Lunchbreak: Kathy Wakile makes chocolate hazelnut cream puffs

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Kathy Wakile

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Chocolate Hazelnut Kisses Filling
Makes about 4 dozen

5 Tablespoons Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
3 Tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
6 Tablespoons cold heavy cream
4 dozen Cream Puff Shells (see recipe below) and/or pre-made Cannoli shells
Cocoa powder, for serving
toasted chopped hazelnuts, for serving
chocolate shavings, for serving equipment

Combine the Nutella and the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl and set over a small saucepan of barely simmering water. Cook for about 5 minutes or until the ingredients are completely melted and incorporated, stirring almost constantly with a whisk or a heatproof flexible spatula and frequently scraping down the sides of the bowl. The mixture will be very smooth and silky. Set aside to cool to room temperature, 20 to 30 minutes. In a large bowl whip the cream to stiff peaks with an electric mixer. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and whip with the mixer until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Soften at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before piping or spooning. Make the cream puff shells, baking and cooling them, then cutting off the tops as directed. Pipe or spoon chilled chocolate hazelnut filling into the puffs (piping is much neater and also makes for airier filling). Dust the serving dish(es) with cocoa powder, top with cream puff(s), and sprinkle the puffs with toasted hazelnuts and chocolate shavings.

Cream Puff Shells
Makes about 4 dozen

6 Tablespoons water
6 Tablespoons whole milk
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
3/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour 3 large eggs
confectioners’ sugar, for serving

To make the choux, preheat the oven to 425F with one rack positioned in the top third of the oven and one rack positioned in the bottom third. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine the water, milk, butter, and salt in a heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until a dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue turning the dough 1 to 2 more minutes (it will form a ball), then remove the saucepan from the heat. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and let it cool for 5 minutes. Put the paddle attachment on the mixer, turn on the machine to medium-low, and add the eggs 1 at a time, blending in each egg before adding the next. Continue beating the dough until it is smooth and shiny, 2 to 3 minutes. Working in batches, transfer the dough to a large pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain round tip and pipe 1-inch rounds, spacing them 2 inches apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. Smooth the tops with a wet finger. You can also scoop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheets, but piping is much neater. (You can freeze the unbaked dough on the baking sheets, then transfer to freezer bags. Bake without thawing, adding a couple of minutes to the baking time.) Bake the puffs for 15 minutes at 425F. Then quickly rotate the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back, and lower the oven temperature to 350F. Continue baking just until the puffs are dry, firm, and golden brown, about 10 more minutes, keeping a very close eye on them to prevent over-browning. Cool the puffs on baking sheets. Do not fill until completely cooled to room temperature. (The baked, cooled, unfilled puffs can be frozen for up to 3 months. Freeze on the baking trays, transferring to zip- top freezer bags once frozen. Thaw at room temperature before filling.) To fill the puffs, use a small sharp knife to cut the top quarter off of each puff. Pull out any soft dough that remains in the bottoms of the puffs, and use a pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch star tip to pipe lemon cream into the shells. You can also use a small spoon to fill the puffs, but piping is much neater and also makes for airier filling. Top each puff with its cut-off top (like a little hat).