Vanilla Puff Pastry Pillows

Something that we face daily while working in Puno, is trying to throw water on  smoldering superstitions.  It’s a hard line to define whether we should confront them or not because sometimes they are just silly/quirky beliefs and aren’t necessarily satanic in nature.  We had to confront a belief yesterday that had me literally flabbergasted!

This is Ella with Jesse, the new addition to this household for now.  One of our contacts is in pain and it’s believed that if you get a black puppy or bunny and put it next to where the pain is it will absorb the pain.  However, it only lasts for one day, and you need to kill it to get rid of the pain.  We went to see this contact the other day and she had a puppy on the bed and she told us her grandmother was going to kill it for the latter reason.  She told us we should take it home or she would die!!!!  So, she’s here for now, but we don’t know if she’s going to stay with us or if we will find another home for her.  Poor little thing, she’s got diarrhea and she is really malnourished.  Her back legs are pathetic and she has very little appetite.  Anyone got any suggestions?

On to a lighter topic, I finally made a dessert that is worth putting up.  Last week I made a custard and it turned out awful!  Even the neighbor’s dog wouldn’t eat it.  But, according to my friend Garren, this is the best thing I’ve made yet!

Mmmmm!  So delicious!

You have two routes you can take in embarking upon this recipe.  You have an easy route, and the route not for those light of heart in the kitchen.  You know, this kitchen is called handicapped for many reasons, one such reason would be the limitation of things I can buy in my local supermarket.  To make these tasty sensations, I had to make my own puff pastry by hand.

This is the second time I’ve tried my hand at puff pastry, and the second time round it’s really not that bad.  It takes three days to make, sure!  But, it’s not strenuous work.  If you are up for a challenge, I would say give it a go!

Vanilla Puff Pastry Pillows

Dough
My best advice if you are making this homemade is to go here.  It will tell you everything you need to know… except that instead of using butter, I had better results with margarine, it has to do with the melting temperature of butter and margarine.

Or you could just go to your local supermarket and buy some filo dough… cheater!

Cream

1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of
 salt
1 tbsp
 butter (melted)
large eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium sauce pan whisk together flour, sugar, and salt.  Then whisk in melted butter and eggs until it is well mixed.  Pour in the milk gradually and whisk as not to create any lumps.  Put over medium high heat and stir constantly bringing the mixture to a boil.  Once it begins to boil it will thicken to a custardy goop.  Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the vanilla.  Set aside to cool.

Puff Pillows

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a muffin pan.  Roll out the dough until it’s rather thin.  About as thin as poster board, I suppose.  Cut the dough into 3″x3″ squares and place the squares into the muffin pan lining the bottom and allowing the corners to peak up the sides of each cup.  Put in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and slide out of the muffin pan.  Put the cream in a piping bag and pipe into the centers of the pastries when they are cooled.

That’s it!

Pill Bottle Cookies

A Very Merry Christmas to all my readers!  For two days I am planning on doing absolutely, 100% NADA!  It’s going to be amazing, and it’s going to go super fast too, which is too bad.  Good news about being at 12,000 feet is that it’s nice and cold and gives the atmosphere, at least, that it’s Christmas!

It felt good to sleep in as late as I did today (only 10 am), and now I’m sitting on the couch with my buddy Thomas as he plays with his NEW ARMY MEN!  Woooo!  He’s 4.  And he’s wearing a Spiderman Costume.  It’s perfect.

Yesterday, my day was spent under insurmountable stress.  Now, I wasn’t making the whole dinner, but I was making cookies, buns for dinner, and puff pastry (by scratch mind you) and also had to wrap presents and finish making the stockings!  I had the help of a faithful friend, Leon, who thank-goodness toughed out my Monica-like controlling behavior in the kitchen.  If you’ve watched Friends, you know what I mean.

One of my greatest Christmas gifts was that everything came out of the oven looking just as it should!  Nothing fell flat, nothing tasted odd, nothing was short of perfect!

These are my all-time favorite Christmas cookie.  They came to be known my my mouth by my sister’s sister-in-law.  Every year my sister hosts a Christmas Cookie Exchange and these were in said exchange.  So, when I got my hands on the name of these babies I was exstatic.  However, the recipe was not that easy to find online by the name.  I hope that people looking for these can find them easier via… here!

Pill Bottle Cookies

Shortbread
1 cup
butter, softened
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 cup flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar (for decoration)

Filling
1/4 cup butter (softened)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 yolk

Instructions
Put the flour in a mixing bowl and cut in the butter.  It can be pretty coarsely cut, it doesn’t have to be extremely fine.  Then, mix in the heavy cream.  It’s so very little for the amount of dry ingredients that there is, or so it appears, but the butter will tie everything together, and you’ll be very surprised.

Put the dough in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F as you pull the dough out of the fridge from it’s hour chilling time.  Lightly flour your countertop and roll your dough out to 1/8″ thickness.  Cut into 1 1/2″ rounds or… whatever size you want really!  I used an honest-to-goodness old pill bottle to cut out the rounds.

