Every August (yes, I know it's October), Wisconsin holds it state fair for two weeks. Memories of attending the state fair are probably the best from my childhood. Not only is there a ton of food, but it was the one thing that could get my entire family together during the summer months of swim practice, meets, summer school, my Dad's 20-hour work days, and general busyness. For a few short hours, everything stopped and we headed to the fair grounds. We had our routine...first was hand-pressed lemonade, then we picked up grilled corn on the cob (perfection dunked in melted butter) which we ate on our way to get our rotisserie chicken meals with even more lemonade. It was so routine, we hardly strayed from the exact same booths from year to year. To give our stomachs a break, we would walk through the stables and look at the animals and then we would head to the vendor booths on our way to the main event....Cream Puffs.
There are no words to describe how much I love the state fair cream puffs. I talk about them as if they are legends. They are light, not too sweet, and despite being almost the size of my face, you always have room for that last bite. The lines were usually so long that it took about 45 minutes to stand in line to get them, however those in line didn't mind because it was almost dessert and a show as you could watch through large glass windows as they made your cream puffs as you walked by. The others in the group always staked out an open table and one was in charge of getting the milk.
It seems that time for the state fair pauses for my extended family as well, as in the past few years, they have been scheduling family events like weddings and reunions either the week before or the week after the state fair. Living halfway across the country makes me have to decide if the state fair cream puffs are worth a second $150 plane ticket...which in my mind they are, but my checkbook disagrees.
So every August, my cravings for cream puffs increase and this year was no different. When September passed and I still couldn't get my mind off the cream puffs, I decided to do something about it. I decided to bring a treat to my monthly card making class and these were perfect. I dressed these up a bit with orange zest and a bit of juice and prepared them two ways.
Orange Scented Pate a Choux (Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis)
Makes 3-4 dozen mini cream-puffs or doughnuts
For the pate a choux:
6 oz milk
2 oz orange juice
4 oz unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 oz sugar
6 oz bread flour
2 teaspoon orange zest
Combine milk, orange juice, butter, salt, and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the flour, all at once. Stir quickly. Return the saucepan to medium-low heat and stir vigorously until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer the dough to the bowl of a mixer. With the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until the dough has cooled slightly (still very warm, but not too hot to touch). Increase mixer speed to medium, and add orange zest and eggs one at a time, waiting until they are absorbed until adding more. When all the eggs are absorbed and the dough is smooth, it is ready to use.
Deep-fried method served with Grand Marnier chocolate sauce:
4 oz sugar
1 teaspoon orange zest
6 oz heavy whipping cream
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped or chips
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier or other orange flavored liqueur (optional)
Combine sugar and orange zest on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Set aside while preparing doughnuts.
In a heavy saucepan, heat whipping cream until bubbles start forming around the sides of the pan. Pour over chocolate in heat-proof bowl and let sit 1 minute. Stir until chocolate is melted. Add in Grand Marnier and stir until combined. Let cool to room temperature.
In a large frying pan or sauce pan, pour enough vegetable oil to reach a depth of 3 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a frying thermometer reaches 325 degrees F. Using a small ice-cream scoop, drop about 1 Tablespoon of the pate a choux dough into the hot oil. Turn the doughnuts once or twice, cooking until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
When golden brown, transfer to doughnuts to a cookie sheet lined with brown paper or paper towel to absorb excess oil. After 30 seconds, transfer doughnuts to the plate with the sugar/zest mixture. Roll to coat doughnuts in sugar mixture. Continue frying the remaining dough.
Serve doughnuts with Grand Marnier Chocolate sauce.
Baked and filled with Grand Marnier Whipped Cream:
8 oz heavy whipping cream
1 Tablespoon confectioner's sugar
1 Tablespoon Grand Marnier
confectioner's sugar for garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Add dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round decorating tip. Pipe dough into round mounds with a 1 1/2-inch base onto cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Dipping your finger into water, gently press tips of dough into mounds to make smooth tops. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 degrees F and continue to cook about 10 more minutes, until puffs are golden brown.
Remove from oven and immediately poke a hole in the bottom of each cream puff with a tooth pick or pairing knife to release steam. Place cream puffs on a cooling rack and allow to cool to room temperature.
To prepare filling, place whipping cream in mixer bowl and with whisk attachment, whip on medium speed until cream thickens. Add confectioner's sugar and whipped until soft peaks form. Add Grand Mariner and whip until combined. Transfer whipped cream into a pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch round decorating tip. Pipe whipped cream into cream puffs using the hole formed when releasing steam. Alternatively, you can cut cream puffs in half with a sharp knife and sandwich a spoonful of whipped cream with the puff halves. Sift confectioner's sugar over cream puffs for garnish.