Choux pastry anyone?

Choux pastry really isn’t very difficult to do, but it looks impressive and is actually very versatile.  Through the simple addition of a filling, and/or topping, this pastry can be turned into a sweet, or savoury dish.

I love both personally, although I mostly turn it into something sweet.  Surprised?

I mainly make profiteroles and eclairs, however if you were to fill the profiteroles with a white sauce flavoured with ham, cheese and herbs, that would also be delicious.

Today I made profiteroles and eclairs and filled them with orange or chocolate crème pâtissière, and then topped them off with either a crunchy caramel or chocolate glaze.

They are really good.  Try them – they aren’t as difficult as you think.

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Choux Pastry

I got the exact measurements for the choux pastry and crème pâtissière from The Great British Bake Off.  Everything else is my own.

INGREDIENTS PASTRY:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 3 large eggs

INGREDIENTS CRÈME PÂTISSIÈRE:

  • 250ml whole cream milk
  • Flavouring (zest of 1 orange, 50g chocolate, or 1 tsp vanilla extract/1 vanilla bean)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbs cornflour
  • 150ml cream

INGREDIENTS CHOCOLATE GLAZE:

  • 1 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 tbs cocoa
  • 3 tbs milk
  • 190g icing sugar (sifted)

INGREDIENTS CARAMEL:

  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 tbs water

Pre-heat your oven to 200C, and line a baking tray.  Also ensure your eggs are at room temperature.

Heat the water, butter and salt over a moderate heat until the butter has melted, and then turn the heat up and quickly bring to the boil.  Do not bring this mixture to the boil until after the butter has melted, otherwise the liquid will evaporate, and it’s important that this does not happen.  Capiche?

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Tip in the flour, take the pan off the heat and start beating – a wooden spoon is best at this stage.  Beat the dough, beat it until it starts to confess its sins.  Actually you just beat it until it starts to come together…like this.

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Then turn the heat down low and put the pan back on, while continuing to gently beat the dough.  After a couple of minutes it will become lighter and glossy and form a ball.  This is when you stop, take the pan off the heat again and let the dough cool down a bit.

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While it’s cooling, you need to gently beat the eggs together.

Once the dough has cooled down a bit, not room temperature cool, but not stovetop hot either, you can start beating in the eggs.  The easiest way to do this is to use electric beaters.  I’m so grateful for electricity.  I actually grew up in a rural area that was so remote from the nearest small town, that I grew up without electricity.

I digress, so at this stage you need to add a tablespoon of egg at a time, and beat the dough thoroughly after each addition.  You keep doing this until you have a dough that is kind of like a thick paste.  One way to test if it’s ready is to scoop up a spoonful and then tap the spoon on the side of the pan.  If the dough slowly falls off the spoon you know it’s ready.  You may not need to use all of the egg, so be careful here – if the dough is too runny it’s quite difficult to remedy, and your piped shapes will spread all over the baking tray.

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Grab your piping bag – if you don’t have one, don’t panic, it’s okay.  Shovel the dough into the bag (it’s quite thick so you really are just shovelling it in), and pipe rounds (profiteroles) or logs (eclairs) onto your tray.  You can make them any size you want, but keep in mind that the larger they are, the longer they will need to cook.  You can just use two teaspoons to form the mounds of dough – to stop the dough sticking you can oil them up, like a bodybuilder called Sven.  Whichever way you do this, make sure you leave a couple of centimetres between the mounds, so they have room to expand.

I didn’t show myself piping, primarily because I needed two hands to pipe, and also because I forgot.  Sorry about that.

My profiteroles were about 4cm in width and 2-3cm in height.  My eclairs (cooked separately) were about 8cm in length and 2-3cm in width.

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Upside down, boy you turn me, inside out, and round and round.  I accidentally took this photo upside down, in case you can’t tell.  I know I could just edit it, but I wanted you to see my stupidity for yourself.  Then you can understand me better, and our relationship will become stronger.  Does that sound creepy?

Now the cooking part.  Quickly put them in the oven (to avoid losing too much heat) and bake the profiteroles for 25 minutes (the eclairs need 30 minutes, which is why you should cook them separately if you’re making both).  After this time, open the oven door to let out any steam, and turn the temperature down to 180C.  Bake for 5 more minutes before taking them out of the oven and quickly poking holes in the sides to let any steam caught up inside them escape.

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Bake for a further 5 minutes after this, and then take them out and cool on a wire rack.  These pastries need to be really dry, so if they look moist at all, put them back in the oven for a couple more minutes.  It is better to overcook this type of pastry than to undercook it.

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Now you can get onto making your toppings and fillings.

Crème Pâtissière is so delicious that if you’re not careful you’ll eat it all before you’ve even started filling your profiteroles.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  This stuff is dangerous to the waistline.

Okay, so start by heating the milk and your chosen flavouring (vanilla, orange, chocolate, mung bean, whatever) until the milk starts to bubble at the edges.  Take the milk off the heat and leave to steep for 10 minutes.  This helps the flavours come together.  Once the milk is cool whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornflour until light and thick.

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Then, while whisking, slowly pour in the milk.  Once combined, pour this mixture back into the pan and put back over a low heat.  Stir until it thickens and looks like custard, and then pour into a bowl, cover with clingwrap and place in the fridge to chill.  While it’s chilling beat the cream until soft peaks form, and also chill.

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There’s a lot of chilling going on at this stage.

Then when everything is chilled (yeah man), fold the whipped cream into the custard, and chill some more!

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Once chilled, cut open your profiteroles, pop in a spoonful or two of filling and put the top back on.  Not complicated at all.

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I personally like to fill my eclairs with Crème Pâtissière, but you could just choose to fill them with whipped cream.

But before filling, you need to make your topping.  I’ll show you both the chocolate glaze and the caramel, so you can choose.

First the glaze.  Melt the butter and milk together in the microwave, then whisk in the sugar and cocoa until no lumps remain.  I like to dip my profiterole tops while I’m filling the bottom – that’s just how I like to do it.  Seriously, it’s that easy.

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The caramel topping is just as easy.  Bring the sugar and water slowly to the boil, and boil it until the mixture is a light caramel colour.  Take off the heat and start dipping if you want a thin coating on your profiteroles.  I personally like quite a thick topping – I’m weird like that, so I wait until the caramel has cooled down and thickened a bit before spooning over my profiteroles.  This will ensure a really crunchy caramel topping – but I understand that this isn’t for everyone.

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Chill your profiteroles until the toppings are set, and then shove.into.mouth.  These will be good for a couple of days, but they really are at their best when they’ve just been made.

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