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Choux Pastry: Have Your Cake and Eat it Choux

Choux Pastry: Have Your Cake and Eat it Choux

Choux pastry is a tantalising combination of flour, butter, eggs and water that’s most often used in profiteroles and the mighty croquembouche. This month, Australian Baking Business takes a look at some other creative uses for this versatile, lighter-than-air pastry.

Eclairs with Tim Clark

Éclairs have been a French pastry cabinet staple since Napoleon was on the throne; but in recent years, the cigar-shaped pastry has been used in increasingly innovative and creative ways in what some are calling the “Éclair Renaissance” or the “new wave” of éclair making.

Leading the charge of the pastry’s reinvention are Parisian chefs Christophe Adam and Guillaume Simonnet, who have pushed the boundaries of tradition with their freewheeling interpretations of the pastry classic (foie gras and fig confiture éclair, anyone?).

In Australia, Melbourne has become the creamy centre for éclair experimentation, with pastry shops and bakeries decorating and producing varieties in flavours like lamington, salted caramel, and rose.

One of the Melbourne-based pâtissiers determined to discover éclairs’ seemingly limitless possibilities, is Tim Clark (pictured) from Cacao Fine Chocolates & Pâtisserie, who will open Cacao’s second store in mid-April in the Melbourne CBD.

This new outpost will be kitted-out with an amazing array of cakes, macarons and a full collection of éclairs.

Tim sat down with Australian Baking Business to talk all things éclair and the choux pastry revolution.

For a long time éclairs were a little bit unfashionable, but recently they’ve been used in new and increasingly creative ways. what do you think has contributed to their resurgence?
I love an éclair. I’m very partial to the French classic, when made well they are divine!

The éclair in its classic form has always had its place in many pastry cabinets throughout the world. In more recent times modern interpretations are replacing the simple fondant finish. Acclaimed French chef Christophe Adam has helped with this revival. Formally the pastry chef at Fauchon, Christophe has taken a very modern approach to presenting the éclair.

His work has inspired many, including myself, to bring this classic pastry back in vogue. It’s just a matter of time before some classics are looked at with a vision to revive or recreate – it’s evolution.

Some people are saying choux pastry has been “rediscovered”. what do you make of this?
Nothing’s been rediscovered – classics never die, they simply get a face-lift. The éclair is getting a makeover.

We take much interest in what’s happening on the international food scene in countries such as Spain and France. With so many Australians travelling these days, it’s not long before local demand builds to have what’s been experienced abroad available here.

The interest in the macaron, and now perhaps building around the éclair, only happens through demand. The éclair is a pastry many know and can relate to, so it’s not about re-educating the Australian palate – it’s simply an upgrade. If you like a V6 then you’ll love a V8!

Fortunately we have some amazing chefs in this country that are driving change and innovation. It’s these chefs that are bringing standards up. If the éclair takes off, it’s because chefs are putting their focus on it.

What’s your take on the idea that “éclairs are the new macarons”? is there anything to this, or are people just looking for the next craze?
I don’t see it this way, I see it as a chance to bring interest back to a wonderful pastry and offer something contemporary to our customers. They certainly look cool and taste great – we’ll simply focus on making beautiful éclairs, cakes and chocolates and let the rest play its course.

You’ve got some amazing-looking (and tasting) éclairs – can you tell us a bit about how you developed your flavour range?
Our éclairs are created to be enjoyed time and time again. I’m focused on making flavours and textures people can relate to and don’t fear trying. Because I already work with so many flavour combinations in our cakes, macarons and chocolates, you come to know what works. It’s then just a matter of taking what you like and playing with it until you get what you want in éclair form.

What flavours are you taste testing at the moment?
At the moment I’m testing the textures of strawberries, cream and marzipan; origins of chocolate for our Grand Cru Intense éclair; and working on a salted-biscuit and cheesecake whip éclair.

