Getting Fresh on Valentine’s Day

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What can be tastier than a big bite of juicy, sun-warmed strawberry? Possibly a berry dipped into billows of lightly sweetened whipped cream, or generous slices of the crimson fruit scattered over crisp greens and drizzled with honey-yogurt dressing.
Although fragrant, luscious, fresh-from-the-farm strawberries won’t be available in our area until mid-April, in order to celebrate Valentine’s Day on the 14th, we’ll just have to make do with the best quality fresh or even frozen berries from the local grocer.

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To celebrate this incredible fruit, here is an easy recipe for cream puffs. Simply fill with sliced berries, add a dollop of freshly whipped cream and you are all set to present a dessert similar to that family favorite, strawberry shortcake, but lighter and far more delicate –  perfect for Valentine’s Day, National Strawberry Day on February 27th, a special anniversary, or Mother’s Day in May, when the berries will be at their peak.

CREAM PUFFS

Pre-warm eggs in their shells in hot, but not boiling water.

Heat to boiling point in sauce pan:
1 cup water
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Stir in:
 1 cup SIFTED bread flour
Stir constantly,quickly, and with vigor over medium-low heat until smooth and velvety by pressing dough against the side of the pan, then rolling into ball with spoon again and again for 1-2 minutes. Do not let the dough stay still in the pan or else it may burn.

Place dough in large mixing bowl, allow to cool slightly – tepid or lukewarm is fine. Very quickly, adding only one at a time, and beating well after each addition:

 3 or 4 whole eggs

To determine if a fourth egg is needed, check the consistency of the dough. It should be soft, not dry.

Drop from spoon onto parchment lined baking sheets, making eight smaller or four large dollops. Bake at 450* for 25 – 30 minutes, until golden brown and dry. Allow to cool slowly by opening oven door, and avoid drafts. Some cooks prefer to poke a toothpick into the sides of the cream puffs to release any steam trapped inside. I have never needed to do this, but it might work best for your kitchen and location.
Cut off tops with a sharp knife (or pull apart), scoop out filaments of dough, if necessary, and fill with fresh strawberries, raspberries, chocolate mousse, sweetened whipped cream, etc. Dust tops with confectioner’s sugar.
** Because these puffs are not sweetened, it’s possible to fill them with tuna salad, creamed chicken, etc. and served as a savory dish instead of a sweet.

 

 

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