Cream Puffs at the Beach

Posted on: October 6, 2009

The simple question of “where are you from?” has always been difficult for me to answer.  I left my country of birth when I was a small child and have since only been back once.  I have no connection, emotionally or physically, to the land of my citizenship, yet it is an essential part of my identity.  As I grow older, I am slowly beginning to realize how significant my passport is to my life.  Over the past couple of months it has caused me much annoyance, fear, stress, and complications. Complications which have led me to the decision to leave New York for a few months.  It was a tough decision to make, but I believe it is for the best.  Under my current visa, I am only allowed to work in a certain field.  As I am looking to change directions and explore new options, I am unable to stay here legally.  I was nervous that I may have to return to my foreign homeland, but fortunately I will be with my family in Korea.  I’m excited to go back to Seoul and spend some quality time in the city I grew up in.  There will be some big changes in my life soon so I am actually very thankful that I am have to temporarily leave the U.S.

As a good bye gesture, my friends and I decided to take a little one day road trip outside of the city.  We planned to go to East Hampton, but ended up much closer to Manhattan than expected.  This past Sunday was apparently the worst day to choose for driving.  A cycling race and parade blocked off a few major roads and we had a hard time leaving the city. When we finally did, we were exhausted and hungry, so we decided to go to Long Beach instead.  It was beautiful, sunny, and absolutely perfect for a picnic lunch.

I’ve been itching to cook something from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking ever since I watched “Julie and Julia.”  I decided to make cream puffs, which looked like a good finger food to eat on a road trip.  My pate a choux did not puff up as much as I had hoped, but this didn’t interfere with the taste. The creme patissiere was soft and creamy with just the right amount of sweetness.  They were the perfect complement to the whole trip.  One by one they slowly disappeared as we talked, laughed, and shared a few secrets.

Pate a Choux

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1 cup water
4 tablespoons butter
Pinch of  salt
Pinch of nutmeg
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 egg + 1/2 tsp water for egg wash

In a heavy bottomed pot, put water, butter, salt, nutmeg, and sugar in.  Bring mixture to a boil and melt the butter.  Take the pot off the heat and add the flour.  Mix together quickly until combined and return to medium-high heat.  Continuing mixing for a few minutes until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pot.  Remove from heat and add one egg at a time, mixing until incorporation after each egg.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Fill a pastry bag with the pate a choux and form 1 1/2 inch wide by 1/2 inch thick circles. Smooth the tops of the batter circles with a offset spatula, knife, or pastry brush dipped in the egg wash.

Bake for 20 minutes.  When done, quickly slit the side of each puff with a knife and return the baking sheet to the turned off oven with the door open ajar.

Creme Saint-Honore

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking

1 cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup flour
2 cups boiling milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla
5 eggs whites
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

In a pot beat the sugar and egg yolks with a whisk until pale yellow and smooth.  Add the flour and mix.  Slowly add the boiling milk while stirring continually.   Set over medium high heat and continue to stir.  The mixture will thicken.  Bring to a bowl then lower heat and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes.  Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla.

Beat the egg whites and salt until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.  Fold into the hot custard.  Chill in the refrigerator.

To assemble, put the custard into a pastry bag.  Cut a small half circle on the backside of the choux and squeeze custard inside. Dust with confectioner’s sugar.


  • Angelia McGowan

    Hope you enjoy your stay with your family! And a great recipe, I would love to try these.

  • babycakes

    i ate the most…… as always…. they were absolutely perfecttt! i miss u alreadyyy :(

  • Emily

    Sounds like the perfect way to spend your last weekend in the states (for now, at least). Keep in touch!! Have a safe trip home!

  • Shannalee

    How perfectly lovely these look! Julia has never let me down, so I am making a mental note about these beauties. Maybe this weekend!

    Best wishes for your journey home – I look forward to reading about this new chapter in your life!

  • Natalia

    Dear Jess,
    Sad to hear you’re leaving, but I just IMed your sis, who reported you’ll be back soon, so I feel better now. I know how complicated the visa status things and requirements can be (and how annoying to pretty much be stuck in one field at this age, when all we want is to explore and figure things out). I’m on the same boat as you (not the Korea-bound boat, but the general immigration boat). So, I wish you the best in figuring things out. By the way, it was delightful to try the cream puff yesterday…the perfect good-bye gesture. Thank you so much for that! Now I can vouch that your goodies are just as delish as they look :)
    Good luck with decisions…and in the meantime, keep writing/posting pics from abroad!
    Take care,

  • hungry dog

    What an interesting post–both the personal story and the cream puffs. Although I’ve only recently discovered yoru blog, I like it very much. Best of luck in your new adventures, I look forward to reading about them. Your cream puffs look perfect :)

  • hungry dog

    I just sent a little blog love your way…check it out at the Hungry Dog :)

  • ray

    i hope you are enjoying home jescaaaaa!! i love cream puffs. one day i will shed my laziness and attempt this. xx.

  • Paula

    Good luck with your adventure – I hope you enjoy rediscovering your roots and your country.
    Thanks for sharing the recipe and the story!

  • veronica

    the cream and the puff part of the creampuff are made of the same custard mixture? they look delicious. will you be going home to seoul for good?!

  • veronica

    oof, i misread, the creme saint honore is the cream and the pate a choux is the puff.. good thing i didn’t attempt to make this myself! i think the reason it didn’t puff up is maybe because of the lack of baking powder or some sort of rising agent?

  • gaga

    My mom makes some of the best cream puffs. I’m going to have to ask her for the recipe or try yours!

  • bex

    Make these for me too!! :)

    You are so amazing!!!!!!!!

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