One of the most remarkable things about your éclairs is how they’ve been decorated – can you talk about the process of decorating, why it matters and how you decide on a particular look?
When creating an éclair I look at all aspects: taste, texture and presentation. I recently had a selection of custom éclair transfer sheets made in France for our new collection. The decoration of the éclair must be appealing, as it’s the first thing customers see. The shape and finishing of the éclair must be consistent, but you also have to understand who you are making them for.This helps to determine how you present them and the presentation should relate to the flavour in some way.

From the moment you bite into an éclair, what should you look for to know what you’re eating is exceptional?
The pastry should be fresh and not dry tasting and stale. The filling should be moist, creamy and not too heavy. Every éclair will be different depending on the flavour and texture being created. I believe in natural flavours – it’s very noticeable when quality ingredients are not being used.

Where can you get the most creative with an éclair (and what component allows for the least amount of creativity)?
The choux pastry itself offers the lesser amount of creativity. However, it’s the fillings and finishing that can offer the most creativity. Flavours and textures are all around us in much of what we already create – it’s working them into an éclair.

Éclairs obviously owe a lot to choux pastry – what are your top three tips for making a light and fool-proof choux?
There’s not much to choux pastry – it’s made from flour, water, milk and butter. As simple as it sounds, just follow the recipe. If you pipe consistent shapes you’ll get consistent éclairs. If you can, bake your choux in a deck oven or a quality oven that holds its temperature, with even distribution of heat.


Saint-Honore Cake

Saint Honoré is the patron saint of bakers, confectioners and pastry chefs, so it’s not surprising the cake named in his honour requires considerable skill and technique to pull off.

Typically, Saint Honoré cake is a crown of puff pastry decorated with small spheres of choux pastry filled with Chantilly cream perfumed with strawberries, vanilla, roses or red fruits; but, over the centuries, pastry chefs have offered their own interpretations of the dish’s various elements.

Here is a contemporary version of the cake, which uses salted caramel and dark chocolate:

Dark Chocolate and Salted Caramel Saint-Honore Cake

Adapted from a recipe by Elizabeth Falkner

Ingredients

BASE:
2 x 400g packets of frozen all-butter puff
pastry, thawed

CREAM PUFFS:
1 cup (scant) plain flour
1 cup full-cream milk
60g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 large free-range eggs

PASTRY CREAM:
500ml full-cream milk
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
5 tablespoons cornflour
6 large egg yolks
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Splash of vanilla extract

DARK CHOCOLATE CREAM:
170g dark-chocolate (minimum cocoa solids 80 per cent), chopped
1 1/4 cups hot pastry cream
1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
1 1/2 cups pure cream, divided
Pinch of sea salt

SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE:
9 tablespoons caster sugar
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup pure cream
1 1/4 cups chilled pastry cream (from the recipe above)
250g unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method

BASE:
1. Set your oven to 190°C. Line two baking trays with baking paper.

2. Scatter some flour over your work surface and unfold one sheet of puff pastry onto the surface. Unfold another puff pastry sheet and place it directly on top of the first, pushing together slightly to get them to stick (a little water can come in handy if your puff pastry is stubbornly refusing to stick together).

3. Using a pair of pastry scissors, or something sharp, cut out a circle from your puff pastry, about 30cm across. Place your circle into one of your baking trays. This will form the base of the cake.

4. Bake the puff pastry according to packet directions – about 30 minutes. Let the base cool while you work on your other elements.

CREAM PUFFS:
1. Leave your oven at 190°C.

2. To make your choux pastry, place your milk, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan over a medium-heat and whisk until the butter is melted.

3. Add the flour and stir rapidly until the flour absorbs the liquid and forms a smooth ball of dough, about two minutes.

4. Move your ball of dough into a clean bowl and use a hand-mixer (or stand mixer) while you add the eggs slowly, one at a time, to ensure they don’t scramble. Beat on a medium speed for a minute or so, until the dough is smooth and any lumps have been beaten out.

