I made these for New Year's Eve dinner, and they were delicious! The recipe is from Martha Stewart, and originally was meant to make about 40 cream puffs, but I cut it down a bit. It's definitely a special occasion dessert, as it requires a lot of effort, but I think it is well worth it.
For the Filling:
3 medium pears
6 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbs cornstarch
1 2/3 C whole milk
1 Tbs butter, softened
1/2 C heavy cream
For the Pastry:
1/2 C butter
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 C flour
5 large egg, lightly beaten (plus one more, just in case)
For the Syrup:
1/4 C butter
3 large pears, peeled, quartered, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch slices
1/2 C sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
Start by making the filling: Peel and core the first pear, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a steamer over boiling water and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Let cool. Puree in a blender until completely smooth.
Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk in the cornstarch. Heat milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until bubbles begin to form, about 3 minutes. Using a ladle, gradually add the hot milk into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Return mixture to pan; cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture begins to bubble and becomes very thick, about 8 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, scrape the sides and bottom of the pan as the mixture thickens. Remove from heat.
Pour through a large-mesh sieve into a bowl. Add butter and stir until melted. Add the pear puree; stir to combine. Place plastic wrap on the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate until cold, about a half hour.
Meanwhile, make the pastry. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1 C water, the butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until butter has melted and the mixture is boiling. Remove from heat. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour. Return to medium heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a film on the bottom, about 4 1/2 minutes.
Transfer the pastry mixture into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until slightly cooled, about 2 minutes. Raise the speed to medium. Add the egg and mix until incorporated. The batter should be shiny. Test the batter by touching it with your finger and lifting to form a string. If a string does not form, add a little more egg until it does.
Transfer to a pastry bag and pipe two-inch rounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, 2 inches apart. Whisk the remaining egg and a little water and brush over the tops of the rounds.
Bake until rounds are puffed and pale golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until golden, about 20-25 minutes more. Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooden spoon to release steam; let puffs dry for about 15 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer to a wire rack and let cool before filling.
Now back to the filling: Put the heavy cream into the bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment. Beat on medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into the refrigerated pastry cream.
Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4 inch tip. Poke a small hole in the bottom of each pastry puff with a skewer. fill the puffs with pastry cream. Arrange the puffs in a large pyramid, or in small pyramids for individual serving.
Now make the caramel sauce. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add pears, and toss to coat with the butter. Sprinkle sugar over the pears. Cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply golden, about 30 minutes.
Add lemon juice and 1/4 C of water. Cook, stirring occasionally until the liquid is syrupy, about 3 minutes more. Drizzle over the cream puffs.