Chocolate and Vanilla Puffs

Chocolate and vanilla puffs

From a supremely healthy seed and nut cracker recipe to an extremely decadent cream and chocolate confection in one week! Yes, it’s true – I’m all about embracing the extremes. 🙂

This recipe is perfect if you want to impress without putting in too much effort. It’s really easy because you’re using (ready-made) puff pastry, and just adding filling and topping. After all, how wrong can you go with cream and chocolate? Of course if you want to be adventurous and make your own pastry, feel free. I should warn you though that puff pastry is one of the most challenging to make yourself.

I also make something very similar using choux pastry, which ends up as éclairs with either cream or a lemon-flavoured filling and chocolate on top (or not). It takes more effort though as choux pastry is best made at home and the lemon filling requires several steps, although it’s well worth it for the result. One day I’ll post that recipe too but for today, we’ll go simple.

If you can get real vanilla pods for the cream, or something like NoMU’s vanilla paste or extract, there’s nothing to beat the taste. If not, vanilla essence is your fall-back plan. You can vary the sweetness of the cream by adding more or less castor sugar, and also adjust how strongly-flavoured the icing is by adding more or less cocoa. I personally like to add quite a bit of cocoa as it takes the edge off the sweetness of the icing, as does the coffee.

It’s your choice whether you want to add thick blobs of icing per puff, a thin and artistic drizzle or something in between. If you want to simplify even further, you can leave off the chocolate icing completely (or only ice half of them) and just dust the filled puffs with a little icing sugar for effect and added sweetness.

The only other thing I have to say here is watch that cream as you bite into the puff!

Ingredients

  • 1 packet ready-made puff pastry
  • 250ml cream
  • 1 – 2T castor sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod or 1t vanilla essence (optional)
  • 1½c icing sugar
  • 2 – 3T cocoa powder
  • ½T butter
  • 1T hot, strong brewed coffee or 1-2t instant coffee dissolved in 1T boiling water (optional)
  • Extra boiling water

Method

Preheat the oven to the temperature specified on the puff pastry packaging. Prepare a flat baking sheet by cutting a piece of baking paper (not greaseproof paper) to fit it. You can also grease the tray and use it straight up if you don’t have baking paper – it’s just a bit more messy.

Sprinkle some flour onto a board or your clean countertop and carefully unroll the puff pastry onto it. No need for any more rolling – just cut the pastry into squares. Mine were about 5cm by 5cm, but they could be any size and shape you want. Carefully transfer the squares onto the baking sheet, trying not to stretch them as you do so.

Raw pastry squares

Bake for however long the pack says, keeping an eye on them. They’re done when they’re nicely puffed and only just starting to brown on the top (the bottom will probably be a bit darker brown). Remove from the oven and let them cool.

Cooked puff pastry squares

When they’re completely cool, cut each one through the middle to create a top and a bottom. If there’s any uncooked-looking pastry in the middle, you can remove it at this point.

Cut down the centre to create a top and bottom

If you’re making real coffee for the icing, now’s a good time to do it so it can brew a while.

Pour the cream into a bowl, and add the castor sugar, starting with 1T since you can always add more. If you’re adding chocolate on top, you don’t need the cream to be too sweet.

If you’re using a vanilla pod, slit it lengthways (sometimes it helps to cut it in half first), and using the flat of a knife, scrape out the seeds and add them to the cream. If you’re using vanilla essence instead, just put it straight in.

Extracting vanilla seeds

Add seeds to cream with castor sugar

Beat the cream just until it holds its shape – you should be able to lift the beater out and clearly see where it was. Don’t go too far though, or you’ll end up with butter.

Cream just holding its shape

Using a spoon (or if you want to get fancy, a piping bag, although personally I don’t think it’s worth it in this case), put some cream on the bottoms of the pastry cases only. Then put the lids on top.

Spoon cream onto bases

Cover cream with lids

Arrange them on a platter.

Puffs on platter

If you like, you can just serve them like this, perhaps with some icing sugar sieved over. If you want to go the whole hog though, start making the icing.

Put the icing and cocoa into a bowl and mix it together.

Icing and cocoa

Cut the butter into small pieces and add them – butter gives the icing a bit of gloss.

Add butter pieces

Pour your hot coffee over and give it all a good stir. The heat should start melting the butter.

Pour hot coffee over

Mix in coffee and butter

Add another couple of teaspoons (literally) at a time of boiling water and when most of the icing sugar is mixed in, give it a whirl with the electric beater to get it smooth. (Don’t try to beat before the icing sugar is mixed in or you may end up with it dusted all over your counter.)

The icing should be thick but just pourable. If it’s too thick, add another teaspoon of boiling water at a time and mix again. Be careful as it goes very quickly from too thick to too thin. If it does get too thin though, you can always add a bit more icing sugar.

Beaten icing

When you’ve got it right, spoon it over the pastry, either in fat blobs or thin drizzles, according to taste. The icing starts setting quite quickly so work fast.

Spoon icing over

When you’re done, put the platter in the fridge, especially if it’s a hot day, to keep the cream cool and help the icing set further.

Serve as dessert or a tea-time treat with coffee.

 

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© Alexandra Lawrence and Inspired Nourishment, 2014

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