Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pâte à choux shapes, filled with crème pâtissière or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!

” Choux pastry, or pâte à choux is a light pastry dough  which contains only butter, water, flour, and eggs. Instead of a raising agent it employs high moisture content to create steam during cooking to puff the pastry. A chef by the name of Panterelli invented the dough in 1540. He used the dough to make a gâteau and named it Pâte à Panterelli. Over time, the recipe of the dough evolved, and the name changed to Pâte à Popelin, which was used to make Popelins, small cakes in the shape of a woman’s breasts. Then, Avice, a pâtissier in the eighteenth century, created what were then called Choux Buns. The name of the dough changed to Pâte à Choux, as Avice’s buns resembled cabbages or choux in French” – Wikipedia

I had lotsa fun working with the pâte à choux to create the swans with their graceful necks and cream filled bodies. Since I had some experience with the dough, having made Croquembouche and Paris Brest in the past, I did not find it very complicated to get my swan parts ready.

While the choux did not puff up as much as I had expected, I was pleased with the silky smooth crème vanille. Do have a look at the lovely puff pastry animals baked by the Daring Bakers this month; you will find turtles, crabs and even hedgehogs amidst a huge flock of swans.

VANILLA CREME

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon (15 ml) (7 gm) (1/4 oz) (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin

½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) sugar

2 tablespoons (30 ml) (18 gm) (2/3 oz) all-purpose (plain) flour

4 large egg yolks, well beaten

1 cup (240 ml) milk

1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract

1 cup (240 ml) heavy (whipping) cream (about 35% butterfat)

Method:

  • In a medium saucepan combine gelatin, flour, milk and sugar. Mix very well. Add egg yolks and turn heat to medium-low.
  • Stir almost constantly until mixture is thick enough to cover the back of your spatula or spoon. This should take about 10 minutes.

  • Once thick, immediately dump into a bowl, straining the mixture if you are concerned about lumps of cooked egg.
  • Add the vanilla, and mix in well. Cover the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and chill for about 45 minutes.

  • In a large bowl, beat cream until light peaks form. Carefully fold the vanilla mixture into the whipped cream.
  • Combine until the mixture is well-blended and fairly smooth. Refrigerate mixture if not using immediately.

PATE A CHOUX

Ingredients:

½ cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) butter

1 cup (240 ml) water

¼ teaspoon (1½ gm) salt

1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, room temperature

Method:

  • Line at least two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper, or grease pans well.
  • Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5.

  • In a small saucepot, combine butter, water, and salt. Heat over until butter melts, then remove from stove.
  • Add flour all at once and beat, beat, beat the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.

  • Add one egg, and beat until well combined. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition.
  • Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick.

  • Using a ¼” (6 mm) tip on a pastry bag, pipe out about 36 swan heads.
  • You’re aiming for something between a numeral 2 and a question mark, with a little beak if you’re skilled and/or lucky.

  • Remove the tip from the bag and pipe out 36 swan bodies. These will be about 1.5” (40 mm) long, and about 1” (25 mm) wide.
  • One end should be a bit narrower than the other. Bake the heads and bodies until golden and puffy.

  • The heads will be done a few minutes before the bodies, so keep a close eye on the baking process.
  • Remove the pastries to a cooling rack, and let cool completely before filling.

  • To assemble, take a swan body and use a very sharp knife to cut off the top 1/3rd to ½.
  • Cut the removed top down the center to make two wings. Dollop a bit of filling into the body, insert head, and then add wings.

Daring Bakers August 2012 Challenge

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