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How to make Mama Rosie's Cream Puffs

Cream puffs right out of the oven

Mama Rosie’s Cream Puffs   

When his job caused us to relocate, I kept telling my husband Tim, I know there is a reason we are  moving to Baton Rouge, La. We may not understand it now, but we will get a glimpse of why, one day. I stood in the kitchen of my 93-year-old Mother-in-law, who we so lovingly refer to as Mama Rosie, watching her pull out of the oven a warm fresh batch of her acclaimed cream puffs and I caught a glimpse. She declared, “This batch turned out good”. She goes on “ It all depends on the weather”.

   As it turns out, Pate Choux, the airy cream puff dough that is also used for gougeres, and éclairs, does not like muggy humid weather and that limits your baking days if you live in Louisiana.

  Mama Rosie whips up these cream puffs quite regularly, the fragrance of butter, flour and eggs baking in the oven is a scent that reconfirms all is good for the moment.

  It is an important step in the recipe to let the cream puffs cool before slicing them open with a serrated knife in order to fill them. You do not want to mess up the crumb on the inside. If you cut them while they are warm the crumb becomes pasty.

  Traditionally cream puffs are filled with a vanilla pastry cream. As a bow to her era, she uses Kraft Jell-o vanilla pudding and as a child of that era the sweet salty and not pillowing vanilla pudding is a familiar and lovable flavor.

  The same sort of lovable flavor came drizzled over my steak on any given Saturday night on City Park Blvd. My Daddy would drain the canned button mushrooms and pour them into the cast iron skillet he had used to pan-fry the steaks for a quick pan sauce. Scraping up bits from the bottom of the skillet and adding a pat of butter, a squeeze of lemon juice (from the plastic lemon shaped container), and a shake of Lea & Perrins he would create a simple sauce that to this day I cannot master.

  The vanilla pudding filling is not as delicate and dainty as a top-of-the-stove-  custard, but those little bites of pate choux dusted with powdered sugar wouldn’t be the same. These delicacies, wrapped in crumpled tin foil have been known to show up on the third hole of a golf course, in hotel rooms and are expected when we invite her to dinner.

  On the evenings she comes over, cream puffs in hand, I entertain her by pouring  her a glass of wine and opening up Facebook on my ipad so she can scroll down the newsfeed and check on her grandchildren and great grandchildren. I don not let her post her comments, but oh, how she would like to.

  To go to a dance club in your eighties and nineties, to insist on dressing to the nines for simple occasions, like breakfast in the lobby of a Marriot Court Yard before you have had your coffee… In addition to driving yourself to Sunday afternoon concerts and flower shows, you have to be full of “piss and vinegar” as the saying goes and she is. With age she has become hard of hearing, but she can read my lips when I tell her she is a pain in my side.

  She has some great recipes tucked in her head for rice dressing and stuffed cabbage rolls and when you ask her to share her recipe she says “ I don’t have a recipe”. A few weeks ago I gave her a homework assignment and told her to write down her cream puff recipe. She turned it in and I sent it to a company called Rag Muffins who put her had written recipe on a tea towel for her to give to her children and grandchildren for a Christmas present. A better gift than those snarky comments she wanted to post on Facebook. This Christmas I want to change it up a bit and stuff the cream puffs butter pecan ice cream and caramel sauce. Surely, that will set her off!