For spring, there's just one thing better than fresh strawberries and that's strawberries and chocolate and cream, together. This easy spring dessert recipe makes barely sweet little desserts just two-bites big, perfect finger food.
Once upon a time, I knew this guy, Mike. Now Mike could cook, he just didn’t. He had a place he called ‘The Kitchen’ because he sat down for supper there nearly every night. You and I would call it by the name on the door, Ruby Tuesday.
Mike offered to bring dessert to a gourmet club dinner and mentioned his favorite dessert from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant famous for its chocolate enchiladas – chocolate crepes, actually, but stuffed with pillows of whipped cream studded with bits of strawberry, banana and pineapple, then drizzled with chocolate sauce and caramel sauce and maybe some strawberry coulis too. Call them enchiladas, call them crepes: they were dreeeam-y. I wondered if he might just order eight to-go, replate and call it a night.
But no, not Mike. Never one to shirk a challenge, he set out to recreate those chocolate enchiladas, at home, himself, making it up one recipe at a time, no jars from the ice cream aisle, no help from the Internet back then, thank you.
He called two days before. “I bought the stuff to make that dessert.” Hearing his supply list, I laughed, hard. A Julia Child cookbook for the recipes. A crepe pan. A set of knives and cutting boards for chopping the fruit. A KitchenAid mixer for the whipped cream. An expensive saucepan for the homemade chocolate sauce and caramel sauce. He’d spent $1000 and hadn’t yet bought groceries!
There’s a point here. You see, home cooks do need some essential tools. But most kitchens, mine included, are stocked with tools and gadgets to make cooking faster-easier-neater – but certainly aren’t necessary.
Take the crepe pan. I use the same non-stick skillet that works for eggs, pancakes and grilled cheese sandwiches. Take that standing mixer. For twenty years, I got along just fine with an inexpensive hand mixer.
So these Chocolate Cream Puffs? No mixer required. Even the whipped cream can be whipped by hand with no more than a bowl, a wire whisk and a little muscle.
So that means that stuffed Chocolate Cream Puffs are a dessert to make nearly anywhere, perhaps a friend’s home when visiting, a summer rental cabin, you get the picture. When the strawberries are beautiful, think Chocolate Cream Puffs!
CHOCOLATE CREAM PUFFS
STRAWBERRIES & CREAM
Time to table: 1-1/2 – 3 hours
Makes 12 puffs
CHOCOLATE CREAM PUFFS
- 1/2 cup water
- 4 tablespoons butter (half a stick)
- 1/2 cup flour, fluffed to aerate before measuring
- 1-1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably a 'dark' powder such as Hershey's Extra Dark (see TIPS)
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 2 large eggs
FILLING (double for Double-Stuffed Chocolate Cream Puffs)
- 2 ounces low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 8 ounces strawberries, trimmed and roughly chopped into small pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream whipped with 1 tablespoon sugar and ¼ teaspoon vanilla
CHOCOLATE PUFFS Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or lightly grease. In a medium saucepan, heat the water and butter on medium heat until the butter melts. Separately, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add the flour mixture to the saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until a big ball forms. For a minute or two, let cook, stirring all the while to break up the ball a bit, this cooks off the floury taste. Take off the heat and let cool for a minute or two. Use the wooden spoon to stir in the eggs one at a time, stirring hard until each egg is well incorporated. Transfer mixture to a quart-size freezer bag. Clip a corner and squeeze the mixture into twelve circles topped with a swirl, like a swirl on a soft-serve ice cream cone. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, let cool.
FILLING With a wooden spoon, stir together the cream cheese and sugar. Stir in the strawberries, then gently fold in the whipped cream.SERVE & SAVOR Slice off the top third of each cream puff with a serrated knife. Spoon some filling onto the bottom, then replace the top. Better if refrigerated for an hour before serving but, like, so many kitchen tools, not necessary.
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