02 January 2012

Food (Mini) Lab 13: Choux Pastry

Pate a Choux has a reputation for being...difficult. Like a beautiful but high maintenance woman, before approaching it, you tend to ask yourself, "Is this really worth it?"

To that, I say: "Hot from the oven gougeres? Not worth it? Are you CRAZY?"

Also, here's a secret: choux pastry isn't that hard.


Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Take 4 eggs out of the fridge (they need to come to room temperature).

Boil 1 c. of liquid (all milk, milk and water, or milk and stock for savory applications) with 1/4 lb. of butter (cut up) and about 1/2 tsp. of salt over medium heat.

While still over the heat, stir in 1 c. of flour. It's going to look, as Chef Spouse pointed out, like a bechamel sauce gone wrong. Don't worry - keep stirring! Eventually, it will get kind of satiny looking. When that happens, turn off the heat.

Let the choux cool slightly.

Pop it into a bowl and start mixing in the eggs one at a time. Initially, the egg/dough mixture is going to look weird, and you'll be thinking that the dough is messed up and not going to come together. Don't worry - keep stirring! Once the first egg is incorporated, keep doing the same with the other three eggs. At the end, you'll once again have a lovely satiny dough.

Then you load up your pastry bag, pipe your choux onto a baking sheet, and pop it in the oven. 10 minutes at 400, then 20 minutes at 350, then flaky pastry goodness.

What should you pipe it like? Depends on what you're going to do with it - you can pipe it into 1-2 tsp mounds for savory or sweet fillings, rectangles for eclair applications, a ring for a pastry cake (see Julia Child's The Way to Cook for an example) - whatever you like.

What should you fill it with? The Mad Kitchen Scientist had pre-prepared mushroom duxelles and a Moroccan lamb thing for the New Year's Eve party. Of course, ice cream (for profiteroles) or cream (for cream puffs) are traditional sweet fillings. You can mix cheese into the dough before cooking for gougeres. We were speculating that you could make LARGE puffs as a basis for poached eggs. Really, the only limit is your palate/imagination.

So don't be scared - ask that pretty lady to have a drink. Appearances can be deceiving.

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