A very long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … oh, wait, that’s another story. Forget the galaxy part and let me start again. Long ago when I was eating gluten, my friend, Sandra, shared her puffs recipe with me. She called them party puffs or cream puffs. This was in the early days of our now well-established Valentine’s Day parties. She swore these puffs were incredibly easy to make, but would make the hostess look like a gourmet chef, and she was so right! The puffs could be made savory or sweet, but I always had plenty of sweet options (it doesn’t take much looking around here at gfe to determine that!), so I always made my puffs savory. My favorite filling was chicken salad, with shrimp salad and tuna salad puffs sometimes making an appearance was well.
When I went gluten free, of course, I gave up any recipe that was made with all-purpose flour–or any other wheat-based flour; e.g., whole wheat, graham, spelt. So, sadly, the puffs went off the party menu for at least one Valentine’s Day party (and a few Christmas open house events). Then I came across the gluten-free flour mix* that I most often use today. So I decided to try the puffs again, just replacing the all-purpose gluten flour with my gluten-free flour mix (without adding xanthan gum). To my surprise, the puffs were as wonderful as ever. Same taste, texture … everything. So puffs went back on the party menu—much to everyone’s delight.
After I figured out that this recipe could be easily be made gluten free (gfe!), I saw others report on their gluten-free puff variations on the celiac listserv. If you do an online search for puffs, cream puffs, etc. (even gluten-free puffs), you’ll get many variations of this basic recipe. However, this one has so few ingredients and just works beautifully, so why change it? Admittedly, I do the cutting/stuffing part a little differently than most folks would. I serve my puffs “open faced,” because again I like to keep the preparation simple and because I also like my guests to be able to see what they are eating. But, I’ve added notes in the recipe below if you want to have a top “cover” on your puffs.
Having just made these for my tea party with my girlfriends, I really wonder why I save them for our special events and don’t make them more often. They are so easily and quickly made and truly make any event special. It would be fun to whip up a batch for the family and then have each member fill them with the fillings of choice—savory or sweet, or some of each. A bruschetta puff, a mini-chopped salad with olive oil puff, a lox and cream cheese puff, a Nutella puff, a peanut butter and Nutella puff … oh, the possibilities are endless, and so very appealing … and distracting.
One final note: I don’t want to mislead you … these puffs are not like gluten-free phyllo or flaky croissants. But these gfe puffs do have that same lovely “eggy,” pastry taste, and their texture is tender and irresistible, too. The biggest problem I always have when serving these puffs is how quickly they disappear! So despite abandoning my Star Wars theme earlier, I will tell you that these simple puffs are out of this world. And, follow Erma Bombeck’s heartfelt advice, don’t save this recipe for an occasion that’s special enough, make them now and have your own little party.
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup (8 tbsp) of butter (or non-dairy butter or coconut oil; please read notes regarding measurement)
- 1 cup sifted gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used my gluten-free flour mix; see notes)
- 4 eggs
- Mix water and butter in large pan and bring to a boil.
- Add flour; stirring constantly. Mixture will roll into a ball and leave the side of the pan.
- Remove from heat and cool a few minutes (no longer than 5).
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each egg.
- Drop from heaping teaspoon onto ungreased baking sheet. (I line my baking sheet with parchment paper.)
- Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 – 30 minutes. Check at 20 minutes. Puffs will be a light golden brown when done.
- Cool. Prepare puffs for filling by flipping over and cutting off a small circle from the bottom. There is a natural indentation from baking and this cut only takes a second. (You can see these discarded circles in the photo. Because the circles come from the bottom, they are not the "pretty" part.) Then spoon in filling of choice. I like to do mine assembly line style, doing all the cutting and then all the stuffing. If you want your puffs to be more like a petite “croissant” sandwich, you can slice off the top of the puff while it's upright, set it aside, fill the puff, and then replace top slice. (The top slice is prettier than the bottom, which is why I discard the bottom for my method.) The top "cover" method works well for sweet, “cream” puffs; e.g., ones filled with chocolate, whipped cream.
- Refrigerate until serving.
- Makes about thirty puffs, depending on size. (Puffs can be made larger if desired. The ones in the photo are about 2 to 3 inches.)
If you do a search online or look in the celiac listserv archives, you will see tons of variations on these puffs. Some add vanilla to the recipe, some add salt, some add sugar, and some add all three (or even more ingredients). As I stated, different gluten-free flour mixes can be used. Use your favorite gluten-free flour mix that is not overly heavy. One gluten-free flour mix that was used in a recipe on the celiac listserv for puffs was a mix of ¼ cup millet flour, ¼ cup sweet rice flour, and ½ cup potato starch. (Of course, if you don't need to eat gluten free, you can use whatever flour you choose.)
Non-dairy butter can be used for those who are dairy intolerant. (I made these puffs with margarine before I knew butter is better for one who has no dairy issues.) I just tried making these with coconut oil and the flavor and texture are great, but the batter was not the right consistency. If I make them with coconut oil again and get the amount right, I’ll update this info to let you know for sure.
You can only use this recipe to make éclairs or savory rolls. Insert batter in a pastry bag (or zipper-type plastic bag with corner snipped to appropriate width) and make a tube of batter. Bake. Slice off top of roll and reserve. Cool. Fill. Replace top. Sandra would make hers ahead and freeze; then she’d simply thaw and fill them.