Strawberry Cream Puffs

There's a farmers market that happens every Saturday right near my apartment. It's one of my favourite things about summer - fresh veggies and fruit, local honey, homemade breads, all kinds of stuff! It's a great little market and always has awesome fresh produce. But I work on Saturdays now and I usually get off around 2 or 3pm. The market closes at 3pm and everything is usually cleaned out long before then. So you can imagine how excited I was when I went to the farmers market at 3:05 pm and there were still a few punnets of strawberries left!!

I almost couldn't believe my luck and bought two punnets before anyone told me the market was closed. Looking back, I should've bought four because as soon as I got home, I ate some with some vanilla chantilly. Then I started brainstorming ideas for the most strawberry-y thing I could. I wanted something light and airy but also packed with strawberry flavour and maybe a bit of cream in there too. There needed to be a bit of crunch for texture to offset the soft and airy part. So, of course, cream puffs came to mind!

The great thing about the compote and the mousse is that is really lets the strawberries shine, so you have to make sure your strawberries are the best possible. I don't even think it would be tasty with the strawberries that are white on the inside and watery and sour… This really is a recipe for those local, juicy, super flavour-packed strawberries that you only get when they're in season in your area. I know it's a pain to wait a whole year for strawberries to come into season, but trust me, they're worth it.

Strawberry Cream Puffs

Pâte Sucrée Dough

150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
95 g icing sugar
30 g almond flour
1 g salt
1/2 vanilla bean
50 g eggs
250 g all-purpose flour

15 g pearl sugar

Pâte à Choux

125 g water
125 g whole milk
5 g superfine sugar
5 g fleur de sel
110 g unsalted butter
140 g all-purpose flour
250 g eggs

Strawberry Mousse

250 g strawberries
20 g sugar

200 g strawberry puree
2 gelatin sheets
200 g heavy cream

Strawberry Compote

200 g strawberries, halved
50 g sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 lemon

Créme Chantilly

150 g heavy cream
1 g vanilla paste
15 g icing sugar

To garnish 

Strawberry powder

Prepare the pâte sucrée. In a food processor fitted with the dough blade, process the butter until creamy. Sift in the icing sugar, then add the almond flour and salt. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the mixture. Add the eggs. Sift in the flour and process just until the dough forms a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Remove the tart dough and roll it out to a thickness of less than 1/16 inch (1 mm). Place on a baking sheet and freeze for 20 minutes.

Prepare the choux paste. In a saucepan, bring the water, milk, sugar, salt, and butter to a boy. With the saucepan still over the heat, add the flour all at once. Beat hard with a wooden spoon until the paste is smooth and shiny and continue being until the paste comes away from the sides of the pan. Transfer the paste to a bowl and incorporate the eggs one at a time, beating constantly. Transfer the finished paste to a piping bag fitted with a plain #14 pastry tip.

After 20 minutes in the freezer, remove the tart dough and cut out twelve to fourteen 2 1/2 inch (7 cm) rounds. 

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pipe out 12 to 14 choux balls about 2 1/2 inches (6.5 cm) in diameter and 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) tall, arranging them on the lined baking sheet about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. (Note: I use a 1 inch diameter demi sphere mold for my choux, freeze, then unmold onto the baking sheet). On each choux, place a disc of sweet tart dough and sprinkle with a bit of pearl sugar. Place them in the oven and turn the oven off. Keep the oven off for ten minutes. Turn the oven back on to 350 F and continue baking the choux. After ten minutes, slide a wooden cooking spoon between the oven and its door to keep it partly open. Bake for another ten minutes. Transfer the choux to a wire rack to cool.

Make the strawberry puree. Combine the strawberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, until the strawberries are tender. Remove from heat. Let it cool slightly before pureeing it with a blender or immersion blender. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the seeds.

For the mousse, measure out 200 g of the strawberry puree (you should have extra, use it for drinks or a sauce!) into a saucepan set over medium-low heat. 

Meanwhile, soften the gelatin sheets in ice water.

When the puree is hot to the touch, but not boiling, remove from heat and add the gelatin. Stir to make sure it has dissolved. Transfer to a bowl set over an ice bath to cool.

Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks.

Whisk one-third of the whipped cream into the cooled puree, then gently fold in another one-third, then the remaining one-third. 

Fit a piping bag with a round tip. Twist the tip and press the twisted portion of the piping bag inside of the tip, ensuring the mousse will not leak out. Transfer the mousse to the piping bag and place it in a container that will keep the piping bag upright. Use a clip to seal the open end of the piping bag. Chill the mousse until firm, at least 1 hour. 

For the strawberry compote, combine the strawberries and sugar in a saucepan set over medium heat. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add to the saucepan, along with the pod. Zest and juice the lemon into the saucepan. 

Bring to a simmer, stirring often, and cook until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Remove the vanilla bean. Using a food processor, give the compote a few pulses just to create a chunky compote, not a purée. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a small circular tip.

For the chantilly, place the cream, vanilla paste, and icing sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk. Whisk until stiff peaks form and transfer to a piping bag fitting with a star tip. Reserve in the fridge.

To assemble, use a small piping tip to make a hole in the bottom of each puff. Stick a toothpick inside the hole and move it around to make sure the inside of the puff is empty. Repeat with all the puffs and place them upside down on a baking sheet.

Pipe a small amount of strawberry compote into each puff, shaking it to make sure the compote reaches the bottom. Pipe the strawberry mousse into each puff and place it right side up.

Pipe the chantilly on the top of puff, dust with strawberry powder, and garnish with a quarter or half strawberry.

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