…from the California Kitchen
How you doin’? I want to share a bit of food history with you. The Wisconsin Bakers Association has served the following cream puff recipe at their state fair since 1924. Midway food fare is one of the most important reasons to go to any fair.
The first Wisconsin State Fair was first held in 1851 in Janesville, with approximately 13,000 to 18,000 people in attendance. It was sponsored by the state’s Agricultural Society and was held on a six-acre plot along the banks of the Rock River. It featured a 200-pound squash and a quarter-acre plowing competition with teams of horses and oxen. It was reportedly the largest gathering in Wisconsin history to that point. When the second fair was held in Milwaukee in 1852, fairgoers took their carriages for rides around the Cold Spring Racecourse. Wisconsinites know how to have a good time.
Abraham Lincoln was invited to give the annual oration at the fair in 1859. He spoke on the principles of free labor—farmers and their families working for themselves without the use of hired labor—and of the interconnectedness of farmers, merchants, and other businesses. He advised farmers to embrace new methods of agriculture, with the goal of raising the standard of living for all.
The fair added new attractions each year, and in 1869, there was a fire engine demonstration where boxes, barrels and a large wooden building were set aflame. For decades, the fair moved from city to city, including Janesville, Watertown, Fond du Lac, Madison and Milwaukee, until 1892, when it was first held at its permanent and present location at Wisconsin State Fair Park in West Allis (suburb of Milwaukee).
My partner, Joan, went to the fair every year (no, don’t be silly—not since 1892, but in the late 20th century). One of her favorite fair foods are the Cream Puffs. Unfortunately, on May 28, 2020, the state fair's board of directors announced the cancellation of the 2020 State Fair, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous Fairs had only been cancelled in 1917 and 1918, then 1942 through 1945, all because of World Wars I and II. So being the guy that I am, I made Joan the original Wisconsin State Fair Cream Puffs. Now, you too can be a part of history by making the following recipe.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Bake: 30 to 35 minutes + cooling
Yield: 10 servings
For the puff
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
2 tablespoons 2% milk
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
For the filling
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Additional confectioners' sugar for dusting
To make the puff
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