Friday, September 19, 2008

Blame it on the Rain - Chocolate Cream Puffs with Marshmallow Meringue Filling

Chocolate Cream Puff

In a world where more and more lands are experiencing catastrophic drought conditions, it is nearly impossible to envision a place suffering under the weight of water as it strafes down from a merciless firmament, flooding the air even before it floods the terrain. It is a rain that threatens to wear out and drown the most determined who stand in its way. There are no umbrellas nor headgear designed to protect against this kind of rain, with a magnitude and ferocity so powerful that no one can recall a time when it wasn’t pelting the planet, when the forecast wasn't wet every ticking second through infinity. It is a bleak and horrifying scenario that sounds like something out of science fiction. And it is. It is Venus through the mind of Ray Bradbury.

The Long Rain, published in 1951, is among a collection of short stories arranged under the title of The Illustrated Man. The Illustrated Man is doomed to wear the torments of eighteen different tattoos, inked under his skin by a malicious witch. Each picture illuminates and animates a particular, prophesizing, yet cautionary tale. Would that the lieutenant and his crew had seen what was in store for them before they set out in their space craft, before the fiendish electrical storm, as blue and tentacled as a Portuguese man-of-war, smote them down into the spongy bogs of Venus and forced their trek without a compass to elusive shelter.

They are Earthmen, four of six who have survived the crash. They do not know how long they have been circling the jungles, where vegetation and fungus instantaneously grow, decay and die on anything or anyone. They only know that the key to their survival lies in the discovery of a Sun Dome, one of several way stations equipped with a synthetic, glowing heat source; dry uniforms; and the welcoming comfort of marshmallows bobbing in hot chocolate, pans of cinnamon buns, and urns of steaming coffee. It is not only the physical punishment of the rain lashing at them, but the reality that their food rations are almost as exhausted as they are that drives them closer to despair, madness and violence. Only one of them will survive the ordeal, a testament to the finer qualities of the human spirit, where one’s worst enemies lie within.

Chocolate Cream Puffs

Chocolate Cream Puffs - Slightly adapted from the Joy of Baking recipe


½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup water
2 large eggs


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine flour, cocoa powder and sugar in a small bowl. In a large saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the dry ingredients. Return saucepan over heat, stirring the mixture until it leaves the sides of the pan and forms a soft dough bowl. Turn out the dough into a large bowl and let rest for a few minutes until it cools down, but is still warm to the touch. With an electric mixer, beat in eggs, one at a time until well blended. Dough will be soft, elastic, thick and smooth.

Spoon or pipe the dough into golf-ball sized mounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or lightly greased foil. Gently flatten any peaks with a wet fingertip. Position baking sheet on middle rack of oven. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. The mounds will have at least doubled in size and be dry to the touch.

Remove from oven and allow to cool before splitting open to fill.

Marshmallow Meringue Filling (Seven Minute Frosting) – From the Epicurious recipe


1/3 cup and 2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
1 large egg white (or equivalent pasteurized egg white powder reconstituted with water, if you have any health concerns about the consumption of partially cooked egg)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


In a large metal bowl fitted securely on top of a large pot of barely simmering water (do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water), combine all ingredients except the extract. With a hand-held electric mixer, beat the ingredients on the slowest speed to froth, maintaining speed until the mixture begins to grow in volume. Incrementally raise the speed over two minutes, then beat on high speed for the next 5 minutes or until the filling has at least tripled in volume and forms stiff, shiny peaks when the beaters are pulled away from it. Carefully remove the hot bowl from the pot and secure it on a silicone mat. Beat in the vanilla extract and continue beating until the frosting cools, another few minutes.


Generously spoon or pipe filling into the bottom of the cream puffs. You will have more than enough filling. Arrange cream puff tops on the filling. Serve immediately. Makes approximately 12 cream puffs. --

This post is being sent to Simona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste, hosting the fifth edition of Novel Food, a quarterly event celebrating the foods we read about in the literature we love.

Been There, Done That ~

Green Tea Mascarpone Cream Puffs
Orange and Coriander Madeleines
Almond and Cherry Mini Tarts

Other People's Eats ~

Passion Fruit Cream Puff Ring
Peppermint Profiteroles
Chocolate Eclairs


  1. Ah, yes. The opposite of drought is, naturally, an abundance of utterly drenching rain.

    I used to pass a tattoo parlour known as 'The Illustrated Man'. I wonder if they knew Bradbury's work? It's a fascinating, horrifying concept.

    But from such horror to such light! Glorious post and a glorious, sweet ending. Delightful reading.

  2. I'm not familiar with this story (though I'm sure the HH, who knows everything science fiction, is). Coming in from the rain to those cream puffs might eliminate five of those men fairly quickly in the fight that ensued!

    As for me, well, I think my own worst enemy lies within those cream puffs. . .but they call to me nonetheless! Gorgeous.

