Cream puff dough or pâte à choux paste is one of those coolest preparations and I wonder why I don’t use it more often. The list of ingredients and the process are simple and universal enough that they can be made into choux-based wonders in many forms: cream puffs, éclairs, profiteroles or doughnuts. Flavored with cheese, you’d end up with a savory treat of gougères served in many bistros in Paris. Those are my favorite bites.
Whatever the end products, the dough/batter roughly adheres to a ratio of two-part water, one-part butter, one-part flour and two-part egg (plus salt for flavor) by weight. Should you be stuck without a scale, the alternative ratio of using one cup of water, 1/2 cup of butter, one cup of flour and one cup of eggs also works. Combining water, butter and flour with heat on the stovetop until the starch gelatinizes, the mixture quickly becomes stiff and dough-like. Eggs are beaten in gradually until the dough thins out and forms something more like a batter. A mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment) is preferred in beating the eggs into the dough for a better rise.
|Eggplant or eclair?
Pâte à choux is so well behaved; it reminds me of the freshly baked cream puffs that were my rewards for studying long hours and making the grades as a child. Where did dad go and buy these puffy goodies at the end of the day, beyond everyone’s bedtime, when I finally finished studying and the midnight snacks magically appeared?
I used King Arthur Flour’s (KAF) whole grain cream puff pastry recipe
as the base for the chocolate éclairs. ABC bakers
are enlisted to make chocolate eclairs
for the month of December. This will be the last recipe from KAF before ABC starts baking from recipes in “Scientifically Sweet.”
I’d miss the many glorious trusty recipes and helpful support hotline that are the hallmarks of this venerable privately-held enterprise from Vermont. I remain a big fan!
The KAF whole grain cream puff pastry, using a combination of roughly 50/50 whole-wheat pastry flour and bread flour, is unsweetened, making it ideal for both sweet and savory applications. I baked half of the recipe. Since pâte à choux is well suited to whole-grain flours, next time I’ll go 100% whole grain. In addition, there are more cracks on the eclairs than I’d prefer, maybe I would lower initial oven temperature to 400°F and add some steam in small measure next round.
For the chocolate ganache, I skipped the corn syrup outlined in the KAF recipe and kept it simple (and less sweet) by following the classic ratio of equal portion in weight of bittersweet chocolate and cream. It always works. The key is in choosing a good brand of chocolate such as Scharffen Berger or Valrhona.
Here comes the sweet filling: pistachio pastry cream made from pistachio milk in the test kitchen. I used a Bismarck tip to fill the eclairs. The recipe came from Tartine Book No. 3. This refreshing pastry cream alone is well worth the price of the book. While almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, kafir cream and the like are gaining foothold on supermarket shelves, there are no reasons for not using these nut- or plant-based milks more often. It appears that this would be an exciting area to explore healthful substitutes to animal-based milk.
“Good grades from the doctor, dad, no need for cream puffs!”