Friday, 6 March 2009

Pâte à choux

This week, we were learning all things related to pâte à choux, choux pastry in other words. The first thing most people think about (well, at least in the UK and Ireland) when talking about choux pastry would probably be profiteroles but strangely enough, we didn't make these. We kicked off the week by making a French classic, éclairs. They looked simple enough to make, make your pâte à choux (lots of violent stirring!), pipe into tubes, pipe cream into tubes and glaze the top, right? Wrong, well, for me anyway! Piping tubes of pastry that are poker straight which are not too fat or too thin proved to be beyond me in lab. Filling the éclairs (with flavoured pastry cream rather than whipped fresh cream) also lead to the hazards of overpiping and the cream seeping out of cracks of the pastry, or underpiping where your éclairs are not filled enough and someone bites into plain pastry! Glazing was equally fiddly - if your glaze is too hot, it becomes dull when cooled (not nice), too cold and you're having to handle a pot of viscous mess!

We then moved onto making religieuses - a large-filled glazed choux bun with a smaller bun sitting on top of it and decorated with buttercream. As luck would have it, all of my choux buns were irregular-looking which meant that it was then difficult to stick the smaller bun on top without them sliding down the side! Looking on the bright side, at least the glaze for my religieuses was looking glossy. As you can see from the pic, I'll be needing more practice with my piping, not pretty! :)

Wednesday and it was time to make Paris-Brest, a pastry that was created in honour of a famous bicycle race from Paris to Brest and back, 1200 kms in one go! Paris-Brest is shaped like a wheel and is one large choux ring which is then filled with a gut-busting mixture of pastry cream, butter and praline (think extra sweet Nutella for the latter). Another day and more mistakes pour moi :( Firstly, my "cream" refused to get thicker and I was the only one in class who managed to reduce volume into my mixture the harder I whisked?? The only solution was to then place it into the freezer and pray. Then, I forgot to pipe some cream in the base of my ring which led chef to rip out my inner ring of choux to start again, as I didn't have enough cream, there are sections of my Paris-Brest which are a bit mongel-looking to say the least. Made note to self for the next time when I'm making Paris-Brest, make sure that my pastry cream is thick enough, even if you think it doesn't look that appetising when doing it this way!

The last thing we made in lab this week was St. Honoré - a cake named after the patron saint of "boulangers" and NOT "patissiers" (incidentally, the patron saint of patissiers is St Michel). This is essentially a shortcrust (or puff pastry) base with a ring of caramel (supposed to be golden but overcooked mine so it turned deep amber, oops!) dipped and cream-filled mini choux buns. This is then filled with a heart-attack inducing combo of crème chiboust (pastry cream with addition of egg whites) and copious amounts of piped crème chantilly (sweetened whipped cream). Time was a bit tight the day we made this so I haven't had the chance to taste the finished product yet, its likely it will be just a taste if I value my arteries! As you can see, pastry is not for the faint-hearted! 

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