recovery mode

Dorothy is right. There is, as it turns out, no place like home. Last week was a flat out whirlwind and being back home in my quiet little house has never felt better. And good news! All of your well wishes and hopeful thoughts for my eye seemed to have worked! It’ll be a bit of a waiting game to see how things settle out, but so far so good. So thanks for the energy. This little piggy appreciates it.

This latest procedure was far less invasive than my previous surgery, and really, looking at me, you’d never guess. My hands and forearms are more worse for the wear than my eye. My anesthesiologist was not nice. I have battle scars to prove it. I’ll refrain from using his name, but it coincidentally happens to rhyme with Dr. Mean. Still, he got the job done without serious issue, and for that I am thankful. My surgeon, on the other hand, I will boast about proudly. If you ever need a glaucoma specialist, Dr. Martha Wright is your woman. She knows her game.

This is me (obviously) with my surgery dream team – Mark and Earl. I could not do things like this with out them. They are the glue that holds me together. Pardon my post-surgery, post-nap hairdo. And Earl wants it to be known that I managed to get every shot he was looking his cutest in out of focus. Or at least more out of focus than this shot. I had a long day. And the light was lousy.

The only hard part that comes along with getting home is the inevitable game of catch-up. Which I am currently in the thick of. But I’m also still in recovery mode. And I’m milking that for all it is worth. It’s complicated though. Because for a myriad of reasons (most of which currently seem insane) I have been trying to, at least temporarily, avoid sugar. So I’ve been conflicted – lying on the couch, feeling like I deserve a cookie more than ever, yet still wanting to honor my decision not to eat sugar. Sigh.

I wrestled with this dilemma for a few days and finally resolved that I would bake one perfectly sublime treat in honor of my recovery. Just the one, and then I’d call it good. Here’s where the real torture ensued. What was it going to be? This amazing sounding chocolate-stout bundt cake that Heidi just published on 101 cookbooks? A batch of my favorite cupcakes?  A lovely, spring lemon pudding cake? I pulled out cookbooks. I thumbed though magazines. And then, out of left field, it came to me. Cream puffs.

I have never in my life made a cream puff. I’ve never even thought of making cream puffs. But this seemed as good of a reason as any to give it a go. I checked several books for a recipe with no luck. Finally, I resorted to the tried and true Joy, and sure enough, Irma has a detailed entry about Choux Paste and Cream Puffs. I did my prerequisite reading, gathered my supplies, and got to work.

The recipe looks a little daunting, but really it isn’t. I whipped the pastry cream up the night before and made my puffs the following morning. It was so thrilling when they actually puffed! I didn’t stray too far from Irma’s recipes, except I didn’t have whole milk. Oh, and as a nod to the Irish, I added a splash of Bailey’s to the pastry cream. That was a fine idea. I also decided to make my puffs more bite sized – which are technically called profiteroles and are generally filled with ice cream.

Cream puffs turned out to be an excellent choice in more ways than one. There really isn’t too much sugar involved. Just 1/3 cup, plus whatever lovely sweetness the Bailey’s has. Overall, the whole recipe doesn’t seem that bad – only a half stick of butter, a handful of eggs and just over a cup of milk. I’m capable of far worse damage – even in the best of times. And now that I’ve been appeased with a few cream puffs, things feel all the more manageable.

Cream Puffs
Adapted from Joy of Cooking

Pastry Cream:
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 egg yolks, room temperature
1 1/3 cups milk
1-2 tablespoons Baileys Irish cream
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Choux Paste:
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup whole milk
1/2 stick butter, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sifted flour
2 eggs, room temperature

For the Pastry Cream: Using a mixer, beat sugar, flour, cornstarch, and egg yolks on high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a heavy, medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Slowly pour about one third of the hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring to combine. Scrape the egg mixture into the milk pan and cook, whisking constantly and scraping the bottom and corners of pan to prevent scorching, over low to medium heat until the custard is thick and begins to bubble. Continue to cook for one minute longer, whisking and scraping all the while. Using a clean spatula, scrape the custard into a clean bowl. Stir in baileys and vanilla. Cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming. Let cool and then refigerate before using. Can be made up to 2 days ahead.

For the Choux Paste: Bring water, milk, butter and salt to a full boil over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan. Continue to cook and stir the mixture for about 1 minute, to eliminate excess moisture. Transfer to a large bowl and let cool for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Beat in one egg at a time by hand, with a wooden spoon, or on low speed with a mixer. Make sure the paste is smooth before adding the next egg. Beat the dough until it is smooth and shiny.

