Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Choux Pastry and Éclairs

On Saturday, Em and I spent the whole day making choux pastry and pastry cream to make éclairs for Ella's harvest brunch on Sunday. We had a few false starts, but eventually... success!

There were a few challenges — our pastry nozzle was small and we didn't really know how to pipe well, so our first batch was too skinny. We also opened the oven too soon and our puffs collapsed ... fffft! We weren't sure about the batter of our second batch, so we temporarily abandoned it to make a third batch, and this one led to some good ones that we could take to the brunch so the practice paid off :) We salvaged our second batch and made them into savouries by adding chopped chives and grated cheddar to the batter. Em spooned out big dollops onto the baking tray and they puffed up nicely and tasted fab.

Choux Pastry

Choux pastry was invented in 1540. About two hundred years later, someone advised to add eggs to the recipe. Fast forward to today, we now use a recipe perfected by someone named Antoine Carême.

Em and I used a scale to measure quantities.

125 g milk
125 g water
100 g butter
5 g salt
5 g sugar
163 g flour, sifted

Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Mix milk, water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Take it off the heat, and add the sifted flour to the batter (Em says a real chef will know if you use unsifted!). Mix quickly until the mixture falls away from the sides of the pan and starts to form a thick ball. At this point the batter is called a panade. Put it back on the stove on low and keep mixing it around as best you can to dry out the panade. Mix quickly and note the bottom of your pan should look sticky.

Put the panade into a mixing bowl and stir until it's at room temperature. Add 4 to 7 eggs (we added four, but it depends on how your panade turns out) one at a time from a separate bowl. Fold them into the panade until the batter drops off a big wooden spoon in a V-shape.

Pipe éclair shapes onto two cold non-stick baking sheets using a piping bag with a big circular nozzle. Use a fork dipped in egg wash to score them in the opposite direction to piping. This will allow the steam to pass through the batter and makes the éclairs glossy.

Put in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 380 F. Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until the tops are golden. Don't open the oven until they are golden on top, otherwise they will collapse!

You'll have to test your oven to find the best temperature and time combination. Em's oven worked best when we put them in at 325 degrees and left them for about 20 minutes.

Put them on a cooling rack. Poke two holes in the bottom where you will pipe in pastry cream. After piping in pastry cream, smear some chocolate spread on top of the surface with the holes and serve!

Pastry Cream

500 g milk
4 egg yolks
100 g sugar
50 g flour, sifted

Heat the milk and a little of the sugar. Whisk the rest of the sugar into the egg yolks until light yellow and silky looking. Add a bit of milk to the eggs and mix together. Add flour to the eggs. Add to milk and bring to a boil while stirring. When the mixture thickens, pour onto a tray and cool in the fridge with some cellophane on top.


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