Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pâte à choux - Finally :)

Éclairs certainly did meet my high expectations leading up to my first daring bakers challenge. I probably never would have attempted the recipe on my own, which is exactly the impetus I was hoping for when joining on. Generally éclairs do not take top billing on the list of desserts I would choose to eat. After completing the challenge, however, I can revise that to include only store-bought éclairs, because the home-made version was surprisingly fresh and ever so much tastier. For some time now, I’ve wanted to attempt pâte à choux to make a cream puff creation of some sort, but just never quite got around to it until now.

Olivia (5)

The challenge exposed major deficits in my kitchen equipment, though: I had to keep washing and coordinating the reuse the same heavy pot because I only have one suitable to the various tasks required of it. (Hopefully my fiancé will now understand why I’ve registered for several new pots and pans.) The challenge also revealed a bit of my baking personality: an appreciation/reliance on well-organized and aptly descriptive recipes.

Olivia (1) Olivia (2)

The recipe took several readings before and flipping back-and-forth during to appropriately cobble together all necessary components. A few things I just winged, which turned out to affect the end result. For instance, I was unsure of the exact dimension of piping the choux. Yes, 4 inches long but how thick? “Chubby fingers” was a relative term that left me guessing and so I varied the thickness, which altered the cooking time, which I probably underdid. While beautifully golden, puffed, and hard upon removal from the oven, my buns deflated with cooling. I suspect I undercooked them or perhaps had moisture issues during the cooling process.


The original Hermé recipe, with two elements of dark chocolate, was a bit decadent for my palate so I chose to alter the ingredients of the pastry cream. But I did not venture too far. Hoping for something more traditional in appearance, I substituted white chocolate for the semisweet. The result was excellent! I used Green and Blacks organic white chocolate, which lended a delicate vanilla flavor and a multitude of vanilla bean flecks to the pastry cream.

Olivia (3)

I would have liked a more professional appearance by piping/injecting the pastry cream directly inside the pastry shell in lieu of splitting into messy, uncontained sandwiched layers, but I was unsure of when it would be acceptable to pipe. Does the pastry shell have to cool or do you do it while it’s still hot? If you do it while it’s hot what does this do to the texture of the pastry cream? Being pressed for time I did not experiment or consult pertinent resources. Also, I had a bit of trouble controlling the application of the chocolate glaze. Should I have left the chocolate glaze to cool a bit to let it firm up? I applied it after removing directly from heat. The result was a bit runny for my preference, but thickened nicely once refrigerated. I know this because I am enjoying daily spoonfuls from the bountiful leftovers. While I was not completely satisfied with the presentation of the final product, the pastries certainly were delicious and a huge hit at my housewarming brunch.

Olivia (4)

- Olivia

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