Scoop the paste into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip. Pipe the paste into 1-2 inch roundish mounds on an un-greased baking sheet. You can also just spoon out dollops of dough if you don’t have a pastry bag. Bake in a 400º F oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350º F and continue to bake until golden brown and very firm to the touch, about 20 minutes more. Turn off the oven. Use a skewer to poke a small hole in the bottom or side of each puff. Turn puffs upside down on the baking sheet, and let dry in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove to a rack and let cool to room temperature before filling.

To fill the cream puffs: Either slice the tops from the puffs and spoon in filling, OR use a pastry bag fitted with a long narrow tip to pipe filling into puffs via the air hole poked into the side or bottom. Sprinkle the puffs with confectioners sugar and serve immediately. Makes about 24 bite size puffs, or 15 large puffs.

18 Responses to “recovery mode”


  1. 1 Julie Buckles March 19, 2012 at 10:53 am

    What a surgical dream team! You all look great and I love the pirate look on you. Only you would 1) quit sugar during a surgical recovery and 2) make astounding looking cream puffs in the midst of recovery.

  2. 2 Marlys Juhnke March 19, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Great news about your eye/surgery!! I was surprised you had never made creampuffs! When I worked at Camp Lebanon here we used to make about 300 of them for one meal….the kids loved them. We used a variety of fillings…different flavored puddings were the favorites. Some people fill the little ones with various salads…tuna, shrimp, etc. They’re a fun food!!
    Hope your eye heals back to perfect……….With continued prayers and love, Marlys

    • 3 GarlicPig March 20, 2012 at 9:12 am

      Thanks Marlys! Wow – 300 at a time! You must be a cream puff master. They were fun to make though. And I love the idea of filling them with something savory too. I might have to try that :-)

  3. 4 Lois March 19, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    Sending you all good wishes for your recovery, Jill. Cream puffs are definitely a great celebration choice. Cheers, Lois

  4. 6 Mary Dougherty March 19, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    You look smashing- the patch gived you a certain je ne sais quoi. You couldn’t ask for a better team- glad you are back at home and everything went well. take care- Mary

  5. 8 dani March 20, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Great to hear you’re doing well. Wonderful post, and ohhhhh cream puffs sound delish. You really make the rest of us look bad ;) I have managed to have three failed baking attempts at home in the last couple weeks and am not recovering from surgery. Maybe my body is telling me to cut back on the sugar…… We’re continuing to send you good thoughts!

  6. 10 Terri Wagner March 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I am so happy everything went well. I think a parrot on your shoulder might be a good accessory for your new look. And, you must be feeling better if you tackled cream puffs. They still scare me.

    • 11 GarlicPig March 20, 2012 at 10:54 pm

      Thanks Terri. Things are going so well, I’ve already lost my patch! So no parrot necessary. Give cream puffs a go, really – they were surprisingly easy. And sooo tasty.

  7. 12 Karen Grunow March 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Thanks so much for the recipe. I am considering trialing a sugar-free diet but I think it will have to wait until I make these cream puffs! It looks like a fun project for me to do with Eily. I’m glad your surgery went well. Hopefully we’ll see you back in yoga soon! Are you up for dinner, soon, too?

  8. 14 Cari Templeton March 20, 2012 at 11:36 pm

    Wow, look what happens when I don’t stay tuned in to your blog. So glad everything went well and that you had a crack surgeon and recovery team. May the fleas of a thousand camels visit your anesthesiologist for giving you battle scars. I’m going to put together a little something to send your way since I can personally attest to the power of “care packages”. Love you lots!

  9. 16 Ann March 22, 2012 at 8:53 am

    Hi Jill, Glad things are going well. This rain is so Spring like! Everything smells so alive! Kristen makes incredible pumpkin profiteroles at Thanksgiving, and frankly I would just skip all the rest and just fill myself with those morsels. They are all cream puff, whipped cream and pumpkin pie! Love, Ann

  10. 18 Ella Thayer March 23, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Love the photo and am so glad your surgery went well. Whew! Such a relief, but you are a bad influence on me, Jill. I’ve bought butterscotch chips and the makings for individual upside down cakes. Yikes, I really can’t afford to eat all the goodies that you’re tempting me with. My latest cooking delights are red cabbage and quinoa salad, plus another favorite is a cold brussel sprout salad. They are all divine! I hung my laundry outside today, March 23rd; what a delight that was. Love your blog Jill and knowing how your life is going. Love to you and Mark and of course the ever ready Earl.


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