Choux pastry or Pâte à Choux is used to make cream puffs, profiteroles (puffs stuffed with ice cream), eclairs, and gougères (savory puffs). The pastry is simple to make, uses little if any sugar and comes together quickly with flour and then eggs. It being Spring, I wanted to start my baking excursion with egg based creations combining cream puffs (and its variant eclairs – all with 4 whole eggs) with vanilla pastry cream (4 egg yolks), and chocolate pastry cream and puffs (ode to Easter!) and chocolate custard ice cream (6 egg yolks). I also wanted to try the savory version of cream puffs (called gougère).
All total, I used at least 2 and a half dozen eggs in 24 hours! Eggcellent!
Saturday (day 1) I made the vanilla pastry cream (Martha Stewart’s ‘No Fuss Pastry Cream’), and a chocolate version (I just added 2 Tablespoons of Cocoa Powder to the sugar/cornstarch). As well, I started the chocolate custard ice cream (Melissa Clark’s “The Only Ice Cream Recipe You will Ever Need” – the chocolate variation (with crème fraiche) – so that it could chill overnight.
In 2002, a dear friend of mine, Trish DePula (who has since passed away from cancer) gave me a Martha Stewart cookbook at a time when Martha Stewart Living was publishing her annual recipes (from 2002 – 2005) that had been in the magazine over the previous year. I have two of them – dates 2002 and 2003 – that I had not opened in at least 10 years. And they really are quite good. A lot of basic recipes, great photos, and organized seasonally. I found the gougère recipe in the 2002 volume – using Gruyere cheese, salt, pepper and a bit of nutmeg. Easy to make, and fantastic warm right out of the oven. Irv and I had to stop ourselves. They tasted great the next day stuffed with curried chicken salad. I can certainly see making these for a dinner party – they would go fast!
Sunday I realized I perhaps had taken on too much too fast. More puffs (chocolate) and then what I was kind of dreading – using a pastry bag – which is necessary for making eclairs. It also began to dawn on me that I was learning my first baking lesson - it is essential to get all your ingredients, pans, and other supplies together and ready to go before you even begin the baking process. In other words, don’t make the pastry before you lay out your pans with the parchment paper (and for me, penciling on circles so the puffs would be basically the same size, and drawing lines for the eclairs), have the oven turned on, cooling racks in place, mixer set up, and ingredients measured and all set to go (including the eggs cracked). It makes the process so much easier and minimizes mistakes. It also helps to be patient and read the instructions carefully. These seems obvious, but too many times when cooking I read the recipe too fast, don’t get my stuff together, then don’t realize how fast some things have to come together = disaster.
I am also pastry bag challenged. The videos I watch make it look simple, but this is something I need to work on. Normally, I can’t seem to get the pastry bag tip cut right and the stuff comes out the bottom on all sides of the tip, sometimes I overfill and the stuff comes out the top, and other times I can’t seem to get it to squeeze right. It just is awkward. I did okay on piping the eclairs, but filling them was another (messy) story. I admit Irv had to step in and take over as pastry cream was oozing outside of the tip. Not that getting pastry cream all over your hands is a bad thing, just sloppy. We got four eclairs filled successfully and declared victory! Hooray!
I don’t know how bakers do it – baking the same thing day in and day out – it is exhausting. We did not think we would get to the profiteroles, but I rallied late Sunday. I forced poor Irv to try one – the ice cream was delicious….
Thank goodness the treadmill has arrived. Only about 95 bakes left to go!
Cream Puffs – vanilla CHECK
Cream Puffs – chocolate CHECK
Pastry Cream (vanilla and chocolate) CHECK
Ice Cream – single flavor CHECK