Today was my friend/co-worker’s last day (for full-time) at work. I’ve known her since art school, and she’s the one who made me the picture book of my bento. She had a baby last year, and recently she decided to work part-time from home and be with her baby. So it’s a good good-bye. I know she loves sweets, but cookies seemed a little boring… so I decided to make cream puffs for her and my co-workers. Not ordinary cream puffs but Totoro cream puffs!
Non-bento#12: Totoro cream puffs
Created and eaten on: 3/31/2009
There is a small bakery called “Shirohige no choux creme koubou” (White beard man’s cream puff factory) in Tokyo. They make and sell adorable (and official) Totoro cream puffs! When I saw the pictures of the Totoro cream puffs, I fell in love with them. Their cream puffs seem to be baked in a mold and it doesn’t look like a puffy-cloud like a regular cream puff. (I heard the skin is tougher than an average cream puff’s) But since I have neither their recipe nor mold, I had to think how the heck I’m going to make Totoro cream puffs. My first idea was to “just shape it like Totoro and see what happens.”
Before I started making the cream puff dough, I made custard cream. If you’ve made custard cream before, you know how not-so-fun the process is. So I went on searching for the easiest recipe for custard cream, and found one! In this recipe, you use a microwave, so you don’t have to worry about burning the custard. I was soooo surprised how easy it was, and the custard tasted delicious! (I’ll post a recipe of the custard soon)
After I put the custard into the fridge, I started working on the cream puff dough. I’ve made regular cream puffs many times before, but never tried to shape it into something. On the first batch of cream puff dough the dough looked fine, not too soft, not too hard. I put the dough in a ziploc bag and cut a corner off. To make the pear-like shaped body of Totoro, I piped a mound about 1 inch in diameter, then slowly shifted (still piping) to the side, and moved it back where I started and squeezed a bit more, and pulled the bag straight up. Since I didn’t want the puff to be too puffy, I had to make sure that the surface was smooth.
I wasn’t sure how the dough would expand, so I made two different kinds. One with ears, one without ears. For the ones with ears, I squeezed a little bit of dough from the head of Totoro to make ears.
I put them in the pre-heated oven, and set the timer and waited. Then my boyfriend said “It’s smokey in the kitchen.” Then I immediately remembered that I used wax paper instead of parchment paper! I was using the wax paper for something else before baking, and when I saw it, I just used it without thinking about it. I quickly opened the oven, and turned down the heat. I looked at the timer and it still had 6 minutes left… T_T
I didn’t want to waste the dough, so I just kept baking in very low heat. If you’ve made cream puffs before, you know the number one rule of making cream puffs is “NEVER OPEN THE OVEN until the initial baking time is over.” So I had pretty much given up on this batch. I waited and took it out. To my surprise, they came out perfect! I have no idea why.
Then I went on to make the second batch. I got cocky and impatient and put too much egg into dough so it got softer than it should be… But I still made dozens of Totoro (with ears) with the dough just like the first batch (on parchment paper this time!) and put it in the oven.
What a failure! Or I’ve successfully baked something that’s not cream puffs. (It does look like it’s meant to look like that, doesn’t it?)
I think I put too much water on the dough when I was trying to shape the mounds like Totoro. Oh well.
I was very careful with making the third batch. I tried not to put too much water to shape the dough, and put it in the oven. Finally, I got it right. w00t!
While the baked puffs were cooling down, I piped short lines of the dough on parchment sheet, and baked it for a couple of minutes for the ears. Also I squeezed dots of white icing from a tube onto wax paper for the eyes and let them harden. Once the ear pieces cooled down, I poked a little hole on the puffs with a toothpick, took an ear piece, put a little bit of icing on one side of ear piece, and stuck it in the hole.
I took the custard cream out of the fridge, put it in a ziploc bag and cut a corner. Then I cut a slit on each Totoro, and squeezed the custard into it. After Totoro was injected with delicious custard, I put the bigger ones aside and put hardened icing eyes on each Totoro using icing as glue. I sprinkled powder sugar on the smaller puffs, and put icing eyes on them to make Chibi Totoro.
Originally I wanted to use chocolate cream for the eyes, nose and whiskers and the pattern on Totoro’s stomach, but I didn’t have the time to make chocolate icing, so I used brown gel for the eyes and nose, and chocolate for the whiskers. I tried to make the pattern with the gel on one of them, but it looked like it’d get too messy, so I ended up not doing it.
I got to give them away to almost everyone at work and they were a big hit! Of course, my friend took the leftover Totoro puffs home. I’m hoping to do a how-to on this one. I know some people say making cream puffs is hard but as long as you get the dough right and never open the oven, it’s very simple.
I made them small this time, because I was giving them away to many people. First I thought they were too small, but they were a good bite-size snack that didn’t get messy when you ate it. Also you can control how much you want to eat this way, so small Totoro puffs are good for a party or kids. I’ll probably make them a little bigger next time. It’s easier to put faces on that way. Even though the official Totoro cream puffs look more like Totoro, I like my Totoro cream puffs. Since it doesn’t use a mold, each one looks completely different, and the finished batch look like they’re all different Totoro from the Totoro forest!
Totoro cream puff:
- cream puff (flour, egg, sugar, butter)
- custard cream (flour, egg, sugar, butter, milk, whipped cream, cornstarch, vanilla extract)