Bite-size treats: pâte à choux

Ever since I conquered my fear of making choux pastry, I bravely moved forward and made my first attempt at pâte à choux aka cream puff. I adore cream puffs – they are like little nuggets that are simple in flavour yet every bit delicious. And whatever sizes they come in, I love them all – the smaller ones, you can pop them in your mouth like tic-tac while the bigger ones will tend to leave cream all over my mouth (which I don’t see it as a bad thing).

Another reason that I dragged making cream puff is the pastry cream (that is needed to fill the pâte à choux). This is the time where knowledge does not work to my advantage. After hearing horror kitchen stories, watching enough food channels, I uncovered how easy it was to burn/ overcook the pastry cream. With this fear, my pastry cream always turns out to be runny. And piping runny pastry cream into pâte à choux is a nightmare. Oh yah, I hate piping too. I never know how much cream to pipe into each puff.

To banish this nightmare, I eliminate piping the cream into the puff. Instead I sliced the top of the puff and spoon in the cream. In this way, no matter what state my pastry cream is, I know it will make it into the puff.

Pâte à Choux
(Adapted from David Lebovitz’s Ready for Dessert)
The key to making pâte à choux without any drama or panic is to get all your ingredients in place (mise-en-place) and measured in precision. This also means getting your baking tray lined and spoon ready to scoop the batter. In this way, making cream puff will be more an assembling job.

Makes about 25-30 pastries

Ingredients
1)      1 cup water (250ml)
2)      115g unsalted butter, cubed
3)      2 teaspoon granulated sugar
4)      ½ teaspoon (kosher) salt (table salt is fine)
5)      140g all-purpose flour
6)      4 large eggs (the egg should weigh 54g-56g without shell)

Methods
–        Preheat the oven to 220oC and line a baking tray with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
–        In a medium-sized saucepan, add in the water, butter, sugar and salt. At this point, place the flour near the stove as you will need to add it in once the mixture comes to a boil. On a medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil, stirring it occasionally with a spatula to help the butter to melt.
–        Once the butter is melted and the mixture begins to boil, quickly add in the all-purpose flour and stir rapidly with the spatula. Keep stirring until the mixture forms a smooth and thick paste and begins to pull away from the sides of the saucepan.
–        Remove the saucepan from the heat. Using the same spatula, you can pat down and spread the paste to help it cool faster – do this a few times for 2 minutes.
–        Using a spatula, vigorously beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding in the next one. You can use a stand-mixer (with a paddle attachment) for this step but I think it is unnecessary as you are just loading more things to wash. Unless you are doubling the recipe, you can easily accomplish this step by hand.
–        Using a levered ice-cream/ cookie scoop (mine is a 2 teaspoons scoop), place the paste on the lined baking tray – each puff needs to be 3” apart. You need to give sufficient space in between each puff as they will triple in size once they are in the oven.
–        Place the baking tray in the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes (depending on the size of your puff) or until they are golden brown. You can rotate your tray after 15 minutes to ensure the puffs are browned on top and sides.
–        Once baked, remove the tray from the oven. Using a paring knife, gently poke one side of the puff to release its steam and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
–        Once cooled, you can fill the puff with pastry cream* or whipped cream.
–        To fill in the pastry cream, slice the top of the puff horizontally (I usually use a serrated knife). Do not slice all the way through so that you have a “lid”. Using a teaspoon, scoop in 2 teaspoons of pastry cream/ whipped cream into the puff – the amount of cream should be in proportion with the size of the puff. You also need to be careful and not overfill the puff with cream as it might make it soggy.
–        Before serving, if you bother, sieve some icing sugar on top of the puff.

*If you are using the King Arthur Flour’s pastry cream recipe, you need to double the recipe.

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