Pastry Cream with Black-Pepper Strawberries


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups half-and-half or light cream
  • 1/2 a vanilla bean, split lengthwise, or ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 beaten egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries
  • 1 to 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 10  Cream Puff Shells


  1. In a 1 1/2  or 2-quart heavy saucepan stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Gradually stir in half-and-half. Add vanilla bean, if using. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more.
  2. Gradually stir about half the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks. Return the egg yolk mixture to the saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove and discard vanilla bean or stir in liquid vanilla, if using. Strain through a sieve. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Cool slightly or refrigerate until serving time. (Do not stir after mixture sets or it may separate and thin.)
  3. One hour before serving, in a small bowl stir together strawberries, sugar, and pepper.
  4. To serve, spoon about 3 tablespoons pastry cream into each puff; spoon in strawberry mixture.

Makes about 2 cups pastry cream and 1 1/2 cups strawberries. (10 servings).

Cream Puff Shells

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour or all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper; set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan combine water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to boiling.
  4. Add all-purpose flour and flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.
  5. Cook and stir until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat.
  6. Cool for 10 minutes.
  7. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with a spoon after each addition.
  8. Drop dough using a 2-tablespoon-capacity ice cream or cookie scoop or by heaping tablespoonsful 3 inches apart onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a deep golden color and puffs are firm. Transfer puffs to a wire rack; cool completely.
  9. Cut puffs in half; if necessary, remove soft dough from inside. Spoon in filling. Replace tops. Sift powdered sugar over tops.

Makes 10 cream puffs.


Butter Pecan Squash



  • 1 butternut squash (1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar; firmly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • White pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup pecan pieces
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup


  1. Quarter squash; scoop out seeds and stringy portion; pare and cut into 3/4 to 1 inch cubes (about 4 to 5 cups).
  2. In a medium saucepan bring squash and water to a boil; cover and cook rapidly until squash in tender (about 10 minutes).
  3. Drain and mash with butter, sugar, sea salt and pepper.
  4. Turn into an 8-inch pie plate.
  5. Sprinkle with pecans and maple syrup.
  6. Broil until pecans are lightly browned.