Episode 77 – “Choux Shine”

Posted: March 22, 2017 in Season 6
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Sweet or Savory Pâte à Choux

When I was in elementary school, a different kid in my class was tasked with bringing snacks for the class each week. No-bake cookies with chocolate and oats were in regular rotation because they were easy to make and most of the kids liked them. My mom usually sent me with cupcakes or other (baked) cookies. One girl’s mother scored massive points with all of the kids (and probably made all the other parents feel like slouches), as she always made homemade cream puffs.

Personally, I have never made cream puffs or eclairs… until now. Baking and pastry are definitely two of my favorite things, so I eagerly whipped up a batch of Alton’s Pâte à Choux yesterday. Pâte à Choux is a pastry dough that is designed to make pastries that can be filled; therefore, when you bake the dough, it is supposed to only form one or two large bubbles, as opposed to the numerous bubbles desired in certain breads and such. In order to create these large bubbles in the pastry, steam needs to be created. Bread flour, and especially bread flour for bread machines, is ideal for Pâte à Choux because it has the highest protein content of all flours, which allows it to absorb more liquid; more liquid equals more steam production. To make Alton’s Pâte à Choux, combine a cup of water and 6 T butter in a pan. If you are making savory dough, also add 1 t Kosher salt. Or, if you are making a sweet dough, as Alton did in the episode, add just a pinch of Kosher salt and 1 T sugar.

Bring this water/butter mixture to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, weigh out  5 3/4 ounces of bread flour. I did not have bread flour for bread machines, so just used bread flour.

When the butter has completely melted and your liquid is boiling, add all of the flour, at once, to the pan.

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Flour added to boiling butter/water.

Stir the flour into the liquid with a spatula until a paste forms. Decrease the heat to low and continue to stir the dough until all of the flour is incorporated and the dough is no longer sticky. Turn off the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a standing mixer, setting it aside until it is cool enough to touch.

While the dough cools, place four eggs and two egg whites in a measuring cup; the egg yolks will act as an emulsifier in the dough, while the whites will give the dough structure.

When the dough has sufficiently cooled, slowly add the eggs to the dough, keeping the mixer running. You want to continue adding egg until the dough hangs from the paddle attachment in a ‘V’ shape; for me, this required all of my eggs.

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Dough after adding all of the eggs. A perfect ‘V’ shape off of the paddle.

At this point, you can use your dough immediately, or you can let it rest at room temperature for a couple hours before using. When you are ready to use your dough, prepare a piping bag with a piping tip; Alton did not specify which tip to use, but I used one that was about 3/8″ in diameter and it worked fine. Large Ziploc bags work well for piping too – just snip off one corner, insert the inside part of the coupler, place your desired tip on top, and screw on the coupler ring.

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Ziploc bag turned into piping bag.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper. If your parchment is sliding around, you can pipe a dollop of dough on each corner of your sheet pan, pressing the parchment down in the dough to keep it from sliding.

To make eclairs, pipe the dough into ‘S’ shapes, with the tail of each ‘S’ facing up toward you. With a wet finger, pat down the tails.

Alternatively, you can make cream puffs by piping the dough in concentric circle patterns, finishing in the center. Again, pat down any points with a wet finger.

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Dough, piped into concentric circles for cream puffs.

Place the eclairs (or cream puffs) in the center of the oven, increasing the temperature to 425 degrees, and setting the timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake the eclairs for an additional 10 minutes. As soon as your eclairs/cream puffs are cool enough to handle, pierce them with a sharp paring knife to release excess steam.

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Piercing a hot eclair to release steam.

Cool the pastries completely.

At this point, you can bag and freeze the pastry shells for up to a month, bag and store them at room temperature for a week, or you can fill them with a filling of your choice. To do as Alton did in this episode of Good Eats, make vanilla pudding, using only 3/4 of the recommended liquid.

Then, using a small star tip and a piping bag, poke a hole in each eclair/cream puff, filling them with the pudding until the pudding starts to come out the end. Chill the filled pastries.

To bedazzle your eclairs/cream puffs with chocolate, melt 1 C chocolate chips with 1 t vegetable oil in a double boiler. Dip each pastry into the chocolate mixture. Or, you can pour your chocolate into a squeeze bottle and decorate them that way. I opted for the dipping method.

If you do not plan to eat your eclairs right away, keep them refrigerated. I made a mixture of eclairs and cream puffs, ending up with 17 eclairs and 6 cream puffs. I stuck most of my pastries in the freezer for later use, but filled several yesterday.

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Chocolate dipped eclairs.

I have to say that this is a great recipe. Not only are these delicious, but they are really super easy. My pastries turned out light, airy, and slightly crispy on the outside. The pastry itself was barely sweetened and each pastry had a perfect cavity inside for filling. The vanilla pudding was a super easy filling option, and the chocolate set up into a slightly crispy shell. This one is a keeper. For a different option, you could make ice cream sandwiches with cream puffs, splitting them in half. Or, you could make Alton’s savory Pâte à Choux, filling split puffs with a savory salad.

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A cream puff, cut in half.

Funnel Cake

So, what else can you do with Pâte à Choux? Well, you always opt for funnel cake! To make this classic carnival/fair favorite, heat ~1 inch of vegetable oil to 375 degrees.

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Oil, heating to 375 degrees.

Using a #12 piping tip, pipe Pâte à Choux into the hot oil in a circular pattern. Cook the pastry until it is golden brown, flip it over, and cook until the second side is golden.

Remove the pastries to a rack over a sheet pan and dust them liberally with powdered sugar.

My funnel “cakes” turned out more like funnel “straws,” but they were still quite delicious.IMG_6018 I found that the pastry was too thick for the #12 tip, though I had set my dough aside for a while. Still, my pastries were like eating little fried pillows with powdered sugar. These were definitely tasty, though not as pretty as they should be.

Comments
  1. truthspew says:

    Wow that all looks awesome!

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