ninety nine

Cream Puffs with Caramel Glaze (aka Johnny Depps on a Plate)

It’s finally time to share with you all the story of Johnny Depps on a Plate (remember I mentioned it here?) Okay here goes: I got the name and inspiration for this dessert from Rainbow Sweets, a tiny bakery in Marshfield, Vermont. My family used to visit Vermont once a year and we’d drive for almost an hour just to have lunch there. The owner was probably one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. I very strongly remember that we’d walk in, he’d seat us, and then throw a bunch of silverware at us and shout “SET THE TABLE” to me or my sister. He’d then proceed to order for us because he knew what was best that day (spicy empanadas, creamy spinach pastries, buttery flatbread pizzas- all made right there in the exposed kitchen). Once we were so full we couldn’t move he’d bring out the desserts. Okay, I grew up twenty minutes away from Manhattan, and I have a mother who bakes everything from scratch, so no, I was not starved for good dessert in my childhood. But for some reason, I cannot for the life of me think of a time I had perfect pastries before Rainbow Sweets. For whatever reason, the five or six times we visited this bakery are the only times I vividly remember eating good cream puffs until I learned to make them myself. Anyway, amidst the éclairs and Napoleons and chocolate soufflés there they were: the Johnny Depps on a Plate (while I’d like to take credit for the name, I cannot). Perfectly round cream puffs filled with the most incredible pastry cream covered in caramel. I don’t know what exactly went into making them- the owner wouldn’t say any more than obscure facts about Johnny Depp when I asked why they were so great. I’ve strongly considered moving to Marshfield to see if I can get a job at Rainbow Sweets in order to learn their secrets. I guess I still could do that if I had the chance. I tried my best to recreate this ridiculously incredible dessert and while I did not exactly succeed, I still made something pretty great. Try it out and see. Or better yet, go to Rainbow Sweets and get the real thing!

Choux recipe here.

Make the choux and cool completely. Make the pastry cream.

Pastry Cream (recipe from the New York Times Magazine)

– 2/3 cup sugar

– 2 tbsp. cornstarch

– 2 tbsp. flour

– 2 tbsp. cornstarch

– 2 eggs

– Salt

– 2 cups cream, half-and-half, or whole milk

– 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

– 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, flour, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs and cream. Over medium heat, whisk the egg mixture into the sugar mixture; whisk occasionally at first to get rid of lumps, then pretty much constantly until the mixture starts to boil and thickens, about 10 minutes. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. The mixture is ready when it coats the back of a spoon and a line you draw with your finger through this coating holds its shape. Stir in the butter and vanilla, and strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer. Let cool to room temperature.

Caramel Glaze (recipe adapted from the William’s Sonoma Baking Book)

– 1/2 cup brown sugar

– 1/3 cup half-and-half

– 3 tbsp. unsalted butter

– 1/4-1/2 cup powdered sugar

Place the brown sugar and butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Slowly add the half-and-half and whisk constantly for three minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the powdered sugar until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Let cool.

Johnny Depps

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a cooling rack on top. Using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch tip or a freezer bag with the corner cut off, fill the choux with pastry cream. Roll each puff in the caramel glaze and place on the rack. Let the extra glaze drip off onto the rack. Top with a squirt of whipped cream if you want to get super crazy.

Desserts, Snacks

ninety four

Pâte à Choux

Choux pastry may be one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever made in the kitchen. Haven’t you ever stared at rows of perfect cream puffs and thought to yourself, “geesh, if only I was skilled enough in the kitchen to make those I’d probably have millions of friends and a cookbook deal”. Well, I can’t help you with the friends or book, but I assure you, if you can stir, you can make choux, and it’s such a confidence boost. There are literally only five ingredients used and it couldn’t be more simple. The only thing you really need to do with choux is pay attention while cooking so the dough doesn’t burn in the pan or go soggy in the oven. Once you’ve achieved that the possibilities are endless! Plain, the choux taste a lot like popovers, which means if you just dip them in cinnamon butter you’ll be home free, but you can go on to be a real pastry chef and try your luck with profiteroles and éclairs, even savory pastries- get ready to wow anyone who enters your kitchen! This is just the simple choux recipe, but stay tuned for Johnny Depps on a plate (you’ll see..)


Choux (from the Williams Sonoma Baking book and The New York Times Magazine)

– 8 tbsp. unsalted butter

– salt

– 1 cup flour

– 1 cup water (or milk)

– 4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Put the butter and a pinch of salt in a large saucepan on high. Add water or milk and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan (about 30 seconds). Remove the pan from the heat and add the eggs one at a time, beating well until smooth. After each egg addition the mixture will separate and looks horrible at first but keep beating and it’ll get smooth and beautiful!

Scoop the dough into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip (freezer bag with a corner cut off works too). Pipe dough onto the prepared pan: for bite-sized cream puffs, pipe a round mound about 1 inch wide and 1 inch high; for large cream puffs, pipe mounds about 1 1/2 inch wide and 1 1/2 inch high; for éclairs, pipe logs 3-4 inches long and 1 inch high. Bake until golden, 25-30 minutes for cream puffs and 35-40 minutes for éclairs. When finished baking, poke each puff with a sharp knife to let steam out and open the oven door, letting the pastries dry in the warm air for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a rack and let cool completely. Fill with your desired filling and go crazy! *Bonus recipe* freshly cooled choux puffs are step 1 in the incredibly easy task of making profiteroles with ice cream- just slice the choux in half, fill the centers with a scoop of your favorite ice cream and drizzle with chocolate sauce. Boom.

If you’re not me insane, you will obviously not be able to eat 25 cream puffs in a single night, so you can easily wrap the puffs in waxed paper in a sealed container and freeze for up to a month. To defrost in the least soggy manner, remove the puffs from the freezer and allow them to come to room temperature (could take a few hours), then place them in a 350 degree F oven for 2-3 minutes until crisp!