To learn more about this recipe, see our related feature, Best Pastry Chefs 2012, in our National edition.
Banana Cream Puffs
Recipe adapted from Chris Ford, Wit & Wisdom, Baltimore
Yield: 60 to 70 one-inch cream puffs
Cook Time: 40 minutes, plus 3 hours refrigeration
Banana Pastry Cream
4 large / 2¾ ounces / 80 grams egg yolks
2½ tablespoons / 1⅓ ounces / 37 grams cornstarch
1½ cups / 12 ounces / 340 grams whole milk
½ cup / 3½ ounces / 100 grams granulated sugar
1 small banana, diced
½ vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup / 8 ounces / 225 grams heavy cream
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon / ⅓ ounce / 10 grams confectioners' sugar plus extra for serving
Pâte à Choux
¾ cup / 6 ounces / 170 grams whole milk
¾ cup /6 ounces / 170 grams water
1½ sticks / 6 ounces / 170 grams unsalted butter
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons / ¾ ounce /21 grams granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon / ⅛ ounce / 1½ grams salt
1 cup / 4 ounces / 113 grams cake flour, sifted
4 large eggs
1. Make the banana pastry cream: In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and cornstarch. In a medium saucepan set over high heat, combine the milk, sugar, banana and vanilla and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat. While whisking constantly, slowly pour the milk mixture into the yolk-cornstarch mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and set over high heat. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Immediately pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator and chill until the mixture is cold and thick, at least 3 hours. Run the chilled banana pastry cream mixture through a food processor or use a whisk to loosen the mixture.
2. In a large bowl or using a standing mixer, whisk together the heavy cream and confectioners' sugar until medium-stiff peaks form. Gently fold the banana pastry cream into the whipped cream, cover with plastic wrap and chill.
3. Make the pâte à choux: Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium saucepan set over high heat, combine the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt and bring to a rolling boil. Whisk in the cake flour and stir vigorously to make sure no clumps of flour form. Whisk constantly until the dough forms a ball, pulls away from the sides of the pan and begins to dry out, 2 to 3 minutes
4. Scrape the hot dough directly into the bowl of a standing mixer and paddle on medium speed for 1 minute. Slowly add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is fully combined before adding the next. Once all the eggs have been added, continue to mix for 2 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large round pastry tip.
5. On a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, pipe the dough into 1-inch rounds. Place in the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to 325° and bake until the pâte à choux is puffed, lightly browned and very light, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.
6. Fit another pastry bag with a medium round pastry tip and fill with the chilled banana pastry cream. Make a tiny hole at the bottom of each puff with the pastry tip and fill each completely with banana pastry cream, being careful not to overfill. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve immediately.