Makes 15 puffsEndTextStartText
For the puffs:
½ cup all-purpose flour
1½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup water
¼ cup whole milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut in chunks
1 tablespoon sugar
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the filling:
½ cup mascarpone, chilled
½ cup very cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or rose water to taste
Red food coloring (optional)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting EndTextStartText
1. To make puffs: Center a rack in the oven. Preheat to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. Sift flour and cocoa together into a small bowl.
3. Put the water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the flour and cocoa all at once, lower the heat to medium-low and, using a wooden spoon or sturdy heatproof spatula, stir like mad. The mixture will come together in a ball and there will be a film on the bottom of the pan, but don't stop stirring - give it another minute of energetic beating.
4. Transfer the hot dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl for using a hand mixer). Let rest for 2 minutes.
5. Beat the dough for 1 minute, then add the eggs one by one, beating very well after each egg goes in. You'll have a smooth, shiny dough.
6. Place mounds of dough on the baking sheets using a small cookie scoop (one with a 2-teaspoon capacity, my tool of choice) or dropping the dough by small spoonfuls; leave about 2 inches between them.
7. Slide the baking sheet into the oven, then immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the sheet at the midway point, or until the puffs feel hollow and lift off the paper or mat easily. Cool to room temperature on a cooling rack before filling.
8. To make the filling: Put the mascarpone in a medium bowl and, using a flexible spatula, stir it gently to loosen it. Beating makes mascarpone grainy, so go easy.
9. Whip the heavy cream in a small bowl just until it starts to thicken. Beat in the sugar and vanilla and continue to whip until the cream holds medium peaks. If you're using red food coloring, add a drop and mix it in, then add more coloring, if needed. Continue to mix until the cream holds firm peaks. Stir a spoonful of the cream into the mascarpone to lighten it, then gently fold in the remainder. (The cream can be made a few hours ahead and refrigerated.)
10. To fill the puffs: Just before serving, cut or carefully pull the cream puffs apart at their middles. If you like, you can hollow out the base of the puffs by removing the custardy interior. (I like the creamy center and always leave it.) Spoon or pipe some filling (using a pastry bag with a plain tip or a zip-lock plastic bag from which you've snipped off a corner) into the base of each puff; replace the tops. If you'd like, the puffs can be chilled for about 30 minutes.
11. Dust the puffs with confectioners' sugar just before serving.