I am currently more than just a little bit Iceland obsessed. Going there has been at the top of my bucket list for as long as I can remember, then last summer I finally went, and fell head over heels in love with the landscape, the people, the culture, the language… Went back again in Autumn for a long weekend, and am now counting down the days to another visit in summer this year. Then perhaps another visit in winter. Then maybe again in spring next year. I want to see every inch of it, in all seasons. And win the lottery so I can buy a holiday home in downtown Reykjavik… and another one in the countryside…
Being a vegetarian, my options for partaking of traditional Icelandic food are incredibly limited. Not that I actually want to consume puffins or whales or fermented sharks! And I understand that the environment doesn’t lend itself to a diet rich in plant matter, when most veggies have to be grown in hothouses and most grains have to be imported from afar. But, none-the-less, they do do a fine line in sweet treats.
Vatnsdeigsbollur translates literally as “water dough buns” – they are a type of choux pastry, filled with jam and whipped cream and topped with icing, served on Bolludagur (literally, bun day) which marks seven weeks until Easter Monday. Obviously, this post is a little late, as Bolludagur was last Monday…
Choux pastry has a reputation for being difficult to get right, but with a bit of practice and a good relationship with your oven, it is not hard at all. By far the most common cause of floppy puffs is underbaking. As they bake, the water in the dough turns to steam, causing the puffs to rise, after which the shell needs to form completely to hold the structure in place. They need to be deep golden all over, and the undersides should be firm.
Makes 12 large cream puffs
Preparation: 10 minutes
Baking: 30 minutes
Cooling: 1 hour
Finishing: 10 minutes
125g (9 Tbsp) unsalted butter
250ml (1 cup) water
125g (1 cup, spooned & scraped) all-purpose (plain) flour
4 large eggs
250ml (1 cup) heavy cream or whipping cream
2 Tbsp powdered (icing) sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
about 1/2 cup jam (I used strawberry)
250g (2 cups) powdered (icing) sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
5 – 6 Tbsp cream
Preheat oven to 200°C / 395°F / Gas Mark 6, bottom-only heat if possible, and line a large baking sheet with parchment.
Put the water and butter in a medium, heavy-based saucepan on medium heat until the butter is melted.
Sift the flour into the mixture and stir until the dough is smooth and thick. Continue cooking for 2 – 3 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula.
Add the eggs one at a time into the dough and mix well. You can do this using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a wooden spoon.
Using two tablespoons or serving spoons, drop 12 mounds of the dough onto the baking sheet, leaving an inch or so between them.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 45 – 50 minutes, until deep golden brown all over. Do not open the oven for the first 30 minutes.
Note: Baking time will depend on your oven and on the size of the puffs – mine took 50 minutes for 12 large puffs using bottom-only heat, but if you have to heat from top and bottom, or use a convection oven, or make smaller ones, they won’t take as long so watch them closely. Rotate the sheet frequently after the first 30 minutes to ensure even baking.
Transfer puffs to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
Slice the puffs in half and spread the bottom halves with a couple of teaspoons of jam.
Whip the cream with the 2 Tbsp of powdered sugar and the vanilla extract, then spread the cream over the jam. Replace the tops of the puffs.
Sift the 2 cups of powdered sugar into a mixing bowl, add the cocoa powder, then stir in the cream a tablespoon at a time until you get smooth, spreadable paste. You don’t want it too thick, or you risk crushing your puffs as you spread it. Spread it over the puffs with a knife or small spatula.
Best eaten fresh.