I was SO excited about last week’s baking & pastry class! Who wouldn’t be? We were making cream puffs and eclairs – one of my all time favourite treats. When I was little, my mother would parade us 4 screaming kids through the grocery store as she bought our family’s week of supplies. If we kids were good, an éclair or cream puff awaited at the end of our shopping experience (we usually behaved well as a result). When I turned 16 and got my driver’s license, my mother would ask me to take her to the grocery store since she had never learnt how to drive. I am sure over the years she thought, “What a wonderfully helpful daughter I have”. The simple truth was as a teenager I could think of many other things I’d rather be doing on a Saturday then chauffeuring my mother to the grocery store. But really how can you say “no” to your mom … and the tempting promise of a cream puff or éclair afterwards?
I got to my b & p arts class very early, as I was so eager to learn the special skills behind these amazing French delicacies. For me there was genuine mystery behind these airy hard shell pastries with their delectable creamy centres. I was not certain if I would be up to this task. The name Choux Paste in itself is intimidating. What does Choux Paste mean and how in the world do you even pronounce it? Having a mother of French roots, you think I would know such things, but pour moi non. Choux Pastry (a.k.a. pate-a-choux; pronounced “pot-ah-SHOO” ), is derived from the word Choux meaning “cabbage ” because they each resemble a little cabbage when they are piped. We now understand why their creators chose to stick with the French moniker. So if I haven’t yet scared you away, here is today’s tiny secret – these are crazy EASY to make, but a bit creatively time consuming. Make these as a dinner party dessert or for a holiday gathering and your friends or family will think you are a truly brilliant baker.
NOTE – the below ingredients make about 40-45 cream puffs or eclairs, you can cut the ingredients in half if you want BUT I wouldn’t as once you taste these, 40 is not even enough. Also they freeze extremely well (unfilled) so make the full batch and freeze half for a latter use.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and pre-set oven to 375
370g bread flour
Place water, butter, salt in a large saucepan and bring to a rolling boil – ensure all butter is completely melted and mixed through
Add full amount of flour to saucepan, will become a sticky big ball of dough – continue to stir with wooden spoon, dough will be really tough
Continue to cook until the paste pulls away from side of pan: here is the trick to know when it is done: look for a white residue on bottom of pan and should not look wet anymore, as soon as you see this take pan off heat
Transfer paste to a stand mixer (can not use a hand mixer) and beat with paddle attachment on medium – you need to beat until there is no steam coming out of bowl (this is really important) as dough must be cooled down before you add eggs, BUT must cool while being beaten (if you cool without beating -your pastry will loose volume)
Once paste is cooled add 4 eggs at a time, and ensure all eggs are completely incorporated before you add the next 4 eggs
When all eggs have been added, beat for 4 min on medium speed
Your paste can not be too wet or too stiff or you will not be able to pipe properly
Transfer your paste to a piping bag fitted with a star open tip #6 (sorry no zip lock bag here) you need a pastry bag
Pipe rosettes for cream puffs and long narrow strands for eclairs (plain open tip #5)
Bake for 30 min – but keep a close watch on them (don’t open oven door)
Will be done when tops are golden brown and bubbles start to form/ MUST be cooked to full amount or puff will flaten
You could totally cheat here and buy a pre-made custard or even shall I say -cool-whip!! BUT you have gone to all the trouble of making this amazing pastry, go the extra step and make your filling.
1 litre whipping cream
80g sifted icing sugar
Pour whipping cream and vanilla into large bowl and add icing sugar in stages and whip until stiff peaks form
I added orange food colouring because I was using them for Halloween
NOTE – the filling options are endless, be creative: you can add fruit filling to bottom of puff, you can add flavour to your filling(almond extract), or you can make a custard like filling (lemon curd)
Cut your cream puffs and eclairs in half (make sure you keep top and bottom in order – so you can match them up properly)
We cut our pastry in half instead of injecting filling – Why you ask? So we could get more of the gooey good stuff inside
In class we used chocolate fudge base and white pourable fondant – which will be really hard to find for the average baker. So instead you can just melt regular chocolate (if storing or keeping for longer – will need to be tempered) , chocolate candy wafers melted, a chocolate ganache or you can use a Chocolate Royal icing.
When chocolate is fully melted and cooled(but still runny), you can dip your tops in the chocolate
Place your filling in a large pastry bag with a star tip (same as above)
Pipe your cream into bottom half of puff or éclair
Place chocolate covered tops on filled bottom – NOTE chocolate will still be runny, that’s OK as it will harden very quickly
You can also do some without chocolate, just sprinkle some icing sugar over top – they look just as lovely
Now for my next trick, if you REALLY want to impress your guests, make them a cream puff swan
Ok, I was going to claim the above as my own, but when I saw the photo the guilt started. The chef made these, BUT I could do it if I really wanted to.