5. Transfer the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a half-inch round tip and evenly pipe the dough onto your baking tray in golf-ball-sized mounds.

6. Bake for 20 minutes, before turning down the oven to 160°C and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until golden brown and dry. Cool.

7. Using a sharp knife, cut a small hole in the bottom of each puff.

PASTRY CREAM:
1. Place the milk, splash of vanilla and 1/3 cup of caster sugar in a saucepan and heat to 80°C, whisking until the sugar is completely dissolved.

2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the cornflour and three tablespoons of water until they form a smooth paste.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk together your egg yolks with the remaining quarter-cup of sugar. Add your cornflour paste and then gradually whisk in your heated milk mixture, until everything is smooth and silky.

4. Return all your ingredients to your saucepan and whisk over a medium heat until it thickens slightly.

5. Remove the mixture from heat and whisk in your butter until the mixture is smooth and the butter is completely melted.

6. Divide your pastry cream evenly between two bowls (place each bowl on a set of electronic to ensure even distribution). Cover one bowl with cling wrap and place in the fridge to use for the salted caramel sauce. Use the still-hot pastry cream for the dark chocolate cream:

DARK CHOCOLATE CREAM:
1. Add the chopped dark chocolate and a pinch of sea salt to the hot pastry cream and stir until it melts and is fully incorporated in the cream. Cover the bowl with Glad wrap and leave it to cool to room temperature.

2. Place two tablespoons of cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle with the gelatine. Let it sit for five minutes, or until spongy. Stand the bowl in a heatproof bowl of hot water and stir until the gelatine is fully dissolved.

3. Bring a half-cup of cream to 80°C in a small heavy saucepan. Add the hot cream mixture to the gelatin mixture and whisk vigorously until combined. Place in the fridge and chill for five minutes.

4. Place the remaining 1 cup of cream in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the cooled gelatin mixture and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

5. Add this whipped cream mixture in batches to the dark chocolate mixture, folding until it is well combined. Cover it with cling wrap and chill for three hours, or until set.

SALTED CARAMEL SAUCE:
1. Place two tablespoons of water, the sugar and cream of tartar in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to medium-high and bring this mixture to the boil, swirling the pan occasionally, but not stirring it, until the sugar mixture is a deep toffee colour.

2. Remove the pan from the heat and then slowly add the cream. Stir gently until the cream is fully incorporated in the caramel mixture. Cool.

3. Grab the bowl of pastry cream from the fridge you had set aside for the salted caramel sauce. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the pastry cream and salted caramel sauce on a medium speed until they are well combined.

4. Gradually add the butter, bit by bit, beating until it is completely incorporated between additions.

5. Add the salt and vanilla and beat for a minute or so more.

6. Add this mixture to a piping bag fitted with a small, quarter-inch tip and pipe this filling into your cooled cream puffs. Cover your filled cream puffs and chill.

Assembly
1. Place your puff pastry crown on a serving plate or platter. Spread a layer of the dark chocolate cream over the centre of the pastry, leaving a 3cm edge around the outside, and then arrange the cream puffs on the chocolate-covered base from the outside in.

2. Continue arranging the puffs, as though you’re building a wall, dipping the bases in additional dark chocolate cream to help them stick to each other.

3. Drizzle what is remaining of your diplomat cream (if anything) over the cake and dust lightly with icing sugar. Eat immediately and enthusiastically.


Choux Pavlova with Caramel Sauce

The lightness of choux makes a good substitute for meringue in this summery, sticky, scrumptious dessert.

If stone fruit are out of season, berries would also make an excellent accompaniment; or for a more wintery version of the dessert, try using poached pears, roasted hazelnuts and cinnamon and chocolate sauce.

