Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cream Puffs

You know how sometimes, things just work out? That's what happened between me and choux pastry.

Choux pastry, or Pâte à Choux, is a little scary. It's got an identity crisis. You cook the dough first over the stove top, like polenta, but then you stir in some eggs and bake the whole thing in the oven. What you get, though, are beautiful crisp shells ready to be filled and dipped in all the Good Things of Pastry, like custard cream and chocolate and ice cream.

I got the recipe for choux pastry from Michael Ruhlman's Ratio. It's a very interesting read for the scientifically-inclined since it breaks down common batters, doughs, sauces, etc into their component ratios. For example, the ratio for choux pastry is, by weight, 
2 parts water : 1 part butter : 1 part flour : 2 parts egg

The dough comes together surprisingly quickly (I'll post the recipe below). It can be pipped into balls for cream puffs or logs for eclairs.

My pipping skills are somewhat limited. Don't look at the bottom row : )

After half an hour in the oven, you'll be greeted by some of the cutest things to ever come out of your kitchen. They're just so cherub-like in their cheery plumpness.

As for filling, I had a batch of pastry cream  from Paris Sweets on hand. It seemed a little heavy on its own so I lightened it with some whipped cream.

I created, like, The Most Delicious Thing Ever.

To be fair, I have a weakness for all things custard, but this was drop-dead sexy. It's like the custard filling in Beard Papa cream puffs, but with the richness and fragrance of real cream and vanilla beans. To make a good thing better, I made a matcha version.

It turns out the boyfriend avoids green tea-flavored stuff like the plague, so I had to eat all the matcha ones. I'm sure my waistline hated me for it.

The other good thing about homemade cream puffs, you get to fill it with as much good stuff as you want : )

Pâte à Choux
Adoped from Ratio

8 oz water
4 oz butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
4 oz flour
8 oz eggs (4 large)

Bring the water, butter, salt, and sugar to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to medium, add the flour, and stir rapidly. The flour will absorb the liquid and form a dough that pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cook the dough for 1-2 minutes more, then take off the heat. You want the dough to cool a bit before mixing in the eggs. I'm morbidly afraid of cooking the eggs too quickly, so I waited until the dough was warm. I also used a hand-held mixer to beat in the eggs, but traditionally it's done with a spoon. Beat in the eggs one at a time. The dough is done when it becomes smooth and silky.

Pipe the dough onto a baking pan, to golf ball sized portions. Bake at 425 F for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350F and bake for 10-20 minutes longer. I found that I needed the 20 minutes to cook the insides through.

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