  3. I have not read anything by Ray Bradbury: this sounds like a very interesting story. A dry, warm place, the comfort of food: and what food! Your little creations look perfect. Thank you so much for your contribution to the event.

  4. I love the chocolate cream puffs! They remind me of Suzie Qs.

    There was a short PBS movie based on The Long Rain that I watched as a child.

  5. Such an intense, beautiful post that truly highlights the importance of lovely, comforting pleasures such as your glorious dessert...

  6. I've not yet read a Ray Bradbury but I might read up on him more now and get down to trying one.

    That chocolate cream puff would have done nicely for my current mid-afternoon sweet craving.

  7. I barely remember reading the book in high school. But I can visualize the cover instantly, a man sitting cross-legged with his back to us.

    Why do you suppose marshmallows are so comforting? Your chocolate cream puff look absolutely perfect Susan.

  8. Susan, I loved The Illustrated Man! I should revisit it sometime. Your wonderful post brought back memories. And what can I say about the cream puffs, except that you're out of control?! And the photos are glorious. Thank you, thank you, thank you for enriching our event.

  9. Your marshmallow meringue filling looks like a dream!

  10. beautiful writing :) the cream puffs look fantastic and so exquisite. Wish I can grab one from the screen now hehe

  11. These look great! I have a weakness for marshmallow.

  12. Your puffs have come out well.
    I'd like to consider my self a visula expert on cream puffs! I've seen so many the last month at the Daring Bakers.:)
    Its been a while since I read anyhting by Ray Bradbury.

  13. The cream puffs look so perfect Susan!!

  14. WOW!!

    Those puffs with that filling make me crazy!!

    They're beautiful and they must be delicious...

  15. ahhh!! the Marshmallow Meringue looks so good! :)

  16. Oh Susan, this is just too good for me to pass!

  17. What an evocative post have written something like this in 1951! Gorgeous chocolate puffs too...just the right sort of comfort food! Beautiful!! Cheers Deeba

  18. Ray Bradbury is masterful... I wasn't familiar with this particular story but I am familiar with quite a bit of his work. I enjoyed reading your post and drooling over your gorgeous treat. What a great dessert you have created!

  19. I am not familiar with this work...maybe i should give it a try.

    And those puffs are to die for :-)

  20. Sounds like a good read. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Susan along with those glorious cream puffs:D

  21. Another book to add to my list, thank you - but I'm not sure the reading will be complete without a plate of these amazing cream puffs. How talented you are!

  22. Thanks, Lucy. All strife should end on a sweet note.

    Ricki – Thank you. It’s probably a generalization, but it does seem like more men like science fiction than women.

    Happy to be part of the event, Simona. Thanks for making this a seasonal pleasure.

    Welcome, Maggie! Love Suzie Qs. : } I’ve known about a few filmizations from "The Illustrated Man," but have not seen them yet. Thank you for coming to visit.

    Thanks, Astra. You are very sweet, more sweet than the marshmallow filling. : }

    Sra – What’s so nice about "The Illustrated Man" is that they are short stories that can be read piecemeal w/out a major commitment. You could read one during a mass transit commute.

    Lori Lynn – Thank you. I’ve seen a few different covers, and they are all effectively creepy and otherworldly.

    As far as marshmallow comfort, I think it’s all in the squish factor. : }

    Thank you, Lisa. As I mentioned to Simona, your event is always a pleasure, four times a year, perfect for the bookworm in me.

    Thank you, Mari! Good to see you. I hope you are feeling better.

    Wiffy – Thanks, dear girl. Yes, please grab at least one!

    Hello, Sara! Welcome! Thank you. I have a weakness for marshmallows, too. They remind me of my childhood.

    But, of course, Aparna. : ) There were a lot of cream puffs floating in the ether lately. Thanks for your sweet feedback.

    Thank you, Swati. Good to see you back.

    Welcome, Leonor! Thank you very much for your kind words. I’m glad you stopped by.

    Hello, Susan! Nice to see you here. Thanks so much!

    Thanks, Nora. I wish I could have saved one for you.

    Deeba – Thank you very much – so nice of you. The test of time makes or breaks a work of art.

    Hi, Alexa! Thank you! Bradbury is something else. Glad you liked my treats.

    Sunita – Thanks! It is a very short story; you could read it in less than half an hour.

    Hi, Val. Thank you. Bradbury is an oldie but goodie.

  23. Now why havent I thought of adding coco to the cream puff batter! Excellent.

  24. Haven't read Bradbury since high school. Thanks for the reminder! And thanks for the mouth watering, drop-dead gorgeous, I-think-I-just- gained-2-pounds-looking-at-them photo!!!

  25. hi... this is my first visit to ur blog...

    ur blog is really good and the pictures... are really superb....

    do visit my blog when u find time and leavesur comments and suggestions..

  26. Good post, and those puffs look delightful.

  27. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  28. These little meringue filled beauties sure would be a delicious accompaniment to the "The Long Rain" Your pictures are delicious and the reading list very interesting!