10
Dec
08

Cream puffs and pate choux

Well, Vox Pop is now over and I’m happy to say we raised over $1000 for Search (a homeless shelter in Houston)!  The event was fantastic and I met many intriguing personalities!  Hopefully everyone who went had a good time as well!

I’m thankful for the cooking group that helped me prepare some of the goodies I contributed to the bakesale.  The meeting reminded me of the very first time I met the cooking group at Yvonne’s house… at the time, we were preparing for the launch of our church.  For this event, I aimed to bake over 100 cream puffs (a variation of the pate choux recipe, generally filled with a sweet or savory filling, topping optional).  In this post, I’ll try to explain how to create the best cream puffs I’ve experimented with.

More than a hundred cream puffs!

More than a hundred cream puffs!

Pate choux is the only type of pastry I know which is prepared by boiling all the ingredients together before baking.  I’ve tried a couple different recipes for this unique pastry dough, but my favorite is by far is Pichet Ong’s recipe from his fantastic book, The Sweet Spot.


Pate Choux

from Pichet Ong’s “The Sweet Spot”

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

*1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. water
*1/2 cup whole milk
*4 ounces butter (1 stick) cut into pieces
*2 Tbsp. sweetened condensed milk
*1/2 tsp. salt
Put all above ingredients into saucepan and bring to a full rolling boil.


*1 cup AP flour
Add the flour all at once to the boiling mixture. Stir with wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until a smooth mass forms. Keep cooking and stirring it around over moderate heat to dry out the dough as much as possible, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the flour once the above ingredients are at a rolling boil

Add the flour once the above ingredients are at a rolling boil

(*tip: when measuring flour, use the “scoop and sweep” method. Shake your container of flour to aerate it, then scoop out a big cupful with your measuring cup. Then sweep off the excess with a flat surface, like the back of a knife. Do not pack in the flour; flour can be compressed greatly, so measuring by volume can be inaccurate unless you use this method, which is what pastry chefs use)

Once finished, the dough should look like this

Once finished, the dough should look like this

Transfer dough to mixing bowl. With the paddle attachment, beat at medium speed to release steam and cool a bit for one minute.

Releasing steam

Releasing steam

*4 large eggs
*1 large egg yolk
At low speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated between additions.
The dough should look smooth and glossy. When you lift up some of the dough with a spatula, it should take 5-7 seconds to fall back into the bowl. If it doesn’t fall back into the bowl at all, you need more eggs. I found that I needed 2 more when I did this recipe. Eggs, in pate choux are ALWAYS variable. The above is only a guide. When I need to add additional eggs, I add the yolk first and check the dough. If I still need more, I add the white, and so forth. Sometimes one whole egg can be too much. The amount of eggs to add, is usually the trickiest part to pate choux.

The dough should be smooth and drip off the spatula after 5-7 seconds

The dough should be smooth and drip off the spatula after 5-7 seconds

(*tip: I use 2 extra eggs, so in total I use 6 large eggs and 1 large egg yolk)


When your dough is ready, fill a pastry bag with a plain tip and pipe out as desired. Beat one egg yolk with 2 Tbsp. water to make an egg wash. Egg wash the choux, and sprinkle with a little coarse salt if desired. Put in pre-heated 400 degree oven for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 to continue baking for about 10-15 minutes more.

(*tip: I use disposable pastry bags, because Ziploc bags may break due to the thickness of the batter.)

I make little swirls with the pastry for a nice round, slightly raised shape

I make little swirls with the pastry for a nice round, slightly raised shape

The egg wash will produce a nice golden brown shiny sheen on the puffs when they are baked. The salt will keep the dough from cracking. Do NOT open the oven until 20 minutes are over, because if the puffs are in the process of “puffing” and the oven door is opened, they will deflate. At the end of 20 minutes, check if the puffs are at desired consistency… if they seem too soft, bake for another 5 minutes

When done, the puffs will be deep golden brown, and nearly weightless. Do not remove from oven too soon, or they will collapse! A lot of people have the tendency to do this. Poke each puff with a small hole to release the steam and then allow to cool on cooling rack)

Cream puffs when finished baking

Cream puffs when finished baking

Some people recommend cutting cream puffs in half, then scooping whatever filling you want into them before re-assembling the halves.  This would probably be the best method for thick or unwieldy fillings, but for simple pastry cream, I prefer to use a dessert decorator (thanks Donald and Chrissy!).  If you don’t have one of these, you can just use a piping bag but it’ll be a bit harder.  (Recipe for pastry cream will follow)

Filled with pastry cream!

Filled with pastry cream!

