Cream Puffs – pâte à choux (pate a choux)

Posted on January 11, 2013

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Cream Puff Tower

Another classic, basic pastry, pâte à choux, can be used to make all sorts of awesome things fairly quickly.  From cream puffs, to eclairs, to savory gougères, it’s a good trick to have up your sleeve.

The Alton Brown episode where he makes pate a choux is awesome, by the way, like most things he does.

1.0 pâte à choux

Ingredients:
  • 1 12 cups       ________________ water
  • 170 grams ________________ butter (34 Cup ~12 TBSP)
  • 1   tsp ________________ salt
  • 1   TBSP ________________ sugar
  • 188 grams ________________ all purpose flour (1 12 Cups)
  • 1   tsp ________________ vanilla extract
  • 5  __________________ eggs
Egg Wash:
  • 1     ________________ egg (for egg wash)
  • 1   TBSP ________________ milk (for egg wash)
Random tools:
  • Wooden spoon
  • Piping bag and large round tip
  • Pastry brush
Instructions:
  • Turn the oven on, to 400°F
  • Prep two or 3 sheet pans, covering with parchment paper.
  • In a medium/large sauce pan, melt the butter
  • Add in the water, the sugar, and the salt.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Add the vanilla.
  • Remove from heat and dump in the flour all at once.
  • Stir vigorously, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. (wooden spoon recommended)
  • Return the pan to moderate heat, and stir for 2 minutes.
  • A film will start to form on the bottom – this is ok – the dough will start to dry out – this is good.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time.
  • Stir them in vigorously – yes it is hard work.
  • The dough will look disastrously separated when you first add the egg, it will come back together, when it does, add the next egg.
  • After the 5th egg, the dough should fall in nice ribbons and be glossy.
  • Setup the pastry bag
  • Fill the pastry bag (not all of the dough will fit, you will need to refill it).
  • Pipe small balls of dough, about 2 inches apart on the prepared sheet pans.
  • Whisk together the egg and milk, and dip your finger in it, use your finger to pat down the little tails on the top.
  • Brush with the egg wash.
  • Put one sheet at a time in the oven. (The other sheets can just hang out and wait)
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes
  • As soon as they come out of the oven, use a fondu fork or paring knife to poke a hole to let the steam out.  Otherwise they will get soggy.
Pate a Choux - Pre eggs

Pate a Choux – Pre eggs

Pate a Choux - egg just added

Pate a Choux – egg just added

Now you need to fill them with something (or not…up to you).

2.0 Pastry Cream

Ingredients:
  • 1 12 cups   ________________ milk (any kind)
  • 1  ________________ vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
  • 4 ________________ egg yolks
  • 12 cups ________________ sugar
  • 2 TBSP ________________ cornstarch
  • For the Caramel Topping
  • 12 cups ________________ sugar
Random tools:
  • Piping bag with a small pointy tip (like the one meant for making leaves)
Instructions:
  • Bring the milk to a simmer, with the vanilla bean and the seeds.
  • Turn off the heat and let it steep for a few minutes.
  • In a stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar.
  • Add the cornstarch in.
  • Beat till it’s nice a ribbony.
  • Slowly add in the hot milk mixture to temper the egg.
  • Take the mixture and put it back into the sauce pan (optionally, you can strain it at this point.)
  • Over medium heat, cook the mixture till it starts to set up, then off the heat.
  • Strain into another clean bowl, and let it cool before putting it in a piping bag.
  • Fill the cream puffs, trying for the spot you poked to let the steam out.
  • Caramel
  • After all the cream puffs are filled, you make caramel to put on top.
  • Get a clean sauce pan – short sides and wide is better.
  • Place the pan over high heat, and sprinkle in just enough sugar to cover the bottom.
  • When the sugar starts to liquefy, add a little bit in.
  • Using a heat safe spatula, very very gently move the sugar around so it melts evenly, but doesn’t crystallize.
  • Don’t worry if it starts to be caramel colored – just add more unmelted sugar, slowly and carefully.
  • Once the sugar is all added, turn the heat off, but leave it on the hot burner.
  • Quickly and carefully dip the cream puffs in the caramel
  • I set them top down on silpats, but you can sit them right side up, just watch out for dripping caramel.
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