Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Choux Pastry that Floats

Elegant little swans
Since I was a kid I remember enjoying the delicate and light choux pastry. It came in different shapes and different flavors, the house favorite were always éclairs and choux.

Choux is a small cabbage-shaped pastry filled with pastry cream dusted on top with icing sugar. I just loved how the sugar would fly of the pastry as your edges ever so closely to this delicacy and you open your mouth to take a bite or just to throw the whole piece inside!  These are sweet moments that you always cherish!

I don´t remember exactly when I first saw the swan shaped choux pastry, but I remembered that I just loved the idea, perfect shape for a perfect taste.

Choux pastry is a true classic, it has withstood the test of time due its versatility, its lightness and delicate crisp exterior. It was already in use some five centuries ago. It´s not exactly known who invented this recipe. Some speculate that the relatively simple ingredients and preparation process this recipe requires makes it possible that it was developed in various places separately. 

Legend says that when Catherine de Medicis moved to France, she was accompanied with her a chef called Pantanelli, and that he was the creator of this delicacy in 1540. But many recipes were found under the same name but had different ingredients and made in different ways. On the other hand similar recipes were found but under different names like benets (in English cook books dating back to 1584), french fritters or beignets soufflés. Also similar recipes were found in German cook books dating back to 1553!

Anyhow, it doesn´t matter where, who or when this recipes was created, what really matters that now we can enjoy it in different shapes, different flavors and at any time. Just few easy steps and we have such a versatile pastry that can be filled with sweet and savory fillings.

Here in Spain, this dough is used to make  buñeoles del viento, specially made on the 1st of November which are ball shaped and deep fried pastries filled with many different types of creams, chocolate and  praliné among others.

So let's see how you can make at home this pastry and get creative with the shapes you want to make.

For the choux dough you need:
  • 125 cl water or 125 cl  milk, or a mix of both 
  • 3 g salt
  • 3 g sugar
  • 75 g flour
  • 100 g butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2 eggs (125 g )
  • Lemon zest or few drops of vanilla essence
The dough is not complicated but requires a certain know-how
How to:
In a heavy bottom pan, combine milk, water, salt, sugar, butter and lemon zest or vanilla. Put on the flame and when the mixture is boiling add the flour in one batch and stir quickly. With a wooden spoon cut through the dough, this way it will dry perfectly, you need to mix and cut the dough for about 4 minutes. 
When the mixture doesn´t stick to the walls of your pan, and makes a ball, transfer it to a bowl and leave it to cool for 3 min. Now Start adding the eggs one by one, make sure that each egg is well combined before you add the next. The dough is ready when it falls slowly forming a ribbon.

Thick but fluid dough that forms ribbons

If you decide to make the swans, start by piping the heads, make some extra ones if any breaks, and bake them in a preheated oven (200 C) for about 5 min, as they are thin they will be done quickly.
It is a flexible dough, so be creative

Meanwhile pipe the body of the swans in large balls that taper and become pointy at one end. You need to bake those for about 20 to 30 min depending on your over and how big the choux  balls are. Usually when the choux is of a nice golden brown color it means they are done. Don't be tempted to open the oven before they have this nice color because the choux will flatten and no longer puff. 
The main body of the swans
While the swans are cooling, you can prepare the filling, I went for an easy one, whipped cream with cream cheese and maple syrup, for it you need:
  • 250 ml cream (35%)
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 or 2 tbsp of maple syrup (to taste)
  • 20 g of sugar 
Beat the cream with the sugar until thick and fluffy, Beat the cream cheese in another ball with the maple syrup than fold it in with the cream. Before beating my cream, I put the bowl and the whisks in the freezer, this helps the cream to thicken quickly and hold its shape.

Now you can assemble your swans!

Cut the ball that will form the main body of the swan. Make the upper layer smaller than the bottom one. Now slit the upper layer in two, these parts will form the wings of the swan which will be positioned on top. 

Fill the bottom layer with cream, put the top layer on top making sure you fan the two parts a bit to make them resemble wings in a resting position.  
Swan assembly line

You can vary the shape and size of your swans to your liking
When you have them ready, you can dust some icing sugar on the top.

Following some few steps and knowing some few tricks you will get and very tasty and light dessert, that can be served in many ways, floating swans is one of them. Bon appetit!

 Swans made from choux pastry, a floating delicacy

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