The Main Menu: Choux pastry is a must for upcoming Easter events

Choux pastry is used to make a number of treats including profiteroles.

By JAN MAIN

Choux pastry is one crazy dough! It is different from our familiar pastry. This unique dough produces steam as it cooks in a hot oven and puffs into a ball leaving a cavity for either a savory or sweet filling.

The sweet filling is usually sweetened whipped cream or custard. Thus, it automatically becomes a cream puff or, when cigar shaped, filled with whipped cream and coated in rich chocolate becomes the delectable éclair. Small versions are called profiteroles while a pyramid of custard filled profiteroles coated in caramel are called croquembouche.

If we add Swiss and Parmesan cheese to the choux pastry we can make a savoury version of profiterole called bouchées which can be served warm or filled with a savoury filling such as curried chicken. Both are delicious appetizers.

Finally, if shredded Parmesan and Swiss cheese are added to the dough and it is shaped in a circle to produce a cheese and herb wreath, this savoury is called gougère, a very delicious bread just right for April celebrations.

Choux pastry, pâte aux choux, or cream puff pastry is made differently than any other dough. Water and butter are boiled together until the butter melts. Then all-purpose flour (all-purpose flour must be used in order for it to rise) is beaten either with an electric hand mixer or by beating vigorously with a wooden spoon.

The dough should pull away from the sides of the saucepan and thicken. While still warm, four eggs are added in one at a time, beating vigorously after the addition of each one to produce a thick, glossy dough which stands in peaks. At this point, the dough can be shaped into any one of the shapes above, or refrigerated overnight then shaped and baked to produce profiteroles, bouchées, cream puffs or gougère when needed.

Once in the hot oven, steam is produced and this dough rises miraculously into any one of the shapes described. As you can see choux pastry is versatile and is easy to produce too, once you understand the method.

It’s also the perfect ‘eggy’ concoction for Easter, sweet and/or savoury, whatever you choose.

Follow these guidelines for success!

Choux Pastry

Once you master the simple technique of making this “crazy” dough, you are on your way to such fancies as profiteroles (whipped cream or custard filled) balls, bouchées (savoury balls you can serve warm as is or with a filling such as chicken curry), cream puffs (larger balls baked and filled with whipped cream or custard) or the gougère; a wreath shaped cheese bread.

1 cup (250 mL) water
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour (you must use all-purpose flour)
4 large eggs
1/4 tsp (1 mL) salt

In a medium size saucepan over medium-high heat, combine water and butter. Bring to a boil.

Once butter has melted, remove from heat. Immediately, using an electric mixer, beat in flour and salt until thick and well combined. (You can do this by hand but it has to be done vigorously.) Continue beating until dough pulls away from the side of the pan. Add in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition to produce a smooth, glossy dough that stands in peaks.

If time is tight, you can cover this and refrigerate until the next day to use or bake immediately.

Preheat oven to 375F (190 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

For bouchées or profiteroles: Spoon 1 tablespoon of mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Shape into a round mound leaving 1 ½ (3.7 cm) space between each pastry mound. Bake for about 20 -25 minutes until golden brown and firm to touch. Turn the oven off and let stand for about 5 minutes then place on a rack to cool.

Meanwhile make fillings, prepare whipped cream for the profiterole or savoury for the bouchée. Once cool; slice horizontally almost through the profiterole; fill with sweetened whipped cream and if you wish, dip the top into melted chocolate.

For bouchées, spoon desired savoury filling, such as curried chicken, into the cavity. Makes about 24.

For cream puffs, sweet or savoury – Arrange 2 tbsp (25 mL) dough in a circular mound on a pan, leaving 1 ½ inch (3.7 cm) between each pastry. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and firm to touch. Turn the oven off and let stand for about 5-10 minutes in the cooling oven. Then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare whipped cream to fill the cream puff and add icing sugar to a sieve to shake over the cream puff. Once cool, slice cream puff horizontally and spoon whipped cream into cream puff. Sieve icing sugar over puff or you can drizzle melted chocolate over puff. Makes about 12.

For Éclairs- Arrange 3 tbsp (45 mL) dough in a cigar shape on parchment paper, leaving 1 ½ “/ 3.7 cm) space between each. Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and firm to touch. Turn the oven off; let eclairs stand in the oven for 5 minutes then remove and cool on a rack. Meanwhile, prepare whipped cream to fill the cooled cavity and dip the top exterior into melted chocolate. Makes about 9 eclairs

For Gougères – savoury cheese bread made from choux pastry. Stir 1 cup (250 mL) grated Swiss cheese and ¼ cup (50 mL) grated Parmesan cheese into full choux pastry dough; draw a 9- inch (23 cm) circle on the parchment paper and place about 2 tbsp (25 mL) dough in adjoining mounds on the drawn line to form a wreath shape.

Bake in the oven or refrigerate dough overnight to bake fresh and serve hot the next day – ideal for Easter Brunch! Makes 6-8 servings.


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