Put the granulated sugar into bowl or on a plate and coat the rounds on each size so they are covered in sugar.  I had to use a little bit of water on my finger to wet each round on each side to make sure the sugar would stick.  Then, place on a cookie sheet.  You can put them relatively close together, because they won’t spread out.

Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until slightly puffed.  Let cool and then remove from the cookie sheet.  Once fully cool, make sandwiches with the filling.

Filling Instructions
Put the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl and cream together with the butter.  Then add the yolk and vanilla.  You can add food coloring if you like!

Update: Yes, this recipe calls for raw egg yolk. Yes, there is risk of salmonella consuming raw egg. Yes, I personally take the risk every time because this frosting is worth dying for. But, in all seriousness, if using raw egg makes you take pause, you have a few options. You can either buy eggs that specifically say they are pasteurized, you can pasteurize your own eggs, or you can sub out the yolk for 1-1.5 tbsp heavy cream.  

That’s it!  I know it’s a little late for you to make these for your annual Cookie Exchange but, maybe you can make them for New Years.  They are so delicious you will not regret it.  How are you passing your Christmas?  And what are you doing for New Years?

Choux à la Citrouille: Pumpkin Cream Puffs

zapallo

Oh glorious fall, how I miss you.  There is nothing quite like the smell of rotting leaves hanging on the air.  That and the many smells that spill out of kitchens nation-wide.  It’s something dear to me, but unfortunately, Peru only experiences two seasons, neither of which include fall.  So, I only get to live out fall precariously through desserts.  That’s not too bad right?

When I first embarked upon this  idea of using pâte à choux I was  planning on making éclairs, if you had seen my posts via Facebook you would´ve seen that.  I wanted to make éclairs with a pumpkin filling and cream cheese glaze.  However, I was quickly brought back to the reality of where it is that I actually live.  I live at 12,000 feet above sea level.  I was excited to start up on THK again.  It has been too long that I haven´t posted anything new, mostly because I burnt myself out.  Well, this recipe about did that in one strike.

I´m going to share with you some things about pâte à choux that I learned in my three different attempts that carried me through several stages of insanity.  I was ticked that out of all the different recipes I found only one included what I thought was key to making pâte à choux.  Only use the amount of eggs you need to get the consistency you need.  Seriously, I was so mad when I found this after two failed attempts.   Well, I gave up on the éclair idea, so I did a fall rendition of choux à la crème instead.  Though, still with paté à choux and the pumpking and cream cheese!  Even then, our elevation effected how much the dough would rise. 

 

I certainly wish that they had puffed up more, but I did what I could.  I spent unspeakable hours slaving in the kitchen today.  I started at 10 am and didn’t get done until 5 pm.  I’m not being dramatic when I say that I have near blisters on my hands from stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon today.  I do not want to scare you away from making these cream puffs though!  They were actually well worth the trouble.  Next time, I’ll know exactly what to do and I won’t have to utilize as much prayer as I did today. 

At one point of this process I really was sitting in front of my oven praying to God that He would make my PUFFS PUFF! 

puffupbuttercup

There are three parts of the recipe: dough, filling and glaze.

Dough
You know, I’m just going to refer you to the site I got the dough recipe from.  They explain it rather well, probably better than I could.  http://www.annamariavolpi.com/pate_a_choux.html  But, read on first.

I will note that it’s key you follow every step closely.  It is rather technical.  The consistency of the dough in the end should be not of mayo, like that site says, but rather between mayo and playdough.  It should hold it’s shape if you spoon it out onto a surface, but it should not be extremely stiff. 

Something else that made me want to rip out my hair was that the majority of pâte à choux recipes I found were all in METRIC.  I despise you metric.  Only because I have nothing to measure you out with. 

Filling
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tbsp butter, melted
4 large eggs
2 cups of milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp clove (ground)

If you’re using pumpkin pie filling, like Libby’s then you shouldn’t have to worry about the spices, you could add a little more, because you’re practically deluding it in the cream you’re creating.

In a bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, butter and eggs in a large sauce pan.  Then mix in milk slowly as not to create lumps.  Put over heat and bring to a boil stirring constantly.  Cook until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and set aside. 

I roasted my own pumpkin, because finding canned pumpkin in Peru would cause an aneurism.  It’s no problem finding pumpkin here either.  The pumpkin in the first picture in this post is zapallo, what I used for this recipe and yields a great substitute for any recipes that call for the convention pumpkin one might find in the States. 

If you already have you pumpkin puree seasoned dump it in with the cream and stir.  If not, measure out your pumpkin puree and add the seasonings.  You may want to put this over a medium heat and add milk so the flavors set into the puree.  Then add to the cream.  Add more spices as needed. 

When the puffs are cooled and ready cut them open with a serrated knife and spoon pumpkin cream into the centers and put the tops over the cream to form sandwiches. 

Glaze
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth.  I put this over a low heat until the frosting melted and then spooned this out over the puffs.  You can sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top for garnish.