Two Pastry Cooks
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that little unexpected pleasant surprise.


Pâte à Choux...a touch of magic!



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"You may feel that you have eaten too much... But this pastry is
like feathers - it is like snow. It is in fact good for you, a digestive!"
~ M. F. K. Fisher

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La Patisserie Gloppe, Champs Elysees, Paris, 1889
La Patisserie gloppe, Champs Elysees, Paris, 1889
Jean Béraud
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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!
Sweet or savory?  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. Two cases in point:

Camilla’s Gougère
(say goo-JHER)

Camilla is a wonderful friend and former chef whose path I crossed out
there in cyberspace. Like all chefs, she is crazy. (No hate mail, please,
everyone is allowed to have an opinion, okay?) But not to worry, she
knows her stuff! This is one of her treasured recipes, and I am deeply
grateful for her generosity in sharing it with me - and, of course, with
all of you as well. Enjoy!

2 cups milk
8 ounces sweet [unsalted] butter
2 teaspoons salt
Dash cayenne
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
8 ounces flour (about 2 to 2 1/2 cups)
8 whole eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound Gruyère cheese, grated
(that's correct, ONE POUND)

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, butter, salt and spices to a simmer.
Add the flour all at once, stirring like mad and cooking over low heat until
the dough pulls away from the sides and bottom of the pan. Dump dough
into mixer bowl. With mixer running, add one egg at a time, allowing each
egg to become fully incorporated before adding the next. Once all the eggs
are added, add the Gruyere and mix in completely...  Yes, ALL THAT CHEESE. No joke. You'll have a very thick, sticky batter. For cocktail
size, drop by tablespoons (heaped) or use the smallest available scoop
onto baking sheets lined with parchment. Sprinkle with Parmesan and
bake at 325 degrees F. for about 12 to 15 minutes until they are puffed
and gorgeously golden brown and your house positively reeks of cheese!
You can use a 1/2 cup measure for about 25 individual-size gougère,
increase baking time by about 10 minutes to make sure they're cooked
through. If you make the larger size, try them split and filled with a
very finely chopped ham salad...yum! Otherwise, the cocktail size
makes about 120 pieces, don't worry, they'll all get eaten.

A slight variation on the same theme, but fried rather than baked:
Gouda Shrimp Puffs

During the course of my recipe research, I found that I was becoming quite
bogged down until I opened the incomparable, indispensable Baking with
.  But of course! As fate would have it, the contributing chef is none
other Norman Love (former Corporate Pastry Chef, Ritz-Carlton Hotels),
dear friend and long-time associate of my older son, Chef Keegan.  Chef
Love and Keegan continue to be involved in all manner of pastry events,
including the World Pastry Team Championship and Food Network’s
Challenge series
. These days Norman's artistry is made visible in the
form of finely hand-crafted chocolates. Do pay him a visit!
And now, from Julia Child and Pastry Chef Extraordinaire Norman Love,
La Belle Cuisine proudly presents...

Choux Paste

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


Makes enough dough for about 60 small puffs or éclairs.

“Like soufflés, popovers, and pita breads, choux paste is one of the miracles of the kitchen. You spoon an ordinary-looking batter onto a baking sheet and minutes
later you’ve got a puffed pastry that appears to be threatening flight. This is the
stuff of cream puffs, éclairs, profiteroles and dreams.
Choux paste (choux sounds like “shoe” and means “cabbage” in French) has been around since the sixteenth century and is a must-know dough and a classic among pâtissiers of note. It is a wonderful dough, which would be used more often today
if caterers hadn’t made pâte a choux swans a cliché.
The dough is unusual in that it is twice-cooked: The mixture is mixed and heated
on the stove top and then baked. And it is versatile, as much at home nestling savory
mixtures as sweet ones. The ideal choux pastry has a light, very tender crust and an almost completely hollow interior, made for filling with anything from ice cream to
a rich seafood stew…”

Pointers for Puffs

  • The liquid must be heated to a full boil, meaning there are bubbles all over
    the pot, not just skirting the edges.

