Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Strangely, one of my blog's most visited pages is the one on Choux Pastry. Hmmm ... how did that happen? I'm a cooking blog more than a baking one - well at least, I much prefer cooking to baking - so I am baffled whenever I see my desserts stealing the thunder from my mains!
Whatever the case, if my dear readers like Choux Puffs ... then Choux Puffs it is. :) Over the weekend, when I made a batch, I took the chance to do a step-by-step of this beloved dessert of mine. I am no expert, but these recipes have not failed me once, so ... see if they work for you too.
Making the Crème Pâtissière
You can make this the day before and keep it in the refrigerator. I like to do it this way, so that I have less to do all at one go. Besides, the custard needs to be nicely chilled before you use it to fill the hollows of the Choux Puffs.
(largely adapted from Corner Cafe)
- 1 cup milk (236ml)
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup caster sugar (55g)
- 1 drop vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- 1 pinch salt (only if not adding butter, or using unsalted butter)
- 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, for additional shine and firmness
1. Whisk together egg yolks, 1/4 cup milk (60ml), sugar and vanilla beans. Mix in cornflour and salt (if using).
2. Bring the remaining milk to a scald* in a saucepan. Pour the hot milk in small stream into the egg mixture, whisking constantly with a balloon whisk as you pour (very important). Once incorporated, pour everything back into the saucepan.
* To scald is to heat to just below the boiling point.
3. Whisk the mixture over medium heat until it thickens and firms up. Remove from heat and whisk in butter.
4. Pour the hot custard into a bowl and plunge the bottom of the bowl into another larger bowl of iced-water to cool, give it a whisk occasionally.
- I just continued whisking in the same saucepan until it cooled down.
5. Once it reaches room temperature, scoop the crème pâtissière into a piping bag (twist the open end to seal up the custard) or into a ketchup bottle. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
A: Add yolks, 1/4 cup milk, vanilla beans, salt, cornflour in a bowl. In the meantime, bring the remainder 3/4 cup milk to a scald in a saucepan.
B: Mix your egg mixture well.
C: When the 3/4 cup milk is hot, stream it into the egg mixture to temper the yolks. You will get a pale-coloured, creamy liquid.
D: Pour the liquid back into the saucepan and cook on low heat, stirring constantly. It will continue to thicken as it cooks.
E: Add in butter. Just keep stirring until the whisk leaves swirls from the stirring. As it cools, the custard will thicken even further. See how gloppy it is? Love the speckled look from the vanilla beans. :)
F: I like to store the crème pâtissière in a ketchup bottle because it makes the job of filling the choux puffs easier.
Making the Choux Pastry
If you have never tried making choux, let me tell you that it is easier than it looks, and a lot less temperamental than macarons. Step aside, Beard Papa cos Mama's in da house.
- 1 cup water
- 55g unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 120g plain flour
- 3 large eggs + 1 large egg (beaten lightly)
1. Place the water, butter and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. When the butter is completely melted, remove from the heat and add the flour all at once.
2. Mix rapidly with a spatula until fully combined.
3. Place the mixture on the stove over a low heat and dry mix for about 5-6 mins. The dough should be soft and but not sticky. If there is a thin white crust at the bottom of the pan, it means the dough is sufficiently dried.
4. Transfer to a bowl and spread to cool. Let the dough cool slightly.
5. Add the 3 eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next.
6. Add the last egg a little at the time to control consistency. You do not want a mixture that is too runny, else the choux puff will not hold its shape. If the mixture looks right to you, stop adding the egg. The dough should be smooth, shiny and as thick and heavy as mayonnaise.
A: Melt butter, water and salt. The moment it comes to a gentle boil, remove from heat and pour in flour all at once.
B: Mix rapidly. Do not stop. It will be messy and clumpy but don't worry. Just keep going.
C: Place the saucepan back onto the stove, over low heat, and continue stirring. The dough will magically come into a ball that will no longer stick to the sides and bottom of the pan. Make sure your dough is sufficiently dried.
D: Take the saucepan off the heat and add the 3 eggs one at a time, incorporating each fully before adding the next. Stir rapidly. It will get sloshy all over again but that's normal.
E: Check the consistency of the dough. If it is too thick, use some of the 4th egg (beaten). Add a little at a time. You do not need to use up the entire egg.
F: As long as the dough is smooth, shiny and as thick as heavy mayonnaise, stop. A fluid dough will not hold its shape.
7. Preheat oven to 190 degree celsius. Cover a large baking tray with parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag with the dough with a piping nozzle.
8. Pipe the dough into balls - depends how big you want your cream puffs to be. Press down any peaks gently with your finger (dipped in water). Otherwise, the peaks will burn as they bake.
9. Brush the top with the egg wash (I mix some egg and with water). Some recipes call for giving the puffs a quick spritz of water before baking, as steam helps the puffs rise better.
10. Bake for about 35 minutes or until well puffed and golden. The drier, the crustier, the better - you want a cavernous, not soggy, centre. Shut off the heat, leave the oven door slightly ajar, and let the puffs cool slowly. The puffs may collapse if they are cooled too fast. Some people make small slashes at the bottom of the puffs to allow the steam to escape and then put them back into the oven. I don't, and my puffs still turned out fine each time.
Now that you have your choux puffs and your crème pâtissière, you're ready to pipe! Using a sharp knife, make small slits at the bottom of the choux puffs. Pipe in the crème pâtissière that has been chilled in the ketchup bottle or piping bag.
You just made Cream Puffs! Place the Cream Puffs in the refrigerator to chill thoroughly before serving.
Now we're ready to eat. Bring out your tea set.
Bring out your Cream Puffs ... in all their naked glory.
Fill your cups with tea ... Earl Grey for me, please.
Give a light dusting of icing sugar onto the Cream Puffs. Afternoon tea is served!
"I want nobody nobody but choux, I want nobody nobody but choux."
Sorry, couldn't resist. ;) I am not a fan of the Wondergirls ... although I'd admit, the tune is kinda catchy. Still, I am amazed at how we celebrate mediocrity these days. Ah, I digress.
Anyhow, I hope you found this post useful. You can use savoury fillings for the choux puffs (like egg mayo, hummus or tuna) and use the crème pâtissière as filling for cakes and tarts. The possibilities are endless. :)