Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cream Puffs (Pate a Choux and Creme Patisserie)

The first time I worked with choux pastry was at Johnson & Wales. I wasn’t a pastry major but part of the entire culinary arts program included a rudimentary pastry class. I remember hating the piping part so now I take a shortcut and use the scoop and drop method. This method works really well for me. The key is to have a bowl of water next to the baking sheet and after dropping the balls of dough on the baking sheet, dip your fingers in the water and smooth out the rough edges.

Tonight is the second night of Hanukkah and we were invited to a celebration at a friend’s house. There were several adults and a dozen little ones. My friend asked me to make my cranberry sauce and I decided to make cream puffs for dessert. I usually do profiteroles filled with gelato and drizzled with a warm Kahlua chocolate sauce but since this year was not an intimate sit down occasion, I decided to do cream puffs instead of profiteroles.

Make the pastry cream several hours or the night before making the puffs.

Pastry Cream:

2 cups half and half
½ cup sugar
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon cake flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1. Mise en place.
2. Place 1 ½ cups of the half and half , half the granulated sugar and the salt in a pot; bring to a oil.
3. Place the cornstarch, the remaining sugar, and flour ina bowl; slowly add the remaining milk, and whisk together well.
4. Add the egg s to the cornstarch mixture; combine well.
5. Temper the cornstarch mixture, and add to the boiling milk.
6. Bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring constantly; cook for 3 minutes.
7. Remove from heat; stir in the vanilla and butter.
8. Whisk well.
9. Cover and refrigerate.
Temper: to equalize products with two extreme temperatures or textures.

Tempering: Whisk the eggs vigorously while ladling hot liquid into them.

Pate a Choux:

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
5 large eggs

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Bring milk, butter and salt to boil in heavy medium saucepan. Remove from heat.
3. Stir in flour. Cook over medium heat about 1 ½ minutes, until the mixture is smooth and forms a ball.
4. Remove from heat. Transfer dough to the bowl of mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix dough on low speed until it cools slightly but is still very warm. Beat in eggs, one at a time on medium speed, making sure the egg is fully incorporated after each addition.

5. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment or silpat. Drop walnut-size pieces of dough onto sheets. Smooth out dough using wet fingers.
6. Bake until puffed and beginning to brown, about 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees; continue baking until puffs are brown and very crisp, about 10 minutes.

Make sure you fully bake them or they will deflate. This was my first batch and I forgot about this very important detail.

To Assemble:

After puffs have cooled and pastry cream is chilled, slice the puffs, fill with pastry cream and drizzle with (or dip in) melted chocolate.

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