Cooking Up a Good Book

I just started listening to a new audio-book on my commute–a foodie mystery called The Cream Puff Murder by Joanne Fluke–and it motivated me to do something I rarely do–BAKE.  A book inspired me to cook–what’s next?!

cream puff

The book’s protagonist, Hannah Swensen, is the owner of The Cookie Jar.  As the book progresses, she includes recipes that are mentioned in the story line.  It was such fun copying the recipe while driving in rush hour traffic!  (Kidding!  I waited for the red lights.)

I’ll readily admit that I had a string of drool on my chin as I listened to the narrator describe the cream puffs.  Is it any surprise that I was slaving away at that square box of fire in my kitchen (a stove, I think?) all weekend trying to make those little poufs of pastry goodness? 

Well, it is if you know me–I have a serious aversion to the kitchen and the activities that occur in that room.  Of course, that doesn’t preclude me from owning every tool and gadget that Williams-Sonoma has to offer.  I’m strange, I know. 

Friday’s batch of cream puff shells were perfect, but the filling was less than stellar.  I tried again on Saturday morning and the pressure was on because I volunteered to bring several dozen puffs to a party.  I cooked up a different filling and made fresh shells.  I was shocked after I sampled them (yes, more than one!)–they were delicious! 

Have you ever made a recipe that you found in a novel or do you use the old standby–a cookbook?


If you’re not afraid of bikini season, I strongly encourage you to take an hour out of your life and make these bites of heavenly goodness.

Cream Puff Shells 

(from Joanne Fluke’s The Cream Puff Murder)

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 tablespoon white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) UNSALTED butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup flour, packed down
  • 4 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. 

On medium heat in a small pot or sauce pan, pour in water.  Chop butter into pieces and put into water.  Let it melt.  Add salt and sugar.  Bring to a boil.

In a bowl, mix flour and baking powder.  Once water mixture is boiling, turn heat down to low and dump in flour/baking powder mixture.  Stir quickly for about 30 seconds–mixture will form a dough ball.  Remove from heat and let the dough cool for about 20 minutes on the counter.

Once dough is cool, break one egg and mix it into the dough until smooth.  Repeat with remaining eggs, one at a time until mixture has a smooth, taffy-like consistency–about 3-5 minutes with mixer.  Don’t overmix.

For mini-cream puffs, drop a teaspoon of batter per puff on to the parchment-lined cookie sheet.  You can fit 12-15 per sheet–don’t crowd them.  Cook them for about 35-40 minutes; when you take them out of the oven, pierce the sides with sharp knife to prevent collapses.  If you’d like to make large puffs, cook them for about 55 minutes.  Let the puff shells cool away from drafts.  Yield 25-35 mini puffs or 10-14 large ones.

When they are cool, cut the top 1/3 off and remove any stringy dough.  Fill with Nat’s Ghetto Cream Puff Filling.

Nat’s Ghetto Cream Puff Filling

(I don’t take credit for this recipe, I just wanted to name it after me.)

  • 1 3.5 oz box of Jell-O INSTANT vanilla pudding
  • 2 cups heavy cream

Pour heavy cream and instant pudding mix into a bowl.  Whip with a whisk or mixmaster until it’s the consistency of whipped cream–light and fluffy, but NOT butter. Ha! 

Scoop filling into a quart-sized Ziplock bag.  Cut off the bottom right corner of the bag.  Pipe filling into shells.  Add lids.  Sift powdered sugar on top of cream puffs.  Watch them disappear.

8 responses to “Cooking Up a Good Book

  1. I’ve never cooked anything based on a recipe from a novel, though I keep thinking that one day I’ll muster enough courage to cook something from Aphrodite by Isabel Allende – amazing recipes!

    I do, however, COMPLETELY relate to owning every imaginable cooking gadget while avoiding any meal that requires more than a microwave or toaster oven to prepare. I’m a sucker for kitchen stores of all kinds. LOVE THEM!

  2. A few weeks ago on MasterChef Australia the contestants had a croquembouche challenge – making one of those towering cones of cream puffs covered with caramel. Since then I seem to be stumbing over cream puff recipes wherever I turn. It’s obviously fate that I attempt to bake them. I like your filling recipe. I might give it a go on the weekend.

    I read the Hindi Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan last year and it inspired me to attempt some Indian recipes. The book made them sound so delicious and there recipes were right there at the end of every chapter. Hard to resist.

  3. Wow, I’m very impressed with you! I love to bake, but would be totally intimidated by cream puffs.

  4. Those look SO good!! YUM!

  5. Um, okay, I’m going to have to come back to this post — I’m sitting at my desk with one terrible, lonely bottle of water as my only sustenance, and my lunch break is still an hour away! What are you trying to do to me? My stomach is eating itself just glancing at your cream puff photo!

    (And I definitely need to make note of the recipe for Nat’s Ghetto Cream Puff Filling — sounds like a good conversation starter at my next soiree!)

  6. I think you broke my brain with your baking. (I mean that has to be a once in a lifetime event.) And my tongue. (They look, as we say in the bungalow, LICOUS.)

    You go girl!

  7. You did make me laugh. You sound just like me, I only seem to ever cook if I have drooled over a recipe in a fiction book. My first baking for this year was last week when I made banana and chocolate muffins and I burnt those! Well done on not burning yours.

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