When I think of puffs pastry (choux pastry) I think of weddings, picnics, dinner parties and birthday parties. Here in Trinidad, no party will be complete without this favourite appetizer. And as a guest to any of these occasions, I feel I must have a puff (or two, if I am lucky!). The filling may be of tuna, cheese paste, or minced chicken (all with a hint of pepper).
The Puffs Pastry Dilemma
However, there is one thing that disturbs me most: that small bite-size puff turns out to be a little of a teaser. This is true especially at every wedding reception. The caterer usually offers the classic paper saucers with a tasty bite-sized puff, a small bite-size cheese paste sandwich and a prune stuffed with peanut butter, often an hour or more before the main course, which by then is not really helping my hunger (or as we say in Trini: meh belly boiling). My wife bites it slowly to savour the lingering taste of this tiny morsel (that is if our infant son doesn’t grab hers before she claims it), and I usually end up feeling like I could do with about ten more puffs to really feel satisfied.
I, therefore, cannot and will not depend on these occasions to enjoy a good puff. And I certainly cannot purchase one regularly at the bakery either. They cost about $4.00 TT each (depending on the filling), and I must say they are very stingy with the fillings too. So my wife makes them whenever I feel for them. The ones she make are not bite-size and I can certainly have as much as I can ’til I am contented.
Some people use a pastry bag to help make the puffs (like éclair). However, a spoon could be just as effective. My wife prefers to use the spoon method when making puffs at home. I find it much simpler than the bag and in my opinion there is less cleanup too when you’re done. So pull up a chair,grab your ingredients, mixing bowls and baking sheets because were about to start making, a Trini favourite, puffs.
The Puffs Pastry Recipe
1 cup water
½ cup butter
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
Tip: A dash of grated lemon zest would take away the fresh scent from the egg.
In a saucepan, bring water to boil. Add butter to melt.
When butter is melted put in all the flour at once; stir over heat until the mixture forms a panada (a ball in the center of the pot). Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
Add one unbeaten egg at a time to the panada. Beat well until stiff.
Take up mixture by teaspoons and drop on a greased cookie sheet 2″ apart.
For larger puffs use a tablespoon. You can twirl the spoon to make a nice design.
Start oven at 450°F and bake for 15 minutes. Then reduce oven temperature to a moderate 325°F for 25 more minutes so there are no beads of moisture on the puffs. Turn off the oven. To help keep the puff dry, slit the puffs and put them back into the oven for another 20 minutes. Cool puffs then fill as desired. Puff are crisp when finished baking but softens later.
Makes about 15 large puffs or 2 dozen medium sized puffs.
Puffs ready to be eaten. These were made using a teaspoon.
Some Popular Filling:
- Tuna Paste
- Cheese paste
- Chicken salad
- Chicken in cream sauce
- White fish and tartar sauce
Well that’s it for another post. I hope you enjoyed this recipe as much as I do. Maybe, you all will be as adventurous as I am to try other types of fillings. I’ll be glad to hear what filling you used and maybe try it when next I have puffs.