Valentine’s Day has never really been my “thing.” But it hasn’t really been “not my thing” either. It’s a teeny tiny itty bitty version of Christmas in my opinion. One of those days where, to an extent, you can feel the love in the air (or at least the version of love wherein the guy likes the girl so much he’s willing to pay for an overpriced dinner just so she doesn’t get mad at him). I usually like that feeling.
This year, I wanted to do something. With the busy lives we lead any excuse to have a date night of sorts (studying in the same place does not, to me, constitute a date) sounds like a good idea. We contemplated going out to dinner. NYC Restaurant Week had been extended and we had wanted to go in the first place but did we really feel like making the hike into the city after just going in two days prior? And did we have the funds (Boy keeps reminding me that we’re in a recession)? We contemplated a movie. You don’t want to see Valentine’s Day.. right? Clearly, Boy was not wanting to watch the star-studded flick (I wasn’t set on it but I wouldn’t have minded either). So we settled on making dinner. On the menu was the Pioneer Woman’s lasagna and I (obviously) offered to make dessert. I was going to my parents’ house the day before and I love any excuse to use my mom’s stand mixer (note to Boy: HINT HINT).
This is what I came up with. Peppermint cream puffs sounded like a high end after-dinner mint to me and they seemed perfect for a “romantic” night in. They were. (However, we ate most of them while waiting for the lasagna to cook since we were starving and then stuffed ourselves silly with the lasagna and didn’t eat any more puffs after that.. But I’m sure they’re a perfect ending to a perfect meal!)
Peppermint Cream Puffs
adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours
Note: The original recipe was meant to be piped in a ring but I was more in the mood for little individual mouthfuls of joy. I also opted not to make the glaze out of sheer laziness but check out the book if rings and glazes are your cup of tea!
Pastry (the “puff”)
1/2 c water
1/2 c whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 c all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
Cream (the “cream”)
1 2/3 c heavy cream
40 fresh mint leaves
6 tbsp sugar
1/2 c sour cream (or creme fraiche), cold
peppermint extract, optional [didn’t use]
chocolate for melting and dipping
Preheat oven to 425F.
Bring 1 1/3 cups cream and the mint leaves to a boil in a medium saucepan. Pull the pan from the heat, cover and let steep for an hour, then pour into a bowl and refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.
Strain the cream into a measuring cup and add as much additional chilled cream as needed to measure 1 1/3 cups. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a medium bowl, whip the cream and 1/4 cup of the sugar until the cream holds firm peaks. Stir the remaining 2 tbsp of the sugar into the sour cream/creme fraiche and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold the sour cream into the whipped cream. Taste the cream, and if you’d like a stronger mint flavor, add a drop or two of extract.
Bring the water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the flour all at once and mix it in with a wooden spoon, then keep stirring energetically [REALLY FAST] until the dough comes together in a shiny mass. the bottom of the pan will be covered with a thin film of flour. Cook the dough for another minute or two, stirring constantly, then transfer the hot dough to the bowl of a stand mixer or another large bowl.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat in 3 of the eggs one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl and very gradually add enough of the beaten egg to form a dough that is thick, shiny, and silky.
Spoon the warm dough into a pastry bag [or Ziploc] and pipe puffs. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until they are puffed, brown, and firm.
Use a serrated knife and a very gentle sawing motion to slice off the top of the puffs.
Spoon the mint cream into a clean pastry bag [or ziploc] and pipe cream onto puff bases. Place tops on.
Melt some chocolate in a bowl over boiling water and dip/spread/decorate over tops however which way you please.
Eat day of and you’ll be super happy. Also, the mint cream goes with tons of things (see: green tea cupcake recipe to come!) so keep it in your arsenal of.. things that will impress people.