A couple weeks ago one of my coworkers gifted me with a very large bag of grapefruits off her tree. I also happened to have nearly a dozen egg yolks in the fridge after my sponge-cake adventures that needed to be used up.
It was time for some googling. The most interesting recipe I found was a grapefruit meringue pie. The only problem was that it required "complete” eggs, since the whites were needed for the meringue. I thought maybe the filling would work just fine without the meringue, as long as I didn’t try to make it into a pie.
So what do you do with a pie filling without a pie? You put it in cream puffs.
I’ll make cream puffs at the drop of a hat. I’ve filled them with chicken salad for parties, countless versions of pastry cream, even plain vanilla pudding.
People are intimidated by the dough, but it’s really not difficult.
You start by boiling water and butter in a saucepan, then adding flour. When you stir this together, you get a thick, somewhat sticky, dough. Once it all comes together, it goes into the bowl of a stand mixer to cool until it’s just barely warm.
Once the dough is cool, you slowly add the eggs with the mixer running. I poured in something that was as close to “one egg” as possible (the recipe says “add them one at a time” which doesn’t really make sense – if you’ve combined them all into a cup to measure, you can’t really split them back out into individual eggs). As soon as one egg is incorporated, add more egg. Repeat until you run out of eggs.
The next challenge is to pipe them into the right shape. The hard part here is getting the sticky dough into the piping bag. I use a tall tumbler – the bag goes inside, then gets folded over the rim. This holds it upright and open while you fill it:
Don’t fill it this full, or it will end up all over your hands when you try to use it:
Stopping a half-inch or so below the top is best.
Once it’s in the bag, use your biggest plain tip to pipe it into the shape you want. I made them vaguely cream-puff shaped, but you can also do long éclair shapes if you prefer:
They go in the oven for 20 minutes – the first 10 of that at 425F, to make them “puff”, and then another 10 at 350F to finish them off. I was slow to turn the oven down, so mine got a bit over-browned on top:
People say you should poke holes in them with a knife while they cool to let the steam out and keep them from getting soggy inside. I think that you should instead assume that they have a shelf life of about 4 hours, and plan to eat them sometime in that window. I’ve never successfully baked them one day and had them still be edible the next day.
While they were cooling, I made up the filling. I called it a curd, but it’s thickened with cornstarch, so I believe technically it’s a pudding. It’s simple – just mix it all up and cook until it thickens. If you’re very obsessive about lumps, you could run it through a fine strainer when it’s done.
I filled another piping bag (the disposable ones are so nice for this), poked the tip into the center of the cream puffs, and filled them. You want to do this just before serving, or they will get soggy.
They came out great, with just the right amount of tartness. They were a nice change from the ordinarily over-sweet filling that you find in cream puffs. I’d make them again!