Saturday, May 26, 2007

puff the magic "pâte à choux"

cream puff parade

Inspired by my friend Astrid at La Cerise, I made cream puffs and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. Despite my pathetic piping, the pâte à choux magically puffed into gloriously light, round, golden puffs. It was so exciting! I topped them with Hagel Zucker ("hail" sugar) so they could be eaten plain as chouquettes. I made a chocolate pastry cream to fill the others. They were yummy and the perfect party dessert - no utensils required. Next time I want to try eclairs, but I'll definitely need to practice my piping.

I thought these small piles would make medium puffs,
but they baked up huge

I piped tiny bits for the second tray and
they turned out perfect one-bite size morsels

the beauty of disposible pastry bags

Recipe: pâte à choux

Adapted from "The Secrets of Baking" by Sherry Yard

1 cup bread flour or all-purpose flour (I used Halbweissmehl)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 water
1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2% and it was fine)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4-5 eggs (I used 4)
for egg wash: 1 large egg + 1 yolk

1. If you plan to bake these right away, preheat oven to 425F (215C) and adjust rack to center of oven. You can refrigerate the dough at various points for later baking.

2. Sift together flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

3. Bring water, milk, and butter to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. At the boil, remove the pan from heat and add the flour mixture all at once. Using sturdy spoon, stir vigorously to combine.

4. Return mixture to medium heat and stir constantly in figure eights for at least 4 minutes, or until the mixture has a smooth. mashed-potato-like appearance. (I found this figure eight motion impossible as the mixture is too thick - I just mushed it around with my spoon) This helps break down the starch and develop the gluten. Remove from heat.

5. Transfer hot mixture to bowl of stand mixer with paddle attachmet. Mix on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes until dough cools to under 180F (so eggs won't cook when you add them). Add 4 of the eggs, one at a time. Be sure to let the batter absorb each egg and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula before adding the next. Before adding the last egg, check for consistency. Pinch off about 1 teaspoon of dough with your thumb and index finger, then pull apart your fingers. The dough should stretch rather than break. If it breaks, add the last egg. Mix on low speed until thoroughly incorporated, about 2 minutes. The dough should be shiny and smooth. Now it's ready to be piped. To store for later us, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

6. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using large plain tip (#6), pipe mounds of the dough, remember that they will grow significantly during baking.
- For small (my favorite), pipe 1/2 inch diameter, 1/2 inch high, about 1.5 inches apart.
- For medium, pipe 1.5 inch diameter, 1 inch high, 2 inches apart.
- For large, pipe 2 inches in diameter, 1 inch high, 2 inches apart.
At this point, the unbaked cream puffs can be frozen on the baking sheet. Cover with plastic film and freeze for up to 2 weeks. Defrost at room temp for about 30 minutes before baking.

7. Make egg wash by whisking 1 egg and 1 yolk in small bowl. Brush lightly but evenly over the puffs. (I often skip the egg wash because I'm lazy and don't like "wasting" eggs. But I did it this time and I think it really enhances the final product.)

8. Place puffs in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, or until puffs begin to rise. Turn the oven temp down to 350F(175F) and prop the oven door slighly open with a wooden spoon. Cook until puffs turn a nutty brown:
- For small, cook 10 to 12 minutes more
- For medium, cook 15 to 18 minutes more
- For large, cook 18 to 20 minutes more
(The recipe also suggests place a pan at the bottom of the oven and filling it with hot water when you first place the puffs in. This will create steam, allowing the crust to stay soft longer. I'm lazy and my oven is small so I skipped this step. My puffs were still soft and delicious).

9. Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack, about 15 minutes before filling and serving. At this stage, you can freeze the baked puffs for later use. Place cooled puffs in an airtight plastic bag and freeze for up to 2 weeks. They will also keep for 24 hours at room temp before being filled.


Astrid said...

Beautiful! Yum, wish I could have one now. Can't wait to start baking again...

Tanya said...

I can't wait til you start baking again either :)

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