Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger: Carol’s Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Cream Puffs (GFCF)

Cream rolls, profiteroles – call them what you will – are one of my favourite pastries. When I was little it was one of the ultimate treats on an outing, I loved biting into one with the pastry cream (sometimes it was whipped cream) oozing out, relishing the creamy coolness encased. It was magical how these little balls of pastry could be filled with cream – even explained to me, it was mystifying how they were filled.

In the words of Bertie Wooster, the mind boggled.

When I chose Carol as my adoptee it was with high expectations, of myself: making gluten-free and dairy-free cream puffs. Carol’s cream puffs have been on the very top of my list of must-tries forever; I have made her dairy-free pastry cream before but didn’t, until now, make the pastry that makes the puff. Heh.

I’m sure you know Carol, whether personally or through her blog, or maybe you’ve heard of her. She’s recently published a cookbook, Simply Gluten-Free Desserts; a cookbook that I have not yet had the pleasure of giving a proper, thorough read but when I saw it in a local bookstore I didn’t hesitate to take a peek and it was anything but short of delightful. I’m keen to try the Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream, which sounds like a grown-up version of the classic strawberry.

My decision was timely, as she’s since posted a step by step tutorial for how to make cream puffs. That and the dairy-free recipe were my guides.

Over the course of four days, I have tackled pate a choux and I’ve yet to completely master it, but it has been – at best – a lot of fun so far. These are some things I’ve learned about tackling pastry and tackling any new culinary projects in general:

  1. Before you set out on your new culinary project, don’t listen to stories of other people’s kitchen or recipe disasters for entertainment purposes or relive your own previous disasters. Even if you did avert that disaster or if that other person’s disaster isn’t related to your current project at hand, you’re only helping to pave the way for your own possible disappointment.
  2. Don’t refrigerate batter that’s supposed to be choux dough in the hopes that it will thicken. It won’t work and it won’t puff at all.
  3. Listening to songs like “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” and singing along to them helps boost your morale. Anything positive goes.
  4. Don’t curse what you’re working on, even something as mild as “darn” – unless you want it to not work out, that is. If so, this post isn’t for you. We do have a happy ending.

Clearing the counter and singing my heart out to Queen (what a perfect band of choice, listening to perfectionists) and David Bowie, I thought I’d do the easy part first: make the pastry cream. I used coconut flour instead of cornstarch, as I had done in the past, and…it failed miserably. It lumped and seized – in short, it just wasn’t salvageable.

(I told my family that I hadn’t made the pastry cream when I presented the puffs. Now they’re going to read this and find out otherwise…hi! Well, technically I didn’t make it…)

After that sorry episode, I hoped that the pate a choux would make up for it. By the photo above (see collage, #1), my first attempt was fairly successful although I was filled with initial anxiety when the cooked dough lumped into what could only be mochi. Trying to soothe my qualms, I added the first egg and stirred and stirred, hoping. Eventually it evened out into a smooth and shiny, thick batter.

Spooning the batter on to the prepared pan, I popped it in the oven and crossed my fingers. They puffed, despite the pate a choux being batter than actual dough, which leads to my second attempt and my lesson…

I made the pate a choux again a day later, hoping it would be better the second time round as far as dough was concerned. This time round was thinner, weirdly enough and I made the error of sticking it in the fridge, believing it would thicken up into dough. I think by refrigerating, any puffing potential promptly deflated. They didn’t rise at all, remaining little discs (see collage, #2).

Something in me fired up, just as the first chords of “Changes” went into overture. Determination to get it right. So far, I’d followed Carol’s instructions and now I started to wonder if because I was making a half recipe that the chemistry could have changed slightly, just like how some recipes shouldn’t be doubled.

I reduced the oil to only two tablespoons and when it was time to dump the flour in, I took the pot off the heat. It didn’t quite look the way it did in Carol’s picture but it was dough at least, no sign of mochi. Transferring it to the bowl, I added the eggs a little at a time: beginning with one egg, then the rest of the white – leaving only two yolks. It was thick, smooth, and shiny. Could it be?

The headphones playing “Don’t Stop Me Now” into my ears, I broke up the yolks, adding them a teaspoon at a time. I’d become stringent. It had thickened as much as it could: not yet dough, still batter, but better than the previous two. It was good enough.

They puffed. (Cue “We Are the Champions.”)

I made more pastry cream, using cornstarch this time.

I filled the puffs with cream, leaving some hollow because my brother likes them that way.

But wait, there’s more! I also decided to make Carol’s gluten-free pate a choux as she recently demonstrated in her step by step post. It has butter.

When I dumped in the flour, the melted butter didn’t fully mix. Maybe I didn’t stir quickly enough? I added the eggs, again a little at a time, starting with the egg whites, until it became thick and shiny.

Although still batter, albeit thick, we’re getting closer to making a proper dough. (Hover cursor over images to read captions.)

With this fourth attempt I made the full recipe, which made 39 cream puffs in total. You might think that’s a lot but it’s nothing. They were gone before the day was out – most of them eaten by my brother.

So, all in all, my experience with making gluten-free and dairy-free (and not dairy-free) pate a choux was a great success. Thank you, Carol, for coming up with the recipes!

Because cream puffs are such the perfect little treat as I earlier described, I’m also contributing this to this month’s Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free. This month’s theme was a garden party (deadline’s tomorrow), hosted by Raj and Sonia of Flip Cookbook.

Get the recipe for Carol’s cream puffs here and her gluten-free pate a choux tutorial here. Despite my trial and error, the recipe does work. I think that some things just take a bit longer to get a grasp of.

