“Mai Tai” Cream Puffs with Chantilly Frosting

Somehow this first week of medical school feels like it’s flown by in a blur but also been going on forever.  Rationally I know that this does not follow the law of physics, but

But actually, none of this has felt like real life so far.  Partly it’s because the first couple weeks of classes are taken up by this super chill block meant to ease us into the school year.  The professors literally and explicitly have told us not to study for it and instead spending our time getting to know our class.  Honestly, I’m kind of looking forward to the start of biochemistry in a week and coming back down to reality.  I’m not sure my liver can handle much more of this extended vacation!

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Last night in the ongoing quest to explore more of Chicago, I found myself up in Boystown celebrating Market Days – basically the unofficial LGBT pride celebration of the year – enjoying a Market Days Mai Tai special that brought me right back to my recent family vacation in Maui and O’ahu.  If I closed my eyes, I could almost imagine sandy toes and clear blue-green waves and a ukulele playing in the background instead of smoke and sweat and Prince on the corner TV (rest in peace!).

Hawaii was a magical place of poke and malasadas and mochi and mostly more poke – it’s hard to play favorites, but one gustatory memory that stands out crystal clear in my mind was the legendary cream puffs at Liliha Bakery.  They’ve got a number of delicious flavors like chocolate or green tea, but the true revelation was the contrast of textures between the cool, smooth cream filling and the little cap of rich, denser chantilly frosting on top.

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The thing is, when I first tried googling “chantilly cream”, something completely different comes up.  Chantilly cream refers to basically a type of whipped cream, absolutely not what I had in mind.  If you google “chantilly frosting” or “hawaii chantilly frosting” on the other hand, you find something like custard or pastry cream – but pipeable – that’s just begging to be eaten with a spoon.

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But if you can hold off from inhaling the whole pot in one go, chantilly frosting tastes decadent and pipes beautifully.  It may be my new favorite type of frosting – chantilly frosting cake is an amazing treat as well!

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And if you want to close your eyes and imagine a warm salty breeze and a seaside sunset, then throwing in a little rum and orange zest for a Mai Tai inspired cream puff never hurts 😉

Mmm….aloha!

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“Mai Tai” Cream Puffs with Chantilly Frosting

makes approximately 2-3 dozen cream puffs

choux pastry – recipe from Gesine Bullock-Prado

  • 1 1/4 cups (150g) bread flour
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) water
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons (100g) unsalted butter, room temperature and cut into small pieces
  • 4-5 large eggs, room temperature

pastry cream – recipe from Joanne Chang

  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour + pinch of cornstarch, or 1 tablespoon cake flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 orange