Adapted from a recipe by Good Food magazine

Ingredients

CHOUX PASTRY:
85g butter
200ml cold water
100g plain flour
1/4 tsp Maldon salt
3 eggs, beaten

CARAMEL SAUCE:
50g unsalted butter
5 tbsp dark brown sugar
142ml double cream
Pinch Maldon salt
Splash of vanilla extract

PAVLOVA CREAM:

200ml pure cream
3 tbsp dessert wine
Small handful of dates, finely chopped
1 tbsp slivered almonds, toasted
2 nectarines, stoned and sliced
150g blueberries

Method

CHOUX PASTRY:
1. Heat your oven to 190°C. Line three baking trays with baking paper.

2. To make the choux pastry, place your butter and water in a saucepan over a medium-heat and whisk until the butter is melted.

3. Add the flour and salt and stir rapidly until the flour absorbs all the liquid and forms a smooth ball of dough. Cool.

4. Move your ball of dough into a clean bowl and use a hand-mixer (or stand mixer) while you add the eggs slowly, one at a time, to ensure they don’t scramble. Beat on a medium speed for a minute or so, until the dough is smooth and any lumps have been beaten out.

5. Using a large spoon, spread the mixture onto the baking trays in evenly-sized disc-sized blobs, about 10cm wide.

6. Bake for 20 minutes, before turning down the oven to 160°C and bake for 10-15 minutes.

7. When the choux discs are cool enough to handle, cut a small hole in the bottom of eat puff.

8. Heat for five minutes, then remove and cool.

CARAMEL SAUCE:
1. Whisk all ingredients together in a small pan over a medium-heat for five minutes, stirring to ensure the sugar dissolves. Once the sauce has reached a silky, pourable consistency, take off the heat and allow to cool slightly.

PAVLOVA CREAM:
1. Whip the cream, sugar and dates together in a large bowl. Stop before the mixture is completely whipped and fold in the almonds.

2. Slice the choux discs around the middle and spoon the pavlova cream over the base of the disc, covering the filling with slices of nectarine and a scattering of blueberries.

3. Place the top of the choux disc on the filling and drizzle the choux pavlova with caramel sauce. Serve immediately. Eat enthusiastically.


GOUGERES

Crisp and airy, Gougères are like tiny clouds of cheese. Traditionally made from a savoury choux pastry and any variety of hard cow’s cheese – Emmental, Comté and Gruyère – Gougères are best eaten as an accompaniment or snack with a nice glass of red.

Adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz

Ingredients
1/2 cup (125ml) water
3 tablespoons (40g) salted butter, cut into cubes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
big pinch of paprika (or spice of your choice)
1/2 cup (70g) plain flour
2 large free-range eggs
1 teaspoon finely chopped parsley (thyme, chives and basil would also work – or garlic. Experiment.)
3/4 cup (90g) grated dry cheddar cheese (or hard cheese of your choice)

Method
1. Set your oven to 220°C. Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

2. To make the choux pastry, add the water, butter, salt and spices to a saucepan over a medium-heat and whisk until the butter is melted and herbs are evenly distributed.

3. Add the flour and stir rapidly with a wooden spoon until the flour absorbs the liquid and forms a smooth ball of dough. Remove your saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool for about three minutes.

4. Move your ball of dough into a clean bowl and use a hand-mixer while you add the eggs slowly, to ensure they don’t scramble. Beat on a medium speed for a minute or so, until the dough is smooth and any lumps are incorporated.

5. Add most of your cheese and herbs and beat until well combined.

6. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a half-inch round tip and evenly pipe the dough onto your baking tray in golf-ball sized mounds.

7. Sprinkle over your remaining cheese (or grate some fresh cheese over to ensure even distribution) and put the baking tray in the oven.

8. Bake for 10 minutes, before turning down the oven to 190°C and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more, until the Gougères are completely golden brown.

(For extra-crispy puffs, David Lebovitz recommends poking the side of each puff with a sharp knife to release the steam five minutes before they’re done and returning to the oven to finish baking).

Gougères can be served warm or at room-temperature. Wine is optional.

Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Gougères: A recipe for French cheese puffs: www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/01/gougeres-french-cheese-puffs/.

 


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