22 thoughts on “Adopt a Gluten-Free Blogger: Carol’s Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Cream Puffs (GFCF)

  1. Oh how wonderful, lots of Queen, Bowie, and delectable cream puffs! (See how I’m focusing on the positive!!) That one photo makes me want to reach right through the screen so I can grab that puff that’s half eaten and not stuffed full (good call by your brother!). Great adoption and entry for Go Ahead Honey, too. I think I have missed the latter this month. 😦

    Have a fabulous weekend, Zoe!

    1. Hi Shirley, yes – so many cream puffs! Today feels odd without a culinary project to work on, though it’s not a day off cooking! We also dipped the puffs into the pastry cream, another method instead of filling, or ate them with butter and honey. Jam would be good, too.

      You have a fabulous weekend as well, Shirley! 🙂

  2. Ha, I just got a new Nano and am most excited about listening to Queen while working on recipes. David Bowie is great choice as well.

    And cream puffs have been calling to me since Carol posted her tutorial last week. Since you have the recipe down now, you’re welcome to make extras and send them my way. 😉

    1. Hi Kalinda, listening to music while working is wonderful and especially with headphones. I love Queen and David Bowie’s music! (I was a DB fan first, then eventually got into Queen later.) How funny, it was Carol’s cream puff tutorial that gave me the big push to get rolling. I’ll have to see first how well they last before I think of shipping, 😉 they haven’t been given a chance to last more than a few days.

    1. Hi Iris, you must make them! They’re so good and once you’ve got it down pat, you don’t have to wait for special occasion anymore. You can make the special occasion! 🙂

  3. Carol’s pate a choux recipe was my saving grace a while back. I was trying several different pate a choux recipes, trying to make something gluten and dairy-free, and I had more than one occurrence of your #2 photo – flat little discs. But then I followed Carol’s recipe, using palm shortening, and it was a dream. Great job on yours! They look delicious.

  4. Congrats Zoe, these look so awesome. What a fun adventure. I think it’s so cool that you enjoy playing in the kitchen so much. Your brother must’ve been in heaven! xo PS I will try my darndest to come soon so we can eat at the Naam and paint each other’s nails, lol. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Maggie! It’s weird: at times I have those familiar “I don’t want to cook, I don’t want to bake” moods but most of the time I’m happy to be in the kitchen and creating, particularly when I’m on my own agenda as in this instance, so I suppose recreationally, in contrast to having to do it regardless of if I want to or not…everyone gets that, though, with anything in life.

      Yes, you must! We’ll figure something out. 🙂

  5. As someone who spent her teens locked in her room with Queen blasting on the stereo, I had to laugh. Boy, that Freddie Mercury could rock a skin tight, white spandex jumpsuit in concert. WooHoo. Maybe that’s all I need is a little Queen to give me the courage to even attempt Carol’s recipe. Better dig those old vinyl records and the turntable out of storage. 🙂 Loved this post, Zoe.

    1. Hi Wendy, how wonderful to meet a fellow Queen fan and thank you! 🙂 That sounds so great – while my music is mostly digital (CD, mp3) I’d love a turntable for those vinyls; it’s on my wishlist. A bit of nostalgia. Speaking of Queen, perhaps you know that there was a recent documentary about them as part of celebrating their 40th anniversary? It only just aired yesterday and on Sunday in the UK and someone uploaded all of it on YouTube. I watched it last night, brilliant!

  6. Love the 4 lessons! I did start singing “We are the champions” right on your cue — made me smile. The cream puffs look quite delish – have I told you that I’m totally jealous of your brother? So much good food!

    1. Hi Raj, you’re so sweet! (I don’t think I can say that too often.) I think if you must be jealous, 😉 not just of my brother but indeed my whole family! I think I properly spoil them, in a good way and I enjoy doing it as well, which is good.

    1. Hi Emilie, I’m not sure how coconut flour or almond flour would work for this. I haven’t experimented enough, although I think that coconut flour could work better than almond flour since it’s not as dense or heavy, despite its fibre rich nature. If I make grain-free pate a choux, I’ll duly post it!

  7. Hee hee! Such a funny post! I think uplifting music is essential to produce really puffy choux buns.

    I’m looking for hosts for Go Ahead Honey and still have a few months left. It’s first come first served, but I still have Dec 2011 and Feb, March and April 2012 left at this moment. Please say you’ll take one and do something wonderfully witty and possibly grain free?

    Email me at: naomi at bridporthomeopath dot co dot uk if you’d like to host.

    x x x

    1. Hi Naomi, so glad that you liked it! Yes, I haven’t quite perfected making the dough but they did puff despite being on the thin side, so it’s a start. 🙂

      Thank you for inviting me to host GAHIGF, I am considering it and will email you ASAP.

    1. Hi Kim, I don’t listen to music all the time when I’m in the kitchen but I think that good music is an imperative for any kitchen. (I love it when the music played in kitchens, whether restaurant or home, are named in food-centric memoirs, it adds to the atmosphere.) Thank you!

  8. I have been here three times to leave a reply and each time something comes up and I get called away before I can start typing! Fist let me say how much I appreciate being adopted by you. Second, I admire your persistance and music choices! As I read this over I realize that I sometimes add an extra egg yolk into the batter when I just use sweet rice flour – so I will go correct that on the post. Also it really makes a difference to FULLY incorporate each egg into the batter before adding the next and to beat it awhile after.

    1. Hi Carol, thanks so much! I’ll keep your tip in mind next time I tackle choux and I’ll try using an extra egg yolk (that would be total 2 egg yolks, right?).

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