Greeting friends! Is your summer winding down as quickly as mine seems to be this week? While we were gone on vacation this month there’s one thing we missed out on that would’ve been fun to do, and that is visit our State Fair here in Wisconsin. Despite the simple entertainment of people watching, it’s always fun to go to the Fair to see the animals, watch the judging demonstrations, hear the music, and of course – eat the food!
Fair food is one of those things you only allow yourself the splurge of once a year – deep-fried everything on a stick! But my most favorite part of the Wisconsin State Fair has got to be the Cream Puffs. It’s so totally worth the sometimes hour plus wait in line to get them – and then the hour it takes to finish cleaning up your sticky hands and face when you are done eating them!
According to the Wisconsin State Fair’s website, the iconic Original Cream Puff, sold at the Fair since 1924, is the most popular food item among Fairgoers – an average of 350,000 are consumed each year, and more than 400,000 were enjoyed in 2015!
Since we knew we were missing out on this delectable Fair treat while up North on our vacation, my sister – aka the baker of the family – volunteered to whip us up a batch of homemade cream puffs. She even used the official State Fair original recipe, and if I hadn’t known otherwise, I would have sworn they came straight from the Fair.
She really won the blue ribbon award on this one, and I’ve decided to share the recipe with you here, just in case you missed out on all that creamy goodness too!
- Puff dough:
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup butter, cut into tablespoon slices
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
- 4 whole eggs, room temperature
- Egg wash:
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- Whipped Cream Filling:
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and flour, or line with parchment paper, a large baking sheet. Set aside.
- Place water, butter slices and salt in large heavy pot. Make sure butter melts completely. Bring water just to boil. Quickly stir in flour with a wooden spoon until soft dough ball forms. Remove from heat. Let dough rest 5 minutes.
- Mix in 4 whole eggs, one at a time. Dough will be thick, sticky and smooth.
- Drop about 1/4 cup puff dough by spoonful, 2-3 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. There should be about 10 to 12 dough balls. Prepare egg wash by mixing egg yolk and milk together with fork. Brush egg wash over each puff dough. Bake for 35 minutes until puffy, golden brown and firm.
- Remove puffs to wire rack. Prick each puff with a toothpick to release steam. Allow to cool for about an hour until completely cool to the touch and firm.
- When puffs are cool and at least an hour has passed, prepare Whipped Cream Filling. Place heavy whipping cream, vanilla and sugar in a chilled medium metal bowl (I place the metal bowl and my metal whisks in freezer while preparing the puff pastry.) Beat until soft peaks form.
- Cut tops off each puff and fill with whipped cream.
- Replace tops and dust with powdered sugar.
Since we were settling in to eat a Fair treat, we decided to watch one of our old-time favorite musical films, State Fair. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you know that I sort of have a thing for old movies. You can read about another favorite musical film of mine, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, here.
The film, State Fair, has been re-made several times. It was originally a film that came out in 1933, but was later musically adapted by Rogers and Hammerstein again in 1945. Then again it was remade in 1962 starring Ann-Margret. The version I love the most is the 1945 musical film, featuring Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews and Vivian Blaine.
The plot follows the small-town Frake family, who attend the Iowa State Fair, the annual highlight of their summer. Son Wayne (Dick Haymes) plots revenge on a midway barker (Henry Morgan) who had embarrassed him the summer before and falls for the beautiful singer Emily (Vivian Blaine), while his melancholy sister Margie (Jeanne Crain) becomes smitten with slick city-boy reporter Pat (Dana Andrews).
Meanwhile, mother Melissa (Fay Bainter) and father Abel (Charles Winninger) plot to win their respective competitions in the mincemeat and pickles category, as well as the grand champion boar.
The movie is mainly a love story that follows 2 different couples, but there are some funny parts too. The most hilarious part of the film is when the mother, Melissa Frake, enters her pickles and mincemeat into the cooking competition of the Fair. While she initially refuses to “spice” her mincemeat with any brandy, her husband decides to add some to her recipe without her knowledge.
Then, at the last-minute, she changes her mind in hopes of winning the contest, and adds an additional 2 parts brandy to the already “spiked” mincemeat. The end result is one particular judge who can’t get enough “sampling” of her mincemeat and ends up a little tipsy at the end of the competition. But it works! She wins the blue ribbon, as well as a distinguished achievement plaque!
The music also makes this film special. With songs like “It’s A Grand Night for Singing”, “Our State Fair”, “It Might as Well be Spring” , and “That’s For Me” the movie won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Dick Haymes and Vivian Blaine were well known big band singers of the time who did their own singing in the film. But what’s interesting is that Jeanne Crain’s singing voice was dubbed by Louanne Hogan and Dana Andrews’s singing voice was dubbed by Ben Gage.
Perhaps I’ve inspired you to rent this oldie but goodie classic before the summer is gone and with it another season of fairs, cream puffs and people-watching. It’s definitely one of my favorite musicals, among many. And for the record, I still think our State Fair is a great State Fair!