Monday, May 31, 2010

Pate a choux

The May challenge with the Daring Bakers was the mighty croquembouche which was posted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake from Paris!
Personally, I think this is not a very pretty dessert unless you are Lenotre :) and the layers of caramel and sweet inside filling don't do much for me. But that's my personal opinion about the visuals of this dessert, one can't do much to make it look pretty. So as I mentioned in my previous post dated ages ago, (yes, laziness is overpowering!) Cat had outlined the recipe excellently and I followed it to the T.

A Croquembouche or rather it should be a Croquenmbouche is the classical ultimate french dessert served at weddings, communions and baptisms. It consists of 3 main components - the choux or profiteroles, the fillings for the choux and the glaze to coat which gives it the crunch and also serves as the sticking glue for the choux. Mounting the choux in the shape of a cone, is fun, but not nice if you are inept at a little bit of geometry, which of course from this post you can figure, I ain't!

The Pate a choux or Profiterole are usually very low in sugar, as its the fillings that give it the exact flavour. Savoury profiteroles are called gougères and they can be filled with purée or minces. The whole principle of

the choux pastry is that it has to be light, airy and not dense in any sense. This is achieved by cooking the dough in advance so that the texture then yields lightness and air pockets when it bakes.

 Here is Cat's recipe for the pâte à chou:

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter 
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

* Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
* Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and stir occasionally.  At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
* Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
* Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly. Test the temperature of the dough, it should not be higher than 60°C. Keep stirring till the temperature lowers.
* Add the eggs one by one. The batter will appear limp and clumpy, but don't worry you are on the right track. 
* As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
* It is at this point that you will add in the next egg.  Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.
* Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip).  Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets.  Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.
* Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping.  You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.
* Brush tops with egg wash.
* Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes. 

For the Challenge, I made:
 - Lavender Pâte à chou - add 5 grams of pulverised lavender to the flour. Pulverised simply means to make into a powder. I then reduced the quantity of flour to 120 grams instead of 125 grams.
- Cardamom Pâte à chou - add 3 teaspoons of cardamom powder to the flour mixture.
- Thyme Pâte à chou- add teaspoons of crushed thyme leaves to the flour mixture.

I leave you with some of the well puffed up profiteroles, towards the end I made them in the shape of roses :) Cool eh?

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