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Chocolate Cream Puffs

Chocolate Cream Puffs
T. Susan Chang for NPR /

I find cream puffs impossible to resist. They're light and adorable, but at the same time hopelessly decadent. The puff batter is easy to make once you get the hang of it, and the cream puffs can be made ahead and frozen. The chocolate whipped cream is best the same day, which is just as well since you won't be able to stop yourself from eating it anyway. The cream puff recipe is fromThe Essential Baker by Carole Bloom (Wiley 2007), and the chocolate cream is from Baking and Pastry by The Culinary Institute of America (Wiley 2009).

Makes 2 to 3 dozen, depending on size

2/3 cup water

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/3 cup whole or 2 percent milk

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature

Egg Wash

1 extra-large egg

1 teaspoon milk

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Place the water, butter, milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Remove the sauce from heat and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. Return the saucepan to medium heat and cook for 3 minutes, stirring vigorously, until the dough is smooth.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the dough on medium speed for about 3 minutes to release the heat and steam. (If you don't have a stand mixer or a paddle attachment, you can do all of this with a mixing bowl, a wooden spoon and some elbow grease — that's how I used to make them.)

Beat the four eggs lightly with a fork in a small bowl. Add one-quarter of the mixture at a time to the dough, mixing thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix until smooth and glossy, about a minute.

Fit a pastry bag with a plain round tip and fill partway with the dough. Holding the pastry bag straight up and down and 1 inch above the baking sheet, pipe out mounds about 2 inches wide and 3/4 inch high, with 2 inches of space between each.

Lightly beat the egg and milk together in a small bowl with a fork. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the top of each mound with the egg wash, being careful not to let any egg wash run under the dough (wipe it up if it does).

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375, rotate the trays, and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden.

Remove the puffs. With a small sharp knife, cut a small horizontal slit in the side of each puff to release steam. Return the puffs to the oven, turn off the heat, and let them dry in the oven for about 30 to 45 minutes. Cool completely on racks.

Chocolate Whipped Cream

4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler and combine with the oil, mixing well.

Add all the cream at once into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (Alternatively, you can use a rotary egg beater). Whisk at medium-high speed until soft peaks form that barely hold their shape, 3 to 5 minutes depending on the cream.

Add 1/4 of the whipped cream to the chocolate mixture and whisk until fully incorporated.

Add half of the remainder of the whipped cream and stir, keeping a marble appearance in the mixture.

Add the rest of the whipped cream and stir, keeping a marble appearance in the mixture.

Fit a clean pastry bag with a clean round tip. Fill the pastry bag partway with the chocolate cream.

Use a serrated knife to cut each puff in half horizontally. Pipe a mound of cream into the center of each cream puff.

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