Purple Yam-Yam Puffs

This recipe came about while I was making these during a bake-together with my friend, Ahran! The theme was to make fun or cute cream puffs with interesting flavors. Ahran did a coffee-mascarpone puff, using cold brew in the filling and in the pate choux, and glazing them in a cold brew ganache, which was very similar to Italian cream puffs, also called bigne. Mine were inspired from Cafe Bora, where they served their purple yam desserts with these cute little candied purple yam chips, meant to resemble a flower. I wanted to capture that experience in the form of a cream puff. I dubbed these “Yam-Yam” puffs because there’s a lot of yam used throughout the dessert – between the dehydrated purple yam powder and the fresh yam, there are 4 total components that utilize the purple yam, being the powder in the craquelin, the fresh yam in a yam mousseline filling, the yam as chips to garnish, and the powder to dust the baked puffs with. That and saying “Yam-Yam Puffs” is a lot of fun. Arrest me, fun-police, I dare you.

For the components, we have the cream puffs themselves, which are made from pate choux dough, a purple yam craquelin that surrounds the puffs, a purple yam mousseline filling, a dusting of purple yam powder, a miso chantilly cream, and purple yam chips to garnish. In terms of the time taken/needed for these components, I would say the most time-consuming part was the purple yam chips. I opted to bake mine, which took nearly an hour to do, but if you own a deep fryer, you can also just use that to speed up the process. I just loved the additional crunch the chips added, while they also gave the puffs a lot of height, which made them look cooler, in my opinion. The miso cream was there as a way to incorporate a pop of salt to the dessert. Purple yam is mild in flavor, but adding salty components can help bring out the more subtle and delicate notes in it, which are otherwise masked by how inherently sweet the yam is. That and I did not want to double dip and just use the mousseline as a cream component on top of the puffs. You are more than welcome to do that, but I wanted there to be some color contrast, just to really highlight the gorgeous color of the purple yam.

Speaking of that gorgeous purple color, I wanted to really make sure that all of the components that utilized the yam were naturally purple, and that the color really came through on its own. The idea for the mousseline came from wanting to do a custard-like filling, but knowing that the color of egg yolks will ruin the beautiful color of the purple yam. From there, I remembered that since the yam is a root vegetable, it contains starch, and anything that has starch in it can be used as a thickening agent. In that sense, this purple yam mousseline is like a pastry cream meets a puree, thickened by using the purple yam’s starches rather than egg yolks and cornstarch. The color is this gorgeous, vibrant purple, while the flavor is unmistakably the purple yam’s, so making the filling through this method is an absolute win-win! I did try making the filling by using just a potato ricer, but I found that in this kind of recipe, pureeing the yam in a blender or food processor gives optimal results. While you normally do not want to put potatoes or yams into a blender, as that destroys the starch molecules and can potentially turn a puree gluey, in this case, you do want to do that, since the broken down starches, when blended with butter, milk, and sugar, create a silky, velvety texture that is preferable in dessert.

With the cream puff dough, also called pate choux(pronounced like the word “shoe”), it can be a temperamental dough to work with. The un-baked dough is twice-cooked, first in a pan, and then again in the oven, and contains a combination of moisture and gluten. What happens in the oven is that the moisture evaporates in the dough, causing it to expand and “puff”. The glutens in the dough try their best to contain the air left behind from the moisture, while the heat from the oven continues to steam out any wetness still in the dough. If there is too much residual moisture in the puffs before they are removed from the oven, the puffs will collapse. That is why it is important to give the puffs sufficient oven time so that they do not collapse. What makes this recipe doubly challenging is that the puffs are covered in a cookie dough, called craquelin. Craquelin is a thin sugar cookie dough, similar to shortbread, that bakes around the puffs, forming a perfect rounded shape on the dough, and giving it an additional texture. Pate choux can be somewhat tricky to bake on its own, but the craquelin adds an additional element to needing to monitor your oven times. I provided a recipe that is relatively fool-proof, just so that you can have your (un-deflated) choux with their craquelin, and eat them too!

Makes 7 cream puffs:
For the craquelin:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp purple yam powder
a pinch of salt

In a bowl, mix everything together until combined into a dough. Refrigerate the dough for 10 minutes before rolling out to 1/16-inch thickness and cutting out seven 2 1/2-inch disks. Freeze the disks until time to bake, just so that they hold their form better.

For the pate choux:
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg

In a pot, heat up water, butter, and salt until the water is brought up to a boil, and the butter is fully melted into the water. Add to that mixture your flour, and stir until combined. Allow the dough to cool in a separate bowl. Once the dough is cooled down enough to touch, mix into that an egg to form your batter. Transfer to a piping bag.

On a lined sheet tray, pipe out 7 2-inch dollops of the dough. Place on top of each the dollops your craquelin. Bake the choux at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes. Allow them to cool down in the oven, turned off and oven door left slightly open, for another 5 minutes(this will guarantee that the choux are properly dried out and will not deflate).

For the purple yam mousseline:
3oz granulated sugar
5oz milk
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
5oz purple yam, peeled and diced
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a pot, heat up the sugar, milk, salt, and butter. Boil the purple yam until fork tender. Blend the purple yam with the milk-sugar mixture and the vanilla, and pass through a sieve to remove any lumps. Refrigerate until cold to the touch, and transfer to a piping bag.

For the purple yam chips:
.5oz thinly sliced purple yam
A pinch of salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Toss the yam slices with salt and olive oil. Spread onto a lined sheet tray and bake at 275 degrees F for 35 minutes. Cool the chips down before storing in an airtight container.

For the miso cream:
1/4 tsp white miso paste
2 tbsp confectioner sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream

In a bowl, whisk everything together into stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag.

For garnish:
Purple yam powder

Pipe the purple yam mousseline into each puff. Top the puffs with a dusting of the yam powder, then pipe on the miso cream, and finish with the purple yam chips.

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