Puff Pastry Shells

YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE A CHEF

Little puff pastry shells can be stuffed with anything from ice-cream to tuna salad. I like to make them bite sized so that you can pop the whole thing in your mouth at a party when you see somebody coming that you don’t want to talk to. But they can be made much larger. 

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

This recipe is from the classic cookbook, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, by Julia Child. Louisette Bertholle, and Simone Beck. The French vanilla ice cream recipe, which will be a separate post, is from Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream & Dessert Book, which was given to me by my dear friend Iris, when I first bought my handy-dandy, friend pleasing, Cuisinart Ice Cream Machine. But if you don’t have an Iris, you can get it here. 

With a few slight variations in the recipe, these can be for savory or sweet little bites. They are almost impossible to screw up, and have guests hovering around them to make sure they don’t disappear before they get their fill. And they are ideal because they can be prepared ahead of time and put together at the last minute easily as people are coming in the door. 

YOU CAN DO MAGIC!

It’s kind of a magic act the way these puffs come together. You make a pâte à choux, which is a cream puff paste, in English, pipe or spoon it onto a baking sheet, and bake them for a few minutes, and they rise up and hollow themselves out. A quick knife poke in each one releases the steam, you set them in the turned off oven for another few minutes to dry out, and they are ready to fill. 

Then you can cut the top off and use a very small spoon to fill them, or pipe a filling into them. In this case, my initial decision was to make some homemade ice cream and fill them with that, drizzling them with melted chocolate afterwards. Doesn’t that sound fancy? It is. Yeah, and people will be jealous when you send them pictures of them. 

I have so many left over that this morning I popped one into the oven on 425° for 3 minutes just to see if they crisped back up, and indeed they did. So this afternoon, I’m going to make a quick tuna salad, slice the top off of them and spoon some of that into each one. 

You can do this. Here’s how. 

Put your butter, salt, sugar and water into a pan and heat it until it all melts together. Take it off the heat for a minute and dump your flour into it and stir like a madman until it’s all blended nicely, then pop it back on the heat and beat it with a wooden spoon until it starts pulling away from the side of the pan. You’ll see it and know what I’m saying. Just takes a minute. 

Mixing Eggs into Pate a Choux
Mixing Eggs into Pate a Choux

Take the pan off the heat again, and one by one, use the wooden spoon to beat in the eggs. When one is incorporated, you can add the next one. This will wear your weak little arms out, but doesn’t take long. About a minute per egg. It’s fascinating to watch it go from a slippery slop to a sexy paste. 

Piping out the Pate a choux
Piping out the Pate a choux

Then you just either spoon them onto a greased baking sheet, or pipe them on. I prefer to use my Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator, which I don’t think they make anymore. But a pastry bag and wide tip would work just as well, if not better. It’s important to lightly coat a teaspoon with beaten egg, and press down on the tops so they are flat, and not in a point, but don’t let the egg drip down the puff, or it won’t puff. 

PUT THEM IN THE OVEN FOR BABY AND ME

Patting the Pate a Choux with Spoon
Patting the Pate a Choux with Spoon

Put them in the oven for about 20 minutes, on 425°, and when puffed and brown, take them out, turn off the oven, and poke a little slice with a paring knife in each one to release the steam. Then put them back in the turned-off oven for 10 minutes or longer with the oven door propped open, to let them dry a little more. Put them on a rack to cool. 

They can then be filled with whatever you desire. I used homemade French Vanilla ice cream, for some, and tuna salad for others. There are a few small changes if you want sweet puffs, or savory puffs, and this is shown in the recipe. Overall, these babies are foolproof, and you’re gonna’ love them when party time comes. As Julia Child says, “You cannot fail with puff shells”! 

Puff Pastries on Rack

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Puff Pastry Shells

PUFF PASTRY SHELLS


Description

Quick and easy pastry shells you can stuff with anything.


Scale

Ingredients

1 cup Water
6 tablespoons Butter
1 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup sifted all-purpose #our
4 eggs for the pâte à choux
1 egg, beaten, to tamp the tops of the puff pastries 
Butter or cooking spray to coat the baking sheets 


Instructions

  • Note: If you are making sweet puffs, omit the pepper, and reduce the salt from 1 teaspoon to a pinch. 
  • Bring water to boil with the butter, salt, pepper (if making savory ones), sugar and nutmeg, and boil slowly until the butter has melted. 
  • Measure the flour by putting a measuring cup on some wax paper, and sifting the flour over it until the cup is overflowing. Then level the top with the flat edge of a knife, or some such device. 
  • Remove the butter mixture from the heat, and immediately pour in all the flour. Beat it with a wooden spoon for several seconds until it is thoroughly blended. 
  • Return the pan to moderately high heat on the stove, and beat it with the wooden spoon until a mass forms and it pulls away from the sides. This should just take a minute or two. 
  • Remove it from the heat, once again, and one at a time beat in the eggs until they have been absorbed. Don’t add another egg until the previous one is well combined. 
  • Pipe or spoon little mounds about 1 1⁄2” wide and 1⁄2” tall onto a greased baking sheet. Then coat a spoon lightly with beaten egg and #atten the tops of the mounds ever so slightly. Do not let egg drip down the puff – or it won’t puff 
  • Place in preheated 425 degree oven, and bake for 20 minutes or until they are about doubled in size and golden brown. Turn o! the oven. 
  • Remove your beautiful puff pastries from the oven, slice a little hole in each one with a small knife, to release the steam, and then return them to the turned-o! oven for 10 minutes or more to finish drying out. 
  • At this point you can fill them with whatever you want. Pipe some soft ice-cream into them, and drizzle chocolate on them, like we did; slice the tops off and fill them with tuna salad, like we also did; fill them with a chocolate mousse…it’s up to you. 
  • You can make these a bit ahead of time, if you like, and reheat them in a 425 degree oven for three minutes to crisp them back up, then put them together for your gathering. 

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