Sunday, September 2, 2012

Intimidating!


If you’ve read my previous blog entries, you'll know caramel was the bane of my existence for a while (I’m slowly starting to show it who’s boss...) However, there are other foods that I find extremely intimidating and I worry that if I attempt them, I will just be adding a new bane to my list.
Choux paste, and specifically profiteroles, were one of those foods. 

If you’ve ever seen how choux paste is made, you’d think it was a little weird. There should be no way to make a dough on the stove top and have it work out. And then those little blobs of dough are supposed to become really light and fluffy? It seems impossible.
Well, you’ll be ecstatic to know that it does work and it’s not hard to do! I promise!

I got my recipe from Anna Olson on the Food network page because she also has episodes of her cooking show that show step by step how to make the choux paste. Once the choux paste is made, you can use it to make ├ęclairs and profiteroles (I also call them cream puffs).

Profiteroles
Makes about 60 profiteroles? I did a half batch and got about 30-35 profiteroles
 
Choux Paste
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature

Directions 
  1. Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt up to a full simmer over medium high heat. Reduce the heat to low and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon, stirring vigorously until the dough “cleans” the sides of the pot (no longer sticks). Scrape this mixture into a large bowl and use electric beaters or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for a minute or 2 to cool it a little.
  2. Break two eggs into a small dish and whisk them just to blend a little. Add these to the flour mixture while still on medium speed and mix until blended. Add the remaining 3 eggs one at a
  3. Work with this recipe while the batter is still warm
  4. Preheat the oven to 400 F and line baking trays with parchment paper. 
  5. Fill a piping bag fitted with a large plain tip with the choux paste. Pipe profiteroles, each about 1 ½-inches across onto the trays (you may need 2 trays). Wet your finger in cool water and tap any points on the batter.
  6. Bake the profiteroles for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 F and continue to bake for about 15 more minutes, until they are a rich golden brown colour and are very light. Allow the pastries to cool completely before filling.

Once the pastries are baked, you can fill them with almost anything you want. A pastry cream is very common, but you can also do a lemon curd, jam or preserve, custard, or whatever you feel like. Here is a recipe for pastry cream and for a chocolate glaze on top.

Pastry Cream
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla
3 large egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Directions
  1. Heat the milk with the vanilla until just below a simmer.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch. Ready a bowl with the butter, placing a strainer on top of it.
  3. Gradually whisk the hot milk into egg mixture and then return it all to the pot. Whisk this constantly over medium heat until thickened and glossy, about 2 minutes. NOTE: you’ll know when this happens – it’s a rather obvious change in texture. Don’t let it go for too long after this, otherwise your mixture can start getting chunks in it. If this happens, the strainer in the next step can pull out the chunks.
  4. Pour this immediately through the strainer, whisking it through if needed, and stir in the butter. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of the custard, cool to room temperature and then chill completely until ready to use.

Chocolate Glaze
4 ounces chocolate, chopped (I used dark chocolate, but milk chocolate would work too)
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 tbsp corn syrup

Directions
  1. Place the chocolate, butter and corn syrup in a metal bowl and set this over a pot of barely simmering water, stirring until melted. Remove the bowl from the heat.

To assemble the profiteroles
  1. To fill, stir the pastry cream to soften and fill a piping bag with a medium plain tip or a filling tip. Use a skewer to first poke a small hole in the side or bottom of each profiterole. Insert the piping bag and fill each with cream until you feel resistance. Chill until ready to glaze with chocolate.   
  2. Dip the tops of the ├ęclairs or profiteroles in the warm glaze and enjoy warm, cool to set or chill to serve later.

Now, you don’t need to fill these profiteroles, they are nice little balls of baked pastry as they are. By skipping the pastry cream, it also makes the recipe even easier! The finished product (filled or not) can also be used to build an impressive croquembouche (a French dessert which resembles a pyramid built out of profiteroles covered in caramel). So hopefully you don’t let this recipe intimidate you, like I let it do, because it’s really simple and rather impressive to dinner guests! 

When I made this recipe, I decided to make a profiterole Russian Roulette game for a dinner party I was going to (don’t worry I got permission from the other guests first!) To do this, I filled 9 profiteroles with pastry cream, and I filled the 10th with an extremely tart lemon curd (I didn’t sweeten it at all). It turned dessert into a game of chance, because who knew who was going to get the unpleasant surprise of tart lemon in their mouth!    

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