Cream Puff/Choux à la crème-Bánh Su Kem

Vietnamese food

This is one of my little boy favorite.  He love these little puffs so much that he requested me to teach his mom  in Vietnam how to make these so his sibling could enjoy them too.  They are best filled and eaten on the day was made  but they can be stored in freezer for days.  Top with powder sugar or chocolate ganache or crisp caramel glaze but they are good without any topping.  A fruit glaze/compote is best for ice cream filling in the summer.  Chouquette is small cream puffs without filling but have hailstone size sugar or chocolate bits/chips sprinkled on top before baking.  The bite size, 1 inch round dish with ice cream filling is one of my kids favorite summer parties too.

The most important part in this recipe is beating eggs “Vigorously” into the flour mixture.  If you have weak arms use a handheld mixer (or standing mixer with the paddle attached)  to mix the eggs in until the mixture (choux paste) is real smooth and shiny.  If not the puffs will not raise. It happened to me-been there, done that, you know.  If you need measurement in metric system (liter, gram, etc.) please let me know.

Make about 28-30 medium puffs (1¾ inch dish)

1 cup water or 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter (1 stick/4 oz)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs

  1. Preheat oven to 425 oF with one rack on top third and one on bottom third.  Line two baking sheet with silicon pak or parchment paper.  In medium saucepan, bring butter, water and salt to a boil over medium high heat.  Stir with a  stiff, heatproof or wooden spoon until butter melt.  Turn the heat down to medium, add flour all at once and stir rapidly until the dough pull away from the sides of the pan.  Continue to stir until seeing the dough start to form a thin film at the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat.  Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously after each addition until fully incorporated before adding the next one until the mixture is smooth and shiny.  
  2. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with 1/2 inch plain tip.  Piping into 1-2 inch round dishes and about 1/2 inch thick and 1 inch apart.  Wet a finger with water and smooth the pointed tip down.  Bake now or freeze them on the baking tray until firm; then transfer them to freeze container for later. 
  3. Bake at 425 oF until deep golden brown about  30-40 minutes-they will be hollow and not gooey or eggy inside.  For  crispier shells bake at 425 oF for 15 minutes and turn the temp. down to 375 oF and bake until deep golden brown about 15-30 more minutes. The larger shells need more time. Open one to check near the end of baking time.  Do not open oven until they are raised and looked firm enough to hold the shape.  Let cool on the baking sheet.
  4. Baked puffs can be filled in two ways: split in half and put the filling on the bottom part, cover with the top or poke a hole at the side or bottom and pipe the filling through.  

Cream custard filling

    2 cups whole milk
    1 vanilla bean or 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 cup sugar or 1/3 cup for less sweet
    5 egg yolks from large eggs
    3 Tbs all purpose flour
    3 Tbs cornstarch

    1. Beat egg yolk and sugar until blended and add flours.
    2. Pour milk in a medium saucepan, use a small knife, split the vanilla bean along the length and scrape the seeds out.  Add the bean and seeds into milk.  Bring it to a boil.  Remove and discard the vanilla bean or save to flavor sugar (wash, air dry and add to sugar)
    3. Whisk 1/2 of hot milk into egg mixture until well combined.  Return the egg mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium low heat, whisking continuously and vigorously until the cream thickens and makes a few bubbles burst on the surface, continuous stirring and cooking for 1 more minute.   Transfer the cream to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap or strain it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl.  Refrigerate until cool and set at least 2-3 hours up to 2 days.  If want to use cream sooner, spread it into a thin layer between plastic wrap and chill in the fridge about 30 minutes.  Whisk the cream and add vanilla extract before use.  

    * I flavor the cream with some left over durian curd.  If you like to flavor with Grand Marnier, Rum, etc.  add 1 Tbs instead of vanilla before use.
    *The cream is thickening and burn very easy.  Use the heavy bottom saucepan if you have one or take it off & on the heat or lower the heat down if needed.

    Whipped Cream Filling
    2 cups heavy cream
    1/4 cup powder sugar and extra for dusting
    1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

    1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk or beat all ingredients together just to blend.  Store in the fridge with the beaters/whisk until chill at least 15 minutes.  Whip until stiff peaks form.
    2. Split the shells in half, spoon or pipe the whipped cream on the bottom half and cover with the top. Sprinkle with powder sugar.  Chill in the fridge until serve but no more than 4 hours.

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