Woe unto the soul who tells steadfast Midwesterners that their beloved, century-old tradition is a fad. Over the past several years, though, the indulgent combination of a crunchy shell and fluffy filling inspired food consultants and restaurateurs to predict a gourmet version of the cream puff would become the next upscale dessert [source: Dougherty]. In 2004, two Japanese chains started several stateside franchises, starting in Manhattan and expanding outward. The franchise cream puff is marketed as a luxury experience, but whether the concept can stand the test of time remains to be seen.
All of this matters little to Wisconsinites, who have held the basic, no-frills cream puff in a position of reverence for more than 150 years [source: MSNBC]. The denizens of the Badger State gather at the annual Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis to watch as large pastry shells are piled high with filling, available in one flavor: whipped cream. These fat- and calorie-laden treats are consumed by the truckload in homage to the agricultural industry, using locally sourced milk, cream and eggs. Bakers work around the clock to satisfy demand, and according to the Wisconsin Bakers Association, 345,000 puffs were devoured at 2009's fair.