Makes:12 cream puffs
Light and airy pastry puffs made from pâte à choux dough are a good vehicle for just about any kind of sweet or savory filling you can think of. In the summer, I like to take advantage of the fresh strawberries at the market and use them in a mousse. First, cook the berries with sugar and lemon juice, strain, and mix with gelatin. Then fold the mixture into whipped cream and pipe it into the cooled pastry puffs. Dust with powdered sugar and serve, for an elegant summer dessert or a fancy brunch addition.
Game plan: You can freeze the uncooked pastry puffs for up to 2 months. Just pipe the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, freeze until solid, and transfer to a resealable bag. The frozen puffs should be baked straight from the freezer, but they may need a few extra minutes of baking time.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cupwater, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoonfine salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
For the strawberry mousse:
1 (1/4-ounce) packet unflavored gelatin
8 ouncesstrawberries, washed, hulled, and cut into large dice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cupheavy cream
Powdered sugar, for dusting
For the pastry puffs:
Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set it aside.
Heat the butter, milk, measured water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until the butter has melted and the liquid has come to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the flour all at once, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until well incorporated. Cook, stirring constantly, until the dough looks shiny and feels smooth to the touch, and a thin film has formed on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes. (The dough will easily form 1 large ball.)
Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and let it cool for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a small bowl with water and set it aside.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, beat in the eggs 1 at a time, letting each egg completely incorporate before adding the next, until the mixture is smooth, sticky, and glossy, about 4 to 5 minutes total.
Transfer the dough to a large resealable bag and cut off about 3/4 inch from one corner of the bag. Pipe 12 (2-inch-wide) round mounds onto the prepared baking sheet, making sure they’re about 1 1/2 inches apart. Dip your finger in the bowl of water and smooth the top of each mound.
Place the baking sheet in the oven, reduce the temperature to 350°F, and bake until the puffs are golden brown, airy, and completely dry inside, about 45 to 50 minutes (do not open the oven door until at least 45 minutes has passed). Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the puffs cool completely. Meanwhile, make the strawberry mousse.
For the strawberry mousse:
Place the water in a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface, and stir to combine; set aside.
Combine the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a small saucepan and stir to coat the berries in the sugar. Mash the berries with a potato masher to release their juices, then bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the berries are falling apart and the juices have thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, set a fine-mesh strainer over a large bowl.
Pour the strawberry mixture into the strainer. Using a rubber spatula, push on the solids and scrape the underside of the strainer until all of the liquid is extracted; discard the contents of the strainer. Immediately whisk the gelatin mixture into the strawberry liquid until it’s dissolved and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, place the clean bowl of the stand mixer and the whisk attachment in the freezer.
Place the cream in the chilled stand-mixer bowl and whisk on high speed until medium peaks form, about 1 minute. (Alternatively, you can use a hand whisk and a large chilled bowl. Whisk until medium peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes.)
Give the strawberry mixture a quick whisk to smooth it out, add half of the whipped cream, and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Add the remaining whipped cream and stir until just combined and no streaks of white remain. Transfer the mixture to a large resealable bag and set it aside.
Cut the cooled puffs in half horizontally. Cut off about 3/4 inch from one corner of the strawberry mousse–filled bag and pipe the mousse onto the bottom halves of the puffs (you should not have any mousse left). Replace the tops and dust with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.