fresh strawberry was thrown in there for its acidity, brightness and the je ne sais quoi element. and colour contrast because let’s be real, it’s almost about the aesthetics as much as it is about the flavour.

i hope everyone is having a super swell lovely summer with enough time to get out there and enjoy the sunshine, even if the reason you’ve been outside lately has been, um, game related. even better if it’s not!

until next time (which will be SOON), take care everyone!

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Matcha Strawberry Cream Puffs

  • Servings: 36 cream puffs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
Adapted from david lebovitz, bouchon bakery + cooks illustrated

INGREDIENTS

Craquelin

  • 3 ounces (85g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (100g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp matcha powder

Choux pastry

  • 350 g all-purpose flour
  • 66 g sugar
  • 480 g water
  • 240 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 g kosher salt
  • 500 g eggs

Matcha pastry cream

  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 tbsp matcha powder
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

To assemble

  • 36 strawberry halves
  • icing sugar sifted together with matcha powder, to dust

METHOD

Craquelin

  1. Sift the flour and matcha powder together in a large bowl.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment, then add the flour-matcha powder mixture and continue to mix the dough until it’s smooth. If you find that it’s a little dry, add more butter, 1 tsp at a time, until it combines smoothly.
  3. Put the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll the dough until it’s about 2 mm thin. I say that but who will actually bother to measuring it? Just roll it out so it’s thin, okay? It’s craquelin so you want it thin enough to CRACK when baking.
  4. Place the dough, still on the parchment paper, on a baking sheet and place into the freezer for it to freeze, about 1-2 hours.

Choux pastry

  1. You can either line a sheet pan with a silpat or parchment paper, or a silicone demi sphere mold with 2.75″ diameter cavities.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  3. Combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl.
  4. Combine the water, butter, and salt in a large pot, place over medium heat, and stir as the butter melts. Once the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Remove the pan from the heat and, with a stiff heatproof or wooden spoon, stir in all of the flour. Continue to stir for about 2 minutes, or until the mixture has a paste-like consistency, then place over medium heat and stir rapidly for 1 to 2 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean; the dough should be glossy and smooth but not dry.
  5. Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl and mix on low for about 30 seconds to release some of the moisture. Slowly begin adding the eggs, about 50 grams at a time, beating until each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next one. Continue adding the eggs, reserving 25 grams, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl when pulled with the paddle but then grabs back on again.
  6. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 15 seconds to be sure all of the eggs are incorporated. Stop the mixer. When the paddle is lifted, the dough should form a bird’s beak – it should hold its shape and turn down over itself but not break off. If the dough is too stiff, add the reserved 25g of egg.
  7. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag and chill the dough until cold, about 20 minutes. Pipe the dough on the silpat or parchment, or fill the silicone demi molds and level it out. If you’re using the silicone demi molds, freeze until hard before unmoulding, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  8. Straight from the freezer, cut out a cookie that, when baked, will cover not just the top of the puff but the sides and bottom as well, about 1.5 inches in diameter. Place a cookie on top of the choux and press down a tiny bit, just enough to secure it to the choux.
  9. Put the choux in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, (add 10 minutes if you’re baking from frozen choux dough) until GOLDEN  brown. Lower the oven temperature to 325°F and bake for about 10 minutes, until the puffs are light and feel hollow. Break one open if necessary: the centre should appear completely cooked.
  10. Set the pan on a cooking rack. Take a paring knife and carefully slice small 1/2 inch slits into a crevice of the puffs to allow the steam to escape. Cool completely before filling.

 Matcha pastry cream

  1. Heat half-and-half, 6 tablespoons sugar, and salt in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar.
  2. Return the half and half to the stove and heat until simmering.
  3. Whisk yolks in medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons sugar and whisk until sugar begins to dissolve and mixture is creamy. Sift in the matcha powder and cornstarch and whisk furiously until combined and mixture is pale yellow-green and thick.
  4. When half-and-half mixture reaches full simmer, gradually whisk half-and-half mixture into the yolk mixture (off the heat) to temper. Return mixture to pan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  5. Return to simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy. This takes about a minute.
  6. Off heat, whisk in butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh sieve set over medium bowl. This will remove any curdled bits that might have formed during the cooking process.
  7. Press plastic wrap directly on surface of pastry cream to prevent skimming and refrigerate until cold and ready to use, about 2 hours.
  8. Whip 1/2 cup of whipping cream until it reaches stiff peaks, then fold it into the chilled pastry cream to lighten it up. Honestly, I just pour enough whipped cream in the mixer, enough volume for the whisk attachment to whisk up well. I add about 1/2 cup of the whipped whipping cream at a time into the pastry cream, until a satisfying consistency and lightness is achieved, whatever your heart desires. See, baking isn’t always nitty gritty.

Assembly

  1. When ready to serve, slip a strawberry half through the slit you’ve cut in the choux puffs. You can cut a bigger slit if needed.
  2. Next, with a plain tip, pipe the matcha pastry cream in. Try not to overfill it (as I often do).
  3. Best enjoyed fresh and with good company 🙂

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