chantilly frosting – recipe from Guava Rose

  • 6 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons salted butter
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cups evaporated milk
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch
  • rum and/or rum extract to taste (approximately 1 tablespoon extract worked well for me)
  1. First, make the pastry cream: heat the milk in a small saucepan on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just scalded – meaning, it’s not boiling but bubbles are forming just at the edges of the saucepan – then take off heat, but keep the stove on.
  2. While the milk is heating, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the egg yolk and whisk to incorporate into a uniform paste.
  3. Important – do NOT add all the hot milk to the egg-flour mixture all at once, otherwise you’ll end up with scrambled eggs. Instead add a tablespoon of hot milk, then whisk, then another tablespoon, whisk, then again until about a third has been added (this is called tempering – you’re getting the eggs used to the temperature of the milk). Then you can add the rest of the milk, whisking constantly and vigorously. From this point on, DON’T STOP WHISKING!
  4. Pour the whole egg-flour-milk mixture back into the saucepan over medium heat. DON’T STOP WHISKING! At first, the mixture will look thin and frothy, but in a few minutes it’ll start thickening. Once you feel it start thickening, stop whisking for just a few seconds every once in a while to check if the mixture has started to boil – or as I like to call it, “blurp”-ing. What you’re looking for is if the mixture is forming big bubbles that “blurp” – it doesn’t look exactly like boiling in the hot water sense. Once you see that “blurp”, whisk madly for another 10 seconds then take off heat.
  5. If your pastry cream seems a little grainy, or if you just want to be extra careful, pour the pastry cream through a strainer into a heatproof bowl – this is in case something went wrong with the whisking and some of the egg got scrambled. But if your pastry cream already seems quite smooth, feel free to just pour it straight into the bowl. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  6. Cover the pastry cream with plastic wrap so that the plastic wrap is actually touching the surface of the pastry cream, to prevent it drying out and a skin forming. Chill for at least 4 hours, or until the custard has set. Pastry cream can be stored in the fridge in this fashion for at least 3 days.
  7. Second, make the chantilly cream frosting: melt the butter and salt in a small or medium pot/saucepan.  Remove and allow to cool a little.
  8. Whisk in milk, sugar, and vanilla extract.  Then, while continuously whisking, add the egg and egg yolk one at a time.
  9. Put back on medium heat and let it come to a boil, whisking occasionally.  Continue to whisk every once in a while as it cooks for 2 more minutes.
  10. Remove from heat.  While whisking vigorously and constantly, sift in the cornstarch.
  11. Stir in the rum or rum extract to taste.
  12. Transfer the frosting to a pyrex pie or casserole dish, or some other shallow dish.  Cover and chill for at least 3 hours, until the frosting has set.  Like the pastry cream, the frosting will also last in the fridge for several days in this fashion.
  13. Now you can make the choux pastry!: preheat oven to 375 F.  Prepare baking pans lined with parchment or silicone baking liners.  Prepare a large pastry bag with a large open circle tip and set aside.
  14. Combine in a large saucepan/pot the milk, water, sugar, salt, and butter.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is melted and incorporated.
  15. Bring to a boil and then immediately take the pan off the heat.  Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until smooth with no lumps.
  16. Return the pot to medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula but carefully making sure not the scrape the bottom of the pot.  Continue cooking and stirring until you see a starch coating the bottom of the pot.  Not all pots will form this starch coating unfortunately (for example my nonstick pot does not) – a surefire way of knowing it is cooked enough is to check if the temperature has reached 170 F.
  17. Transfer the dough to a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Allow the dough to cool to 140 F.  Meanwhile, whisk together 4 of the eggs in a small bowl.
  18. Start the stand mixer on medium-low speed or stirring the mixture with a spoon or spatula at moderate speed, and slowly add the whisked 4 eggs until fully incorporated.  Test the hydration of the dough by wetting your finger and dragging it through the dough, lifting your finger up sharply at the end.  If the dough/paste is at correct hydration, it should form a trough that does not fall in on itself and form a peak when you lift the finger up at the end.  If the paste is too dry, whisk the last egg in a small bowl and slowly add just as much as you need to get to the right hydration level.
  19. Fill the pastry bag with the choux dough.  Pipe 1.5-2 inch diameter half-spheres spaced an inch apart on the lined baking sheets.
  20. Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Turn off the oven, remove the puffs, and use a small paring knife to poke a little slit near the bottom of each one.  Return the puffs to the still warm (but turned off) oven to dry out the insides for 5-10 minutes.
  21. Choux puffs should be filled shortly (at most the same day) before serving.  If you would like these to be make-ahead, you can store in an airtight container for a few days or freeze unfilled puffs for longer.  Reheat at 350 F for about 5 minutes, until crispy again.
  22. When ready to fill, prepare one pastry bag fitted with a Bismarck tip and another pastry bag fitted with a tip of your choice (I used a star tip).  Fill the Bismarck tip bag with the orange zest pastry cream and the other bag with the chantilly cream.  Allow puffs to cool completely before filling and frosting.  Serve immediately or at least within the next couple of hours for optimal crisp/creamy texture awesomeness, but honestly even after they’ve lost their crispness these beauties are still delicious.

Nutritional description: this sweet treat may not have the nutrition of a salad, but calorically it’s actually not a hard hitter.  And making these yourself from whole natural ingredients like eggs and milk is at least than those ultra-processed 100 calorie cookie snack packs!  Bonus, these disappear so fast you won’t have the chance to eat the whole batch.

Nutritional information (based on 3 dozen servings): Calories 96, Total Fat 6g, Saturated Fat 3.6g, Cholesterol 49mg, Carbs 9.6g, Fiber 0.1g, Sugars 6.2g, Protein 2g, Sodium 17mg

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