I am flush with strawberries right now. It’s still relatively early in strawberry season, which generally runs from late spring through summer, but the berries I’ve picked up this week have all been sweet and full of flavor. The only problem with having so many strawberries around is that they start to go bad rather quickly, so I try to use them up by adding them to cereal, yogurt and pancakes for breakfast, making smoothies and loading them into desserts. One of my favorites is strawberry shortcake, a dessert that is always easy to put together and a great way to showcase fresh, ripe berries.
I like to think of these as fancy strawberry shortcakes. They’re cream puffs that are filled with a fluffy mascarpone cream and chopped, fresh strawberries. The choux pastry that makes the cream puffs is lightweight and soft, so these are much lighter and less filling than regular shortcakes. Each one is about 3 bites of creamy, strawberry goodness.
These cream puffs look very elegant but are relatively easy to make. The filling can be made in advance and chilled in the refrigerator. The puffs are best the same day that they are made, but are still very good the next day if they’re cooled completely and stored in an airtight container. The filling should only be added to the puffs right before serving. I like to leave the strawberries in medium-sized chunks to get a lot of flavor, but this also means that I usually have to cut open the cream puffs and add the filling with a knife or a spoon. If you want to pipe it into the puffs and don’t want berries stuck in a pastry bag, chop them up finely.
Strawberry Shortcake Cream Puffs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
3 1/2 tbsp butter (1.75 ounces), softened
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp water (for egg wash)
Preheat oven to 400F.
Combine milk, water, butter, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until dough comes together into a ball. Continue to cook dough, stirring continuously, for one additional minute.
Transfer dough to mixer or clean bowl and let mix (pref. with a paddle attachment) at a low speed for 2-3 minutes until slightly cooled. Add eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated to add the next one. Increase mixer speed and continue mixing until batter is very smooth, about 3-4 minutes.
Using a spoon, drop 16 round tablespoonfuls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly stir together remaining egg yolk and water to create an egg wash. Brush each pastry with egg wash.
Bake for 20 minutes, until puffs are well browned.
Allow puffs to cool completely on a wire rack.
Strawberry Mascarpone Filling
8-ounces mascarpone cheese, cold
1/4 cup half n’ half or cream
3-4 tbsp powdered sugar, to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
approx 1 cup diced strawberries
Beat all ingredients together with a whisk until soft peaks form. If you want to make the filling sweeter, then add a bit more sugar. You might have to add a little more cream to keep the filling from getting too stiff. Fold in diced strawberries, then either spoon or pipe filling into split cream puffs just before serving. Chill if not using filling right away.