Thursday, April 07, 2005

Cooking School: Choux Pastry

Today was not the most exciting day in class due to the fact that I spent much of my time sitting around waiting. We made souffles and choux pastry.
I've done souffles before, both at a chooking class and at home, so they were nothing new to me. We made cheese souffles with gruyere, which were not very interesting. I also found them to be rather overdone since we didn't receive much instruction on the timing of the souffles. The instructor demoed a chocolate souffle, which I made with another student because I didn't want to make a whole batch myself. The chocolate flavor was not particularly strong and the whole thing was overbaked. Everyone's were overbaked. If I wanted a dryish chocolate cake, I would have made a genoise.
We also made choux pastry as well as pastry cream. I had never made choux pastry before and it was very easy. The pastry cream gave me some trouble because I had to make it in a aluminum pan. Aluminum pans are reactive and you cannot use metal implements in them, so I had to use a wooden spoon to temper my eggs and stir the cream over the heat. They looked scrambled - but the instructor said that I just needed to stir more. Hmm. There were lumps even after I strained the cream. It tasted fine, though.
I took the pastry cream home to fill all my leftover profiteroles. In class, we filled our choux creations with sweetened whippped cream. I recommend using the whipped cream. It's much easier and tastes great. I drizzled my profiteroles with some leftover chocolate syrup, but you can add any kind of chocolate topping or even simply dust the tops with powdered sugar.
This will make a small batch of choux pastry, enough batter for 3-4 large cream puffs or 8 profiteroles. You can drop the pastry onto a lined baking sheet or pipe it out if you want a specific shape. I find dropping to to be easier and have listed profiterole guidlines in the recipe.

Choux Pastry
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
3 1/2 tbsp butter (1.75 ounces), melted
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup flour
2 eggs
1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp water (for egg wash)

Preheat oven to 400F.
Combine milk, water, butter, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously until dough comes together in a ball. Contiume to cook and stir for one additional minute.
Transfer dough to mixer or clean bowl and let mix at a low speed for 2 minutes until slightly cooled. Add eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated to add the next one. Increase mixer speed to make batter smooth.
Using a spoon, drop 8 heaping tablespoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet. If there is batter leftover, even distribute it.
Lightly stir together egg yolk and water to creat an egg wash. Brush pastry with egg wash.
Bake for 40 minutes, until well browned and dry.
Set aside to cool completely.

Sweetened Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy/whipping cream
2 tbsp confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, begin to beat the cream at a medium/high speed. Once it is frothy, add sugar and vanilla. Beat to stiff peaks.

To fill, slice puffs in half and pipe or spoon whipped cream into the hole in the center. Once they are filled, your puffs must be kept in the fridge. It is best to fill immediately prior to serving to ensure a nice crisp and flakey exterior.