You can serve/eat the cream puffs as is, but I personally LOVE eclairs.  As such, I like to give my cream puffs a ganache topping to simulate the chocolatey (and messy) goodness of an eclair 🙂

Topped with ganache

Topped with ganache

I prepared the pastry cream before hand since they need to chill overnight before they get their full texture.  Half of my cream puffs were filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with an apricot chocolate ganache.  The other half were filled with a chocolate pastry cream and topped with a white chocolate ganache.

All for me!

All for me!

I hope any of you who attended the official launch of Access got to enjoy some of these treats!  If my instructions are confusing, please ask questions and I will try to answer as well as I can 🙂

Creme Patisserie, i.e. Pastry Cream

from Sherry Yard’s “Secrets of Baking”


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped orange zest
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 TBSP corn starch
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 large egg yolks or 3 large eggs, chilled
  • 1 TBSP unsalted butter, softened

Notes:

Do not use an aluminum pot for this recipe: constant stirring will scrape the aluminum into the cream and turn it gray. This recipe works equally well using yolks or whole eggs. Egg yolks only will yield a richer, yellower pastry cream (I use 3 whole eggs).

Directions:

1. If you will need to cool this quickly, line a baking sheet with plastic film and set aside.

2. Bring the milk, 1/4 cup of the sugar, the orange zest, and the vanilla bean and seeds to a simmer in a medium nonreactive saucepan over medium heat.

3. Meanwhile, sift together the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, the flour or cornstarch, and salt onto a piece of parchment paper. Whisk the egg yolks or eggs in a large bowl. Add the sifted dry ingredients and whisk until fluffy.

4. When the milk comes to a simmer, remove from the heat and ladle out 1/2 cup of the hot milk. Drizzle its lowly into the eggs while whisking. Once the 1/2 cup milk is incorporated into the eggs, pour the mixture back into the hot milk, whisking constantly. Be sure to scrape all the eggs into the pan with a rubber spatula.

5. Immediately begin to rapidly whisk the pastry cream. In less than 1 minute, it will boil and begin to thicken. Continue to whisk for about 3 minutes, or until it has the consistency of pudding. To test the cream for doneness, tilt the saucepan to one side. The cream should pull away from the pan completely. Rinse and dry the large bowl.

6. Strain the pastry cream through a fine-mesh strainer back into the bowl. Add the butter and stir until it is melted and incorporated. If the cream seems grainy, pulse it in a food processor until smooth. The cream is now ready to use, or it can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated for up to 3 days. To cool the pastry cream quickly, spread it out on a baking sheet lined with plastic film. To prevent a skin from forming as it cools, place a sheet of plastic film directly on the surface.

7. For chocolate version, add 3-4 ounces finely shopped bittersweet chocolate to the pastry cream when you add the butter. Stir it until it is melted and incorporated.


Apricot Ganache Glaze

from Sherry Yard’s “Secrets of Baking”

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate
  • 4 TBSP apricot jelly
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 TBSP light corn syrup

Directions:

1. Using a serrated knife, finely chop the chocolate into 1/4 inch pieces and place it in a medium heatproof bowl.

2. Warm the apricot jelly (or preserves) in a small saucepan over low heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring until it is melted. Whisk in the cream, milk and corn syrup. Increase the heat to medium and bring the mixture to a boil.

3. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chopped chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir in a circular motion, starting from the center of the bowl and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air to the ganache. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes.

4. When all the chocolate has melted, insert a thermometer. The temperature should be 90 deg F for the best glazing results. If the temperature is too low, place the bowl over a saucepan half full of simmering water, creating a double boiler, and gently stir until the thermometer reads 90 deg F. If the temperature is too high, occasionally stir the ganache off the heat until it is ready to be poured. Glazing should be done as soon as the ganache reaches 90 deg F for maximum viscosity. The glaze can be chilled for later use, then reheated slowly over simmering water. If the reheated glaze seems too thick, add 1 TBSP water.

White Chocolate Ganache

from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From my home to yours”

Ingredients:

8 ounces white chocolate

4 TBSP unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 TBSP light corn syrup

1 TBSP dark rum (I omitted this and added an extra 2 tsp of heavy cream)

Directions:

1. Using a serrated knife, finely chop the white chocolate and place it in a medium bowl.

2. Bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Tap the bowl on the counter to settle the chocolate into the cream, then let it sit for 1 minute. Using a rubber spatula, slowly stir in a circular motion, stirring from the center of the bowl and working out to the sides. Be careful not to add too much air. Stir until all the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes.

3. Similar instructions for glazing as the apricot chocolate ganache, except the ideal temperature is 70 deg F.

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1 Response to “Cream puffs and pate choux”


  1. 1 JK
    December 11, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    wow, they look so perfect! 🙂 i’ve decided, you should be my neighbor.


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