Swan Cream Puffs

I love special desserts for special occasions, and this recipe certainly fits the bill.  It was love at first sight of these swan cream puffs in a long-ago issue of Good Housekeeping magazine.  They subsequently included the recipe in the 1991 edition of their Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts. I bought that book for the picture of the chocolate truffle cake on the front cover which I made for my oldest son’s 21st birthday, but I digress.

Through the years, I have made these swan cream puffs to celebrate many special times, and they never fail to impress.  Did I mention that they taste even better than they look?  The bodies are made of a traditional cream puff, and the almond filling is ethereal.  It is lighter than pastry cream but just as luscious.

Roger and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary earlier this year.  Two of my closest friends and their husbands also celebrated their 25th anniversaries, all within a 12-month period.  We thought it would be fun to have dinner together to celebrate our special milestones.  Dinner was at my house, but it was a joint effort.  Jill made a couple of fabulous appetizers, and Cathy made a wonderful Chinese green bean side dish and brought some wine.  I hemmed and hawed at what to make for the entrée before deciding on Broiled Tilapia Parmesan—but there was no question in my mind what I would be making for dessert!

Swan Cream Puffs

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Ingredients for Cream Puffs

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 4 large eggs

Ingredients for Almond Filling

  • 1/2 pint (1 cup) heavy cream
  • 1 tbl. confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 small (3.4 oz.) package of instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk

Directions for Cream Puffs

In 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, heat butter, salt, and water until butter melts and mixture boils.  Remove saucepan from heat.  With wooden spoon, vigorously stir in flour all at once, until mixture leaves side of pan and forms a ball.

Add eggs to flour mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until mixture is smooth and satiny.  Cool mixture slightly.

1st of 4 eggs added
Stir vigorously to incorporate egg
Batter after all the eggs have been added

Preheat oven to 375o.  Spoon 1/2 cup batter into decorating bag with just a coupler which will give you an opening about 1/2″ in diameter.  You could also use a large 1/2″ diameter tip, but it’s not necessary.  On greased large cookie sheet, pipe eight 3-inch-long “question marks” for swans’ necks, making a small dollop at the beginning of each for head.

Drop remaining batter, using a large spoon and pushing off with rubber spatula, onto cookie sheet in 8 large mounds, about 2″ apart.  With moistened finger, gently smooth batter to round it slightly.

Bake 20 minutes or until necks are golden.  Remove necks to wire rack to cool.

Continue baking remaining cream puffs 35 to 40 minutes longer until golden; remove to racks to cool.  (I baked the swans’ heads separately because I didn’t want to stagger the shelves.  I baked both the swans’ heads and bodies on the middle shelf.  The bodies took 60 minutes total  in my oven.)

When puffs are cool, cut off top third of each cream puff; set tops aside.  Prepare almond-cream filling.  Spoon cream filling into cream puff cups (swans’ bodies).  Cut each reserved cream puff top in half; set into filling for wings.  Place swans’ necks in cream filling.  Refrigerate.  Makes 8 cream puffs.  Sprinkle cream puffs with confectioners’ sugar just before serving.

Directions for Almond Cream Filling

In small bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat 1 cup heavy or whipping cream with 1 tbl. Confectioners sugar and ½ teaspoon almond extract until soft peaks form; set aside.  Prepare 1 package vanilla-flavor instant pudding and pie filling for 4 servings as label directs but use only 1¼ cups milk.  With rubber spatula, gently fold whipped cream into prepared vanilla pudding.

Fran’s Note: If you want to keep things simple, make ordinary cream puffs and forget about piping the heads.  Just make 8 mounds out of the pastry batter.  After baking, cut off the top third, fill cream puff, top with cut-off piece and dust with powdered sugar.  It will be just as delicious!  By the way, that’s the underside of the swan’s head on the left.  You’re looking at the side that was touching the cookie sheet.  If I had thought ahead, I would have piped a couple of backward question marks so that they would be the same color when facing each other!

Here's looking at you!

Source: Good Housekeeping magazine

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