This weekend, the Wisconsin State Fair brought new spice to an old classic – quite literally – as they introduced the pumpkin spice cream puff (lovingly deemed the PSL puff) to starving Sconnies across the state through their drive-in. But why stop there? We've now opened puff-dora's box; let's see what other tasty transformations we can come up with for the humble dessert. I've come up with 14 new flavor ideas that I think the State Fair should try next – from sweet to savory, from the obvious to the frankly obscene.
1. Chocolate puff
The obvious next evolution of the State Fair cream puff, the only question is: Which way do you want to cocoa-tize your cream puff? Do you want the traditional puff but with chocolate cream in the middle? Or would you prefer a chocolate puff with the classic vanilla cream in between? The answer is obvious: both.
2. Eggnog puff
Since the PSL puff essentially covers both Halloween and Thanksgiving (though all the power to you if you want to craft a stuffing puff), that leaves Christmas as the next major holiday to flavorize the cream puff around. A Christmas cookie puff would be fun, but I don't know how you whip doughy cookie bits into the airy cream without destroying it all, and if you replace the puff with cookies, well, then we don't have a cream puff anymore, do we? So how about eggnog? It's a distinctive holiday flavor, and it could not only add bonus flavor to the cream but make it slightly thicker and more decadent as well.
Originally, I wanted to call this green St. Patrick's Day themed dessert "the Shamrock Shake cream puff," but before i could even write down the words, McDonald's lawyers showed up at my door with a lawsuit. So puff-ermint it is, a cream puff infused with a sweet mint flavor, light green food coloring and a chocolate drizzle on top for a little bonus flavor to avoid any toothpaste-like mint overload. It works as dessert and as a breath freshener!
4. S'mores puff
I admit this idea would be less of a cream puff and more of a fluff puff, as this recipe replaces the cream in the middle with a dollop of marshmallow fluff. I don't know if fluff can be torched, but now would be an excellent opportunity to try in order to get some of that crusty sweet burned crisp. And if not, oh well. Who's going to complain if you top the fluff with a melty chocolate bar piece, a sprinkle of graham cracker dust and the choux pastry cap, maybe lightly drizzled with honey to enhance that graham cracker taste? Monsters, that's who.
5. Fourth of July puff
AMERICA – PUFF YEAH! Yes, America deserves a cream puff. However, apple pie would be tricky to turn into a puff without ruining the integrity of the cream or resorting to fake artificial apple flavor. And as for a hot dog cream puff ... sorry, I just retched merely thinking of the concept. So how about we mostly just go for aesthetics on this one and use food coloring to make the puff lid red and the bottom blue, with the cream in the middle providing the final color for our patriotic puff? You could try folding pop rocks candy into the cream and call them "fireworks" for a bonus flourish of flavor and FREEDOM.
6. Dirt cake puff
Thought Halloween was covered with the pumpkin spice puff? THINK AGAIN! Next year, I nominate the Wisconsin State Fair create this ghoulish take on the treat: chocolate cream, spinkled on top with Oreo dust and with gummi worms tucked into the creamy center.
7. Lemon meringue puff
The Wisconsin State Fair takes place in the summer, so why not turn a sunny, summery dessert into a cream puff? A key lime pie version would be tasty, but the translation into puffery isn't quite as obvious as with a lemon meringue take, with the meringue taking the place of the cream with a tasty ladleful of lemon curd placed in the bottom of the puff. Again, we're taking some liberties with the definition of a cream puff, but I think anyone who tastes this will be fine with it since the meringue has a similar airy quality to the traditional cream. It's not a wild departure – and it would be wildly delicious.
8. Peaches and cream puff
I've been reluctant to mix fruit and cream thus far because the cream inside a State Fair puff is so light and delicate that I'm afraid mixing anything dense in will muck the whole thing up. But the play-on-words here, as well as the concept, is too delicious to pass up. Just make a standard cream puff but with several slices of peach stacked inside either on the top or bottom (I'd say bottom just to avoid them crushing the cream). And also the Cream Puff Pavilion exclusively plays the 112 song "Peaches and Cream" on repeat over the speakers. This is a key part of the recipe.
9. Deep fried cream puff
They deep fry everything else at the State Fair, it's frankly incredible they haven't considered deep-frying a cream puff. Just proves to show the best ideas are sometimes sitting right in front of your nose – or on your nose, in the case of a cream puff after your first bite. And yes, I am aware that the cream may struggle to survive the frying process – but we figured out how to deep fry butter. When we put our minds (and stomaches) to it, science and physics stand no chance against our desire for heart palpitations.
10. Old fashioned puff
If we can deep fry an old fashioned, we can cream puff an old fashioned! Infuse the cream with Korbel brandy and bitters, then top the whole thing with a maraschino cherry and orange slice. Get the people at Purple Door to help you out since they figured out how to do the delicious ice cream version.
11. Cream puff puff pass
CBD is taking a growing role in cooking – so why not the cream puff? Infuse the creamy filling with CBD, and you've got a tasty treat that also potentially works as a painkiller.
12. Cheese puff
A Wisconsin State Fair cream puff is already very Sconnie – but I think we can make it even more Sconnie by replacing the sweet cream filling with a savory whipped goat cheese filling (courtesy of Wisconsin's own goat farms, of course). And if that doesn't work ... I don't know, grab a can of Cheez Whiz, crack open the choux pastry and go to town loading that thing up with fake cheesy goodness like you're Bobby from "A Goofy Movie." Top it with a little cheesehead, and congrats, you've got the most Wisconsin thing since this photo of a marriage proposal outside a Culver's.
13. Pickle puff
Stick with me on this one. After all, I'm the same person who cringed at the sound of a dill pickle pizza earlier this week and ended up eating my words (and a large portio of the pizza). That pizza actually gives me some good ideas for how this could actually work. I assume pickle brine and cream would make a combination that only Sandra Lee could love, so I'm thinking we lead with dill in this case, replacing the sweet cream inside with a savory dill cream cheese similar to Steny's. Just load that thing up with dill and then maybe top the puff with a little pickle slice garnish. The choux pastry always has a slightly salty taste to it anyways, so I think this could work! Uh oh, I think I'm losing some of you, so hopefully my next one wins you over.
14. Malort puff
Where'd everybody go? (*Police break down door, arrest me for crimes against humanity with no bail or parole*)
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.