Last week was all about Choux (pronounced “shoe”) Pastry. You’re probably most familiar with the light and airy dough of eclairs. This is choux! Choux dough has a high water content, so when the dough is baked, the steam creates volume in the dough and produces a hollow center and light shell. This provides a perfect opportunity to pipe any number of wonderful creams and mousses into the middle of these pastries. Choux is also unique in that is one of the only pastries that is cooked twice… once on the stove during mixing and again in the oven during baking. Alright, enough of the sciencey stuff.. Here is the basic recipe for Choux dough (Pate a Choux):
Pate a Choux:
1. In a saucepan on low heat, slowly bring water, butter and salt to a boil.
2. Remove from heat temporarily to add flour and mix with a plastic spoon to incorporate. Continue to mix on low heat to allow excess water to evaporate as steam.
3. When dough stops sticking to spoon, remove dough from heat and add the eggs little by little and quickly slice the dough with your plastic spoon to incorporate eggs.
4. When batter is slightly runny put in a piping bag with a circular tip (size 8 or 10). This dough can be piped onto a greased tray or parchment paper to whatever size or shape you like (balls, rods, doughnuts, etc.) although the smaller you make them, the smaller your hollow center will be.
5. To give your choux a glossy finish, the batter can be brushed with a slightly beaten egg and then scored with a fork (similar to that of a peanut butter cookie). This scoring will ensure an evenly round choux.
6. Bake at roughly 180ºC for 20 minutes (oven temperatures and times will vary based on your oven).
** This is a good article with pictures if your want to double check your consistency: http://timetocookonline.com/2012/01/22/choux-pastry/ **
When you have baked your choux, you can fill it with any number of pastry cremes but remember the “wetter” the cream, the less time you have before your choux will go soggy. The most basic would be the classic Chantilly (whipped cream):
Creme Chantilly (whipped Cream)
300g 35% cream
30g icing sugar
1. Whip cream and vanilla on medium-high speed until cream reaches its maximum volume (medium peaks).
2. Add the sifted icing sugar to the cream in 3 equal parts: at the beginning, middle, and end of mixing.
Another classic filling frequently seen in French Patisseries is Pastry Cream (Creme Patissiere):
60g egg yolks
40g custard powder
1. Bring milk, some of the sugar, and vanilla, to a rolling boil on low heat.
2. In the meantime, whisk together sugar and eggs, and then incorporate custard power and whisk consistently.
3. When milk has come to a boil, pour some into the egg mixture and continue to whisk to mix thoroughly before pouring all of egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk.
4. Whisk quickly as this final mixture will quickly go from a liquid to a thick custard. Once it reaches a thick consistency, remove from heat, and pour onto saran wrap. Wrap the cream and refrigerate to cool it down.
**French Secret: This vanilla pastry cream is usually the base of most pastry creams you’ve tried. It can be used on its own or added to a number of other cream recipes to add to their thickness and sweetness! Experiment with your favourite flavours by changing the flavour of the milk or folding in a whipped cream at the end or adding an extract to the cream to give it a certain flavour. Try to avoid adding chunks of things like pistachio or almond slices or shredded coconut if you want to pipe though.**
In class we made basic vanilla eclairs that were 14 cm long, filled with the classical pastry cream, and topped with a vanilla fondant. To fill the eclair, punch a few small holes (well-spaced) in the bottom of the choux pastry and use a piping bag to pipe the pastry cream in. You will be able to feel the resistance of the cream when the choux pastry is full. Fondant is the frosting that often coats the top of the choux. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the fondant because its messy, difficult to make properly and tastes way too sweet for the pastry. I would prefer to dip the eclair into a tempered chocolate or top it with a chocolate wafer.
Another amazing filling we made was a Salted Caramel Mousse (Creme mousseline au caramel sale). This recipe is a little more complicated than the classic pastry cream but its the same concept and it was one of my favourite creams!
Creme mousseline au caramel sale:
60g 35% cream
21g custard powder
3g sea salt
1. Melt the 60g sugar in a small saucepan on low heat until it becomes caramel (darker colour = more bitter and less sweet).
2. Add milk and some of 30g sugar in large saucepan on low heat.
3. Warm cream in microwave, add sea salt to it and add this salty cream to caramel off the heat.
4. Put caramel and cream back on low heat to boil.
5. Add part of warmed milk to caramel, mix, and then strain caramel mixture back into the large milk saucepan and bring to a boil.
6. Combine eggs, rest of sugar and custard powder in a bowl and whisk.
7. Add some caramel milk to the eggs, while whisking and then add back to milk saucepan.
8. Once it has reached a thick creamy consistancy, refrigerate until cool.
9. Once cool, whip/whisk caramel cream until smooth and add in butter (room temperature) at a high speed. Sometimes the butter may separate to create a lumpy look but you just need to torch or heat the mixing boal slightly to reincorporate the butter. This is mousseline!
Every week in the lab we rotate through certain duties to make sure everything runs smoothly, that we have all the materials and ingredients we need for the next day, and to make sure nothing goes missing. Last week my job was Sous chef which means I was the chef’s right hand man! It was such a fun and challenging job! Basically you have to make sure everyone stays on track, on time, and make sure all the jobs are done properly. You also prepare demos and recipes for the head chef. It was a lot of running around but it was a great experience! It helps a lot too that we have an amazing head chef! We are always laughing and joking around but are still able to work hard and at a fast pace. Our group works really well as a team and are always helping each other out when we can. The morning just flies by and before you know it, we’ve made a few beauty pastries.
Last weekend, Tanya, Elyse, Vlad and I took a little road trip down to Aix-en-Provence and the infamous Lavender fields of southern France. Its about a 5 hour drive south of us so we left early Saturday morning and made it to Aix just in time for lunch. We had an apartment booked that was right next to the morning market so we had a little picnic lunch with fresh baguettes, avocado, goat cheese, chili and pepper pesto, with strawberries, flat peaches, and soft pistachio nougat for dessert. I love going to the markets for all the fresh produce, its something I’ll miss a lot when I get back to Canada. In the afternoon, we did a little shopping, stopped in at almost every pastry shop to examine their pieces. 3 weeks of pastry school has turned me into a bit of a critic and pastry snob. We split a few amazing pastries from a MOF pastry shop (a MOF is a pastry chef of the highest qualification in France). For dinner we went for sushi. Sushi may not be french cuisine but it was absolutely delicious! It had been a pretty long day and we all fell asleep watching the first Harry Potter movie.
In France, cities shut down on Sundays… nothing is open and the streets feel like its a ghost town. Knowing this, we planned to head to the Lavender fields an hour west of Aix-en-provence in Valensole. It was really neat to see rows upon rows of fresh lavender with their subtle scent lingering in the air. Sunflower fields also line the highways so it is quite beautiful to drive through the french countryside.
I’ve been eating so much puff pastry and chocolate this week! Can’t wait to share all our new amazing creations!