Friday 26 March 2021

Powder Puffs

I'm not sure where my obsession with powder puffs came from, but it's in full swing.  I thought maybe the memory of a recipe from the trusty Cook's Companionlong since read, but no, my copy is likely older than most reading this post, it doesn't have the extra chapters...  They're a traditional bake, the domain of grandmothers, something you might find in a country town, should you be so lucky. 

A powder puff is essentially sponge, coaxed from a spoon onto a tray and baked to cookie sized discs of fluffy perfection. Sandwiched with cream, and various jams or curds, they are left in the fridge for a few hours "to make friends" as the lovely Nat from Beatrix Bakes would say. Those hours in the fridge take the puffs from delightful, if slightly dry, sponge sandwiches, to the softest, beautifully moist, light little cakes, with deliciously squidgy middles, an unassuming cake cabinet hero!

Putting my vintage tin collection to work, I bake my puffs in patty pan trays.  Willow and Kande tins produce a gorgeous delicate crust, new nonstick pans give a slighter crisper, but perfectly acceptable exterior.  The little domed sponges are thicker than the regular puffs so need longer in the fridge to achieve their melded magic, they'll hold their shape too, still good eating after a couple of days.

Puffs follow a simple formula, sponge + cream + something tasty, I've tried many combinations, and am yet to pick a favourite. Vanilla sponge, with cream and passionfruit curd; chocolate sponge with cream, nutella and blackberries; vanilla with black sesame seeds, coconut whipped cream and yuzu curd; chocolate with mascarpone whipped cream, nutella and raspberries; and most recently, vanilla with cream, strawberry jam and raspberries. My family could probably use a break. They'll be back though, I have something special in mind for Christmas in July...

The recipe below is based on one from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion, the 2014 revision. It makes 28 sponge halves, for 14 puffs; I use 2 patty pan trays and bake the remaining 4 on a small baking tray. This allows the trays to be baked in one go, besides, who has the patience to wait for one of the patty pan trays to cool, wash it, dry it, re-grease..?

vanilla powder puffs

50g plain flour
50g cornflour
pinch salt
1/3 tsp bicarb soda
2 eggs, separated
1/3 tsp cream of tartar
120g caster sugar 
1/2 tsp vanilla paste


200ml thickened cream, whipped to soft peaks with 1/4 tsp vanilla paste
100g passion fruit curd

• heat oven to 190ºC fan
• grease and flour two 12 hole patty pan trays, set aside
• mix together the flour, cornflour, salt and bicarb soda; sift twice then set aside
• whisk egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar, whisk to soft peaks; add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisk until the sugar has dissolved before adding the next spoon full, once all the sugar has been added, keep whisking until you have a thick, glossy meringue
• add the egg yolks one at a time, whisking until they are just combined, adding the vanilla with the last yolk
• sift the flour mix over the whipped eggs and sugar, gently fold through taking care not to over mix
• ease a dessert spoon full of batter into each cavity of the patty pan trays, spoon remaining mix directly onto the lined baking tray
• bake for 12 minutes, remove from the oven and immediately invert the patty pan trays, give the corner a tap on the bench to release the sponges, then place on a rack, domed side up, to cool
• leave the extra sponges on the baking tray to cool completely, then carefully remove
• pair like sized sponges, spread a heaped teaspoon of whipped cream on the flat side of one sponge, add a teaspoon of passion fruit curd, then sandwich with the remaining sponge 
• store puffs in an airtight container in the fridge for at least 3 hours, bring to room temperature to eat.
• puffs will keep in the fridge for 3 days, becoming increasingly softer, and messier to eat!

for chocolate puffs;  substitute 15g of the cornflour for 15g of unsweetened cocoa powder and proceed as above.


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