I love that my grandchildren love to cook and absolutely love that they like a challenge. My eldest makes perfectly shaped butter cookies; the next eldest recently cooked a vegetarian rice and beans dinner for her siblings. One of them once helped me bake a flourless chocolate roll for Passover.
Recently, my 9-year old grand daughter said she was bored and wanted to cook something really delicious, very pretty and also "hard."
Be still my heart!
What better choice than cream puffs made into the shape of swans?!
I have taught baking classes on this particular recipe and have seen fully committed grown ups nervous about getting it right.
But off we went into the kitchen.
There are two really difficult challenges to making swan shape cream puffs. The first thing is mixing the eggs into the butter-flour dough, which is very stiff and therefore not easy to incorporate the liquidy eggs. Fortunately, this kid is athletic, with the kind of strong arms that come with spending hours doing chin-ups and stuff at the playground.
No problem! Stiff dough/eggs, perfectly mixed and blended. Check!
The second hard part is piping out small slivers of dough for the necks. There were lots of not-so-good ones (we just ate these as snacks after they were baked) but she did manage to create enough for us to use in the final product.
After that it was easy: we made some vanilla pudding but I told her that some other time you could also fill the swan bodies with whipped cream, sorbet or ice cream.
She said it would be really nice for the swans to have something to swim on.
Remember that old piano piece, Swans on the Lake? The music that so many of us learned as children taking our first year or so of piano lessons?
Well of course, there had to be a lake. We melted some chocolate. So easy. So lovely to look at when we put the swans down on each serving plate.
Wouldn't this be a beautiful finale to a lovely dinner for New Year's or someone's birthday or other special occasion?
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 pound unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 4 large eggs
- whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet or vanilla pudding
- melted chocolate or chocolate sauce
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl and set aside. Heat the water and butter in a medium size saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. When the water comes to a boil, raise the heat and add the flour mixture, all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is blended and begins to come away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition. Spoon 12-18 mounds of the dough onto one of the baking sheets, shaping them into ovals with your fingers, and leaving some space between each oval for the dough to spread. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake for another 12-18 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool.
To make the necks, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spoon some of the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a narrow-holed tip. Pipe the dough into "S" shapes about 2-inches long onto the second baking sheet. Bake the necks for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.
To assemble: Split the swan puffs in half lengthwise using a serrated knife. Cut the top portion in half lengthwise to use as wings. Spoon some whipped cream, ice cream, sorbet or pudding into the swan bottoms. Arrange the split top wings on top of the filling. Spoon some melted chocolate or chocolate sauce onto dessert plates. Place the filled swan bottoms on top of the chocolate. Insert the necks into the front. If desired, use a toothpick to dip into some meted chocolate and make a dot as an eye on the top of the neck.