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Puff

Puff refers to a sweet or savory dough based aerated pastry made by rolling out the dough and folding in multiple layers or using leavening agents such as eggs, so that it expands or puffs up during the process of baking and reveals its many-layered structure. A stuffing of cheese, vegetables and/or meat in case of savory puffs or fruit, jam and/or cream in case of sweet puffs is placed in between the first fold of the dough so that it is encountered as the innermost layer of the golden baked puff.

 

Puffs can be consumed as a snack food, as appetizers or sometimes as a dessert, and often at any time of the day. There are several versions of this dish that can be prepared and enjoyed. These may be broadly classified under sweet and savoury categories and include-

 

Sweet Puffs

 

Classic Cream Puffs

 

profiterole or a cream puff (in the US) also known as a choux à la crème is basically a ball of choux pastry filled with either whipped cream, pastry cream, or ice cream. This is usually a very sweet treat. These puffs may be eaten plain as such, may be specially decorated or garnished with chocochips, chocolate sauce, honey or caramel, with a final dusting of powdered sugar.

 

The French term “profiterole” is traditionally used to denote smaller versions of the puff, filled with whipped cream/ice cream and finally topped with chocolate although other variations do exist.

 

A cream puff dough referred to as pate a choux filled with luscious cream makes for the classic cream puff famous the world over.

 

Eggs act as a critical leavening agent in making cream puffs, causing the dough to rise and expand. Piercing the ready puffs allows the steam within to escape out so that an almost hollow texture is achieved. It is possible to freeze fully cooled cream puffs in order to store them for up to one month.

 

Cream Puff with Ice Cream and Caramel

 

Ingredients

 

  • Bread flour
  • water
  • butter 
  • salt
  • egg whites
  • whole eggs
  • low-fat vanilla ice cream
  • fat-free caramel sundae syrup

 

Method

 

  1. Water, butter, and salt are combined together in a large, deep saucepan over medium-high heat gradually bringing to a boil, stirring intermittently with a wooden spatula. Flour is stirred in well but very slowly so that the mixture remains smooth. After removing from the heat and cooling sufficiently, the dough is placed in the bowl of a stand mixer. Egg whites and whole eggs, are added only one at a time, beating at medium speed until well combined.
  2. The dough is scooped and placed as mounds slightly apart on the greased baking tray. It is set to bake in a pre-heated oven, until it begins to puff up and rise. The top of each cream puff is pierced with a knife to let steam out and then allowed to cool down completely on a wire rack.
  3. These cream puffs may be horizontally slit in half. Each puff is then filled with ice cream and topped with caramel syrup.

 

Nutritional Value

 

An individual serving of this Cream Puff (~ 100 g) provides-

 

·        229 calories with 62 calories from fat

·        6.8 g total fat with 3.6 g saturated fat, 0.5 g poly and 1.6 g mono unsaturated fats

·        67.0 mg cholesterol

·        34.6 g total carbohydrates with 25 g sugars and 0.9 g dietary fiber

·        213 mg sodium, 1 mg Iron, 61 mg calcium  

·        7 g protein

 

 

Variants

 

Espresso Cream Puffs - These are light cream puffs made with fat-free milk, less butter, flavoured with instant espresso or coffee granules.

 

Chocolate Caramel Puffs - Very simply made by rolling the puff balls in caramel sauce and serving on a bed of hot chocolate fudge or dark-chocolate sauce.

 

French Vanilla Cream Puffs - These include delicate vanilla custard in the centre of the cream puffs, topped with whipped cream and cherry or dotted with chocolate chips.

 

Lemon Cream Puffs – These light, fluffy and crisp golden puffs have a tangy citrus flavour owing to the lemon juice and zest used to flavor the lemon-cream filling, before dusting with powdered sugar.

 

 

Savory Puffs

 

Cream puffs also taste very good with savory fillings, such as cheese, meat, chicken or shrimp sauté or salad. However, it is important to ensure that the layers are quite thin while also incorporating some amount of fat that makes a rich flaky puff pastry upon baking.

 

Classic Salt and Pepper Cheese Puffs or ‘Gougères

 

These fairly easy to make cheesy puffs are created using strongly flavored, aged English, Irish or Canadian Cheddar Cheese.   

 

Ingredients

 

  • butter, cut into chunks 
  • all-purpose flour
  • beaten eggs
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • fresh-ground pepper
  • Coarse sea salt

 

Method

 

  1. In a heated pan, mixture of water and the butter blended together is brought to a full rolling boil. It is removed from the heat, the flour added all at once, and stirred continuously until the mixture is a uniform, smooth, thick paste with no lumps. Some of the beaten eggs liquid is added little by little, stirring vigorously after each addition until the dough is no longer slippery. Cheese and pepper are then stirred in.
  2. The dough thus formed is dropped onto the greased sheets placed on baking trays in the form of somewhat round shaped tablespoon-sized portions. Each mound is then sprinkled with few grains of the coarse sea salt and pepper.
  3. These puffs are baked in a pre-heated oven until well browned and served warm.

 

 

Nutritive Value

 

A single serving of each puff provides-

·        53 calories with 32 calories from fat

·        3.6 g total fat with 2.0 g saturated fat

·        35.0 mg cholesterol

·        3.1 g total carbohydrates with 0.1 g dietary fiber

·        87 mg sodium

·        1.9 g protein

 

Gougères are considered to be the savoury equivalent of the popular profiteroles, and may have a variety of fillings such as a cheese mixture, minced meat, spiced veggies, etc. These are generally offered as hors d'oeuvre or as dumpling for some soups.

 

Variants

 

Mushroom and Cheese Puffs – These have a rich creamy mushroom and herb mixture as the cheesy centre.

 

Chicken Salad Cream Puffs – These are made with shredded chicken in low-fat mayonnaise with some fresh chopped cherry tomatoes and bell peppers as the core.

 

Minty Lamb Puff Pastry Bites – These are very elegant and tasty appetizers that feature slices of puff pastry filled with a unique savory mixture of ground lamb, ginger, garlic, green onions and flavoured with fresh mint.

 

In a similar manner a range of veggies like pumpkin, potato, beans, carrots, asparagus, artichokes etc., can be combined or used independently to form interesting fillings for these tasty appetizers. These may be served along with a yogurt dip, plum and date sauce, chutney or mustard dipping sauce among others.

 

Nutritional Improvements

 

  •         Lentils and Spinach may be used as a nutrient-dense filling offering proteins as well as minerals like potassium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, calcium, selenium, and trace minerals like selenium and molybdenum. These also provide some vitamin A, B vitamins, choline, niacin, vitamin C, K, E and folate. Fibre helps lower cholesterol, maintain blood sugar and promote smooth bowel function.  
  •        Salmon in its smoked form makes for a delicious filling and provides a good source of protein and essential omega- 3 fatty acids needed for optimal cardiovascular, brain and joint health.  
  •        Soya granules that are seasoned and spiced can make for a very healthy filling providing soy isoflavones that offer cardio-protective and anti-cancer benefits apart from aiding in weight loss.
  •        Sliced nuts (like almonds, walnuts etc.) and sesame toppings can be used on both sweet and savory puffs. These can increase the B-vitamin, protein, Vitamin E contents and also provide minerals like iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and some very healthy unsaturated fats.