  • Add the flour all at once and stir madly until every last speck of flour is incorporated, then keep cooking and stirring some more – it’s this last bit
    of cooking that will take the raw taste out of the flour; you’ll know you’re
    ready to quit when the dough forms a ball around your wooden spoon and
    the bottom of  the pan is covered with a slight crust.

  • Don’t hesitate – add the eggs to the dough as soon as it comes off the
    stove and is still very hot.

  • Beat the eggs in thoroughly with a wooden spoon, spatula, or the paddle attachment of a mixer; don’t use a whisk – it will beat in unwanted air.

  • Stop mixing when you still have one egg left to add and inspect the dough. Depending on the condition of the flour, the room, or the moods of the
    pastry gods, the dough may or may not need the last egg. The dough is
    finished when you lift the paddle or spoon and it pulls up some dough that
    then detaches and forms a slowly bending peak – if you don’t get a peak,
    add another egg. And relax – even if you can’t decide what to do, and use
    the maximum number of eggs, you’ll still end up with a superior puff.

  • Use the choux paste while it is still warm. Choux paste cannot be kept.

  • Unfilled baked pastries can be well wrapped and frozen for a few weeks.

This recipe produces a pastry with finesse. The crust of the choux is
delicate – not in the least tough, a problem with lesser recipes – and the
interior is soft, eggy, and almost custardy – in other words, perfect.

1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 7 pieces
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
5 to 6 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon cold water, for egg wash

Put the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt into a 2-quart saucepan and
bring to a full boil over medium heat, stirring frequently with a wooden
spoon. At this point, the butter should be fully melted. Still stirring, add
the flour all at once, and stir energetically and without stop until the flour
is thoroughly incorporated. 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.
Remove the pan from the heat and 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
egg 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 the eggs in with a mixer –
hand-held, or standing with the paddle attachment – just keep the
speed low and take care not to beat too much air into the dough.)
After you’ve incorporated 5 eggs, take a good look at the mixture – it
might not need the last egg. You’ll know the dough is perfect when,
as you lift the wooden spoon, the spoon pulls up some of the dough
that then detaches and forms a slowly bending peak. If the dough’s
too thick and doesn’t peak, add the last egg.
The dough is now ready to be used in any recipe calling for choux paste.
In fact, it must be used now, while it is still warm.

(for Profiteroles)

(Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to
400 degrees F. prior to making the choux paste.)

Piping the Choux Paste:  To make the profiteroles, you must use the pâte
à choux while it is still warm. Spoon the choux paste into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip and pipe quarter-sized puffs onto parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between puffs. Finish piping each puff 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 wind up with tails – you can poke them down and adjust small imperfections with a moistened fingertip.)
Brush each of the pastries with a little egg wash.
Baking the Puffs:
  Bake for 20 minutes, lower the temperature to 350 degrees F. and bake 5 to 7 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 to cool to room temperature before
cutting and filling.

Pastry Cream

1 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Butter, for glossing

Put the milk in a medium saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise,
scrape the soft, pulpy seeds into the saucepan, and toss in the pod. (If
you’re using vanilla extract, don’t add it yet.) Put the saucepan over
medium heat and bring to the boil.
While the milk is heating, whisk together the yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until blended. Add the cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
When the milk is at a full boil, remove the vanilla pod and pour half of
the boiling milk in a slow, steady stream, taking care to whisk without
stopping. Pour the yolk mixture back into the saucepan with the boiling
milk and whisk vigorously, again without stop, until bubbling and thick-
ened, about 1 minute. When the cream is thick, turn it into a clean bowl
(now’s the time to add the vanilla extract if you’re using it). Rub the top
of the cream with the end of a stick of butter (this glossing will prevent
the cream from forming a skin), and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Refrigerate the pastry cream until it is thoroughly chilled. It can be
refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Assembling the Profiteroles:  To serve, cut each puff in half crosswise
and fill with Pastry Cream [or the filling of your choice]. Serve a generous three to a person, arranging the profiteroles on dessert plates and drizzling some warm chocolate sauce over each puff.

More pâte à choux!

Featured Archive Recipes:
Chocolate Grand Marnier Éclairs
Chocolate Cream Puffs with Spun Sugar
Gigi's Profiteroles au Chocolat

More Lagniappe Recipes!
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