Cream Puffs

/ Sunday, September 29, 2013

Last weekend, one of my favorite kitchen stores: Kitchen Window was having free baking seminars all weekend. Of course, I jumped at the chance to attend one and decided to learn more about Pate a Choux, considering many of my attempts to make eclairs and cream puffs have gone horribly wrong. The class was amazingly informative, and I'm going to try to convey much of what I learned in this week's post.


Cream Puffs:

Yields 30 to 40 Cream Puffs

*The fist big thing is that you will need to have a food scale for this recipe. I suggest this one as it it relatively cheap, but gets the job done.
The food scale is important because cups of flower can have a 4 to 8 grams difference in weight, which is enough to throw the Pate a Choux off.

For the Pate a Choux:
9.5 ounces flour
1 pint water
6 ounces unsalted butter 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pint Eggs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Pour flour into a bowl with a handle. Set aside.
Heat water, butter, and salt to a full rolling boil. It is important that the fat isn't just on the top, but evenly dispersed throughout the mixture. Otherwise the dough may turn out lumpy.
Using a heavy wooden spoon, slowly add the flour, stirring quickly. The mixture will soon form one big mass and pull away from the sides of the pan. After it does, cook it for 3 minutes longer to get rid of any floury taste.
Transfer the paste to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Turn the mixer on to the lowest setting possible and stir for 2 to 3 minutes to allow the mixture to cool. (You may just want to leave it sit for a while to cool of as well.)
Then, add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each egg before adding the next one. When you add the egg, the paste will break apart, but will eventually come back together, and that is where you add the next egg. Add as many eggs as the paste can absorb and still hold its shape when piped.
Transfer the mixture to a piping bag (check out this article on how to use a pastry bag, or the bottom of this post). To pipe see How to use a pastry bag at the bottom of this post.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the dough rises up to 3 times its size and turns slightly golden. Then decrease the temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the puffs have turned a deep golden. It is very important not to open the oven at all while the puffs are baking. Slight changes in pressure will cause the pate a choux to flatten.
Cool to room temperature. Do not place in fridge or freezer to speed up the cooling process or the puffs will collapse.

For the Pastry Cream:
1 pint whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
1 ounce cornstarch
4 ounces granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
2 ounces butter

Place milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan. If using vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the pod halves to the milk. Bring to a boil.
Keeping an eye on the milk, whisk the cornstarch, sugar, and slat together in a bowl. Gradually add the eggs and mix until smooth. Slowly ad about 1/3 of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture while whisking rapidly. Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining milk. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Boil for 3 minutes to make sure the raw starch taste has disappeared.
Remove the vanilla bean halve, or stir in vanilla paste or extract if using. Stir in the butter continuing to stir until it is completely incorporated.
Pour the custard into a bowl and cover with a piece of parchment paper. When cooled, store in the refrigerator.
Will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

For the Chocolate Sauce:
8 oz dark chocolate chips
2 1/2 ounces unsalted butter
2 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

Melt the chocolate into a bowl over a pot of simmering water. Remover from heat, add butter and stir until the butter is fully incorporated into the chocolate. Stir in the cocoa powder until smooth. Let cool to room temperature before dipping.

Assembly: 
Using a bismark pastry tip pipe pastry cream into the cream puffs until they feel full. Then dip the puffs into the chocolate.
The pastries are best served immediately, but can be stored in the freezer for 3 days.


How to use a pastry/piping bag:
First, for the cream puffs you are going to want a jumbo round tip, and a plastic or canvas pastry bag. Flip the top quarter of the pastry bag down over you hand and, using a spatula, transfer the pate a choux into the bag. Undo the flip, and twist the bag closed. Holding the bag in you dominant hand, apply even pressure to create a circle on the parchment paper or non-stick baking mat, then cease pressure and quickly lift straight up.
Continue to do so until you have filled all your baking sheets.

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