For New Year's Eve this year, Jeff and I met some of my friends out for a drink in Boston and then we came back toward home and headed to his friend's house down the street from us where we spent the rest of the evening. Jeff's friend and his fiancée planned a potluck dinner, and I made a couple of desserts to contribute.
There were four couples total and everyone made something, so the spread was incredible, starting with appetizers of meats and cheeses, veggies and dips, Swedish meatballs, and a buffalo chicken stromboli. After snacking on appetizers, we took a break and played Apples to Apples (which apparently can become a drinking game), and then we gathered around the table for dinner. We had a spicy-sweet chili, mac and cheese with chicken and broccoli, pulled pork sliders, and a roasted winter vegetable salad. All of that food necessitated another break, so we hung out and watched the ball drop before digging into the desserts.
These cream puffs were a great idea because although they look heavy, they're actually very light. I also think they look and sound pretty fancy, and New Year's Eve is a great night for pulling out all the stops. If you have a special occasion to celebrate or just feel like making a fancy dessert, I definitely suggest these!
Chocolate Cream Puffs With Cocoa Nib Cream (adapted from The Art and Soul of Baking)
Cream Puffs And Cream
2 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup roasted cocoa nibs
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dark Chocolate Sauce
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup creme fraiche
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat cream and cocoa nibs over medium heat until cream starts to boil.
Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain cream into heatproof bowl, pressing firmly on nibs to extract cream.
Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours or overnight.
Line two baking sheets with parchment. Using a 2-inch biscuit cutter, trace about 15 evenly spaced circles on each piece of parchment. Turn the parchment over (and make sure you can see your outlines through it).
Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven.
Sift flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and cocoa powder together in small bowl.
Cook butter, water, and salt in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon.
When butter has melted, increase heat, and bring to a boil. Immediately remove pan from heat and stir in flour mixture. Stir vigorously until dough gathers into a ball around spoon. Place pan back over medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, just to dry out dough.
Transfer dough to bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
In medium bowl, beat 4 eggs together. With mixer on medium speed, add eggs 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, fully incorporating each addition before adding more. The mixture will become shiny and elastic and stick to the sides of the bowl.
Spoon dough into pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe dough into 1/2- to 3/4-inch high circles to fill outlines. Use an oiled knife to disconnect dough from piping tip. (Use an oiled fingertip to pat down any unruly dough.)
In a small bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg. Brush the egg lightly over the tops of the puffs.
Bake both sheets for 20 minutes. Then reduce oven to 350 degrees, rotate sheets from back to front and switch racks, and bake for 20 more minutes. reduce temperature to 300 degrees, and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes longer. Transfer to rack to cool completely.
While the puffs are baking, make the dark chocolate sauce. Place bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream and creme fraiche in medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Pour the cream over the chocolate, and let sit for 1 minute. Whisk until chocolate is completely smooth. Then whisk in vanilla. Set aside.
Once the puffs are cool and the chocolate sauce is made and cooling, pour the infused cream into bowl of stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Add remaining 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and whisk until stiff peaks form.
Using the tip of a small knife, poke a hole in the center of the bottom of each cream puff.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a small tip with the whipped cream, and pipe the cream into each cream puff through the hole in the bottom. You should be able to feel when the cream puff is full and a little of the cream will push back out. Wipe excess cream away with a paper towel.
Set the puffs on a serving platter. Drizzle a little chocolate sauce over each puff. (You'll have leftover chocolate sauce.) Refrigerate until ready to serve. Puffs are best on the same day they're filled.
Some notes: I made these smaller than the original recipe called for (2-inch circles versus 2 1/2-inch circles), but I would make them even smaller next time -- like bite-size -- so they would be easier to eat. You will have leftover chocolate sauce. Make a half batch if that bothers you, but having extra chocolate sauce around never bothers me.
What treats do you make for special occasions?