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Spanish Cream Puffs

The luxurious treats are made from a batter called choux paste -- a simple mixture of fat, flour and eggs. Shape it into cream puffs or eclairs and fill with pastry cream, pudding or whipped cream. Fill with a savory mixture for hors d'oeuvres. The French call this pastry pate a choux, but it works in any language. When the Spaniards make the dough, they use olive oil, not butter. Drop the dough into hot fat and the resulting confection is called bunuelos.

1 cup water
6 tablespoons lightly flavored olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (use only for dessert puffs)
1 cup flour
4 large eggs

Lightly spritz a baking tray with nonstick baking spray or line it with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring water, olive oil, salt and sugar (if using) to a boil. Remove from heat and add flour all at once and beat with a wooden spoon until well blended. Reduce heat to medium. Return pan to heat and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a ball and leaves sides of pan (about 1 to 2 minutes).

Remove pan from heat and let mixture cool for 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a food processor. If you don't have a food processor, beat in the eggs one at a time according to the method below, beating hard after each addition. The result will be the same, but it will take a bigger effort.

Whirl in eggs, one at a time, processing briefly after each addition until smooth.

Note: After each egg is added, mixture breaks apart into clumps and is slippery but will return to a smooth paste after beating. Let batter cool for 10 minutes before shaping.

Shaping: You need two spoons to shape cream puffs. With one spoon, scoop up about 2 tablespoons batter for a large puff, 1 tablespoon for a medium-size puff, or 1 1/2 teaspoons for a cocktail-size puff. With other spoon, push batter off first spoon and drop in a mound onto prepared baking sheet. Place mounds about 2 inches apart.

Baking: Bake in upper third of preheated 425 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees. Pull out the tray and poke a cut in the lower side of each puff with the tip of a knife. Continue baking until puffs are firm, dry and golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Let cool on racks. Use within 24 hours, or wrap airtight and freeze.

Serving: With a serrated knife, cut upper third from each puff and scoop out moist interior. Fill with pastry cream or ice cream. Dust with a little confectioners' sugar and drizzle with chocolate sauce if desired. Makes about 2 dozen large puffs, 3 dozen medium-size puffs, or 5 to 6 dozen cocktail-size puffs.

Marlene Parrish

Thursday, December 27, 2001

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