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Pâte à Choux (the French term for the type of pastry used to make cream puffs. profiteroles, and éclairs) has a versatility that is seldom recognized outside the professional kitchen. For the home cook it has the distinct advantage of being relatively easy to make, yet producing impressive results. Any kind of "puff"
you serve is sure to bring "oohs" and "ahs" from your guests and elicit rave
reviews  Could even get you a reputation!
Savory or sweet? Both. No doubt cream puffs and chocolate éclairs are more familiar to most of us, but there are some spectacular savory appetizers based
on a simple pâte à choux as well.  From Julia Child and Chef Norman Love:


Savory Puffs

Baking with Julia
By Dorie Greenspan, based on the PBS series hosted
by Julia Child, 1996, William Morrow and Co., Inc.

Makes about 5 dozen puffs and éclairs

“These savory puffs and éclairs are made with a pâte à choux base [see Pâte à Choux... a touch of magic! for choux paste basics and pointers], that has the
sharp, distinctive flavor of cucumber and red onion juices. (The juice is most
easily obtained using a juice extractor, but you could use a food processor and
press the purée through a strainer to extract the juice.) The éclairs are filled
with a mix of vegetables and mascarpone and the puffs with a sumptuous
smoked salmon mousse, both easily made and both just starting points – fill
these with any of your favorite fillings… These are wonderful as part of a
luncheon or cocktail party.”

The Puffs

1/2 cup cucumber juice (extracted from
1 peeled small cucumber)
1 1/2 tablespoons red onion juice
(extracted from 1/4 onion)
1/2 cup milk
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 to 6 large eggs
2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon
cold water, for egg wash

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven
to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Making the Choux Paste

Put the cucumber and onion juices, milk, butter, and salt into a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring frequently
with a spoon until the butter melts. Still stirring, add the flour all at once
and stir energetically and without stop until the flour is thoroughly incor- porated. Then continue to cook and stir for another 30 to 45 seconds,
or until the dough forms a ball and a light crust is visible on the bottom
of the pan. Scrape the paste into a medium bowl. Immediately, while
the dough is still hot, beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously
with a wooden spoon or spatula to incorporate each one before adding
the next. The first couple of eggs are the hardest to mix in, but as the
mixture loosens it softens, smoothes, and becomes easier to blend. (If
you want, you can beat in the eggs with a mixer – hand-held or standing
with the paddle attachment – just keep the speed low and take care not
to heat too much air into the dough.)
After you’ve incorporated 5 eggs, rake a good look at the mixture – it
might not need the remaining egg. You’ll know the dough is perfect when,
as you lift the spoon, it pulls up some of the dough that then detaches and
forms a slowly bending peak. If the dough is too thick and doesn’t yet
peak, add the last egg. Fold in the chopped dill.

Piping the Pastries

To make the puffs and éclairs, you must use the pâte a choux while it is warm. Spoon the choux paste into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain
tip and pipe out puffs on one baking sheet, making each puff about 2 inches across; finish piping each one with a quick twist, as if you were writing the letter C so that a tail or point isn’t formed. (Don’t worry if your puffs end
up with tails – you can poke them down and adjust small imperfections with
a moistened fingertip.) Pipe the second pan with éclairs, piping thin logs of
dough about 5 inches long.
Brush each of the pastries with a little egg wash and run the back of the
tines of a fork along the length of each éclair. (This will not only be
decorative, it will help the éclairs to puff during baking.)

Baking the Pastries

Brush the éclairs and puffs with egg wash again and bake at 400 degrees F
for 15 minutes; lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 10 to
15 minutes longer, or until the pastries are golden brown and feel hollow. Halfway through the baking period, rotate the baking sheets top to bottom
and front to back. Transfer the sheets to cooling racks and allow the puffs
and éclairs to cool to room temperature before cutting and filling. The
pastries can be wrapped airtight and frozen for a week or two. Bring to
room temperature and fill, or, if desired, warm for 5 minutes in a 350-
degree F oven before cutting and filling.

The Mousse

1/2 pound smoked salmon, cut into pieces
4 ounces cream cheese
1 teaspoon Pernod, or more to taste
Cracked black pepper to taste
Sprigs of fresh dill, for garnish

Put the smoked salmon and cream cheese into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until satiny, scraping
down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the Pernod and pepper and
pulse to blend. Taste the mousse and correct the seasonings if necessary.
The mousse can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

The Mascarpone-Vegetable Medley

1/4 cup finely diced carrot
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/4 cup finely diced summer squash
1/4 cup finely diced onion
1/4 cup finely diced peeled and seeded tomato
1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup finely diced peeled cucumber
1/4 cup finely diced mango
1/2 cup mascarpone, at room temperature
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Gently fold all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. This can
be made up to a day ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.

Filling the Pastries

Just before serving, spoon the salmon mousse into a pastry bag fitted with
a 1/2-inch plain tip. To pipe the mousse into the puffs, turn the puffs up-
side down, punch a small hole in the bottom of each puff, and squeeze
in the mousse. Finish with a small rosette of mousse on the top and
garnish with a sprig of fresh dill.
To fill the éclairs, use a sharp serrated knife to cut them open along one
long side, taking care not to cut all the way through. Working with one
éclair at a time, hold it between your thumb and index finger – this will
gently squeeze it open – and spoon vegetable-mascarpone filling into
the opening, being generous with the filling so that a little of it peaks
out when the éclair is closed.
Serve the pastries immediately. They’ll hold for a while on a buffet, but they’re at their best (and least soggy) when eaten as soon after filling as possible.

Storing - The components can be made ahead, but the finished pastries
are made for "à la minute" eating.

Pâte à Choux... a touch of magic!

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