March 11, 2009

Pâte à Choux: Cream Puff Pastry

Oh, if only these tasted as good as they looked! I felt like I was chewing on paper, but I think the addition of sugar to the mixture would've definitely improved the taste. It was magical watching them puff up in the oven though.

Pâte à Choux
from Paula Peck's The Art of Fine Baking
makes approximately 90 small puffs or 25 medium sized puffs

1/2 cup butter
1 cup water
1 cup sifted flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 425ºF.

Bring water to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Drop in the butter, and once it is melted, turn heat down to very low. Add flour and salt all at once and stir vigorously until a ball forms in the center of the pan, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add 3 eggs one by one, beating hard after each addition until completely mixed in. The last egg should be lightly beaten and added gradually. The paste must be just stiff enough to stand in a peak when a spoon is withdrawn; therefore, you need to add slightly more or less than 4 eggs depending on the dryness of the flour and the size of the eggs.

Pipe or drop the pâte à choux by spoonfuls onto a lightly greased pan. Bake at 425ºF until golden brown all over, about 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 325ºF until done, about 30-40 minutes. Turn off the oven, remove the pan, and using the tip of a knife, poke each of the puffs in the side to release steam. Return the pan to the oven for about 10 minutes, then remove and let puffs cool on wire rack.

Fill with pastry cream if you like.

Pastry Cream
slightly modified from Paula Peck's The Art of Fine Baking

2 tablespoons flour
1 cup light cream or milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine flour and 1/4 cup cream/milk in a small saucepan. Stir until smooth and no lumps remain. Gradually add the remaining cream/milk, whisking continually. Stir in salt and sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring until mixture thickens considerably.

Stir a spoonful of the cream mixture into the egg yolks, and gradually add about 1/2 cup more, whisking the entire time. This tempers the egg yolks and ensures no scrambled egg bits. Pour the egg yolks into the saucepan, mix, and heat on low for a few minutes to thicken. Be careful not to let it boil. Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Cool as quickly as possible.

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