In my last baking class we learned about pastry elements – specifically choux puff pastries. Choux paste is what you would make if you wanted eclairs or cream puffs.
Fun fact: Where does the name “choux” come from? It means cabbage because when the choux paste is piped, it resembles cabbage.
At first assessment, these seem like they would be a difficult dessert, however I have always found choux paste really easy. One element of the process that is really important is cooling off the dough (by running it in the stand mixer for a few minutes) before you add all the eggs in as you don’t want to cook the eggs.
Also, an very important note that the Chef constantly reminds us of is to check the oven temperature. You would think that you set the oven to a specific temperature and it would be all ready to go but when you check the internal thermometer, it is often off from what it has been set at. The consequence of this? Our oven was not as hot as it should have been so our puffs didn’t puff all that much.
Dressing and filling the eclairs was the next task. We made chantilly cream to fill our pastries which is basically whipped cream with icing sugar and vanilla. We then made the fondant coating for the eclairs. Mixing white fondant with the chocolate gives the chocolate coating a nice shine and soft texture that holds up. Ganache is too soft and plain melted chocolate is too crisp. You can have fun with the fondant too – there are lots of fun colours you can use! The addition of filling and a coating is necessary because choux paste is not sweet.
There are no leaveners in choux paste so I wondered what makes them rise. I found out that the leavening is provided by the choux paste temperature – since it is still warm when piped and baked. The steam that is created while baking causes them to rise. This is why when you are making the choux paste you want to work quickly, so the paste does not have time to cool off.
The Chef is like a ninja with that piping bag…check it out!
We added craquelin to the top of our cream puffs. Craquelin adds sweetness and gives the pastry a nice finish. It is essentially made of butter, brown sugar and a bit of flour. Craquelin is similar to a cookie, but when the cream puff finished baking, it formed a cracked shell over the cream puff. I really like the way the craquelin looks!
The Chef did a fun little side lesson in the last class – she showed us how butter is made! Basically, cream is whipped like crazy until the fat and water separates. Pretty cool and fresh butter tastes delicious! I am totally making my own fancy butters for my next dinner party!
The Chef sent me my grades for this class: “Your grade for the choux paste lab is 76%. Your Timeline grade is 87%! Great Job!”
Speaking of the timeline – I’ve mentioned before how they are a great tool and the Chef gives us feedback on them. Organizing your time in a kitchen is essential to your success. These timeline exercises have helped me in my own kitchen. I entertain a lot and now I am finding myself sitting down and planning out my ingredients list, equipment and serving equipment list and also my timeline of when I will prepare what. I also review my recipes to make sure I plan my time accordingly. My husband’s birthday recently passed and I found myself really calm during the preparation process. Having an organized plan really helped take away the stress of hosting because I was more prepared.
I had a significant amount of eclair and cream puffs leftover from the class so I brought them home and froze them. A few days later I decided to use them for a croquembouche cake for my husband’s birthday. A croquembouche or croque–en–bouche is a French dessert consisting of cream puffs piled into a cone shape and bound with threads of caramel. It was really fun to make – although mine turned out pretty amateur! I didn’t go crazy with the caramel threads – mainly because it was causing a mess in my kitchen and I didn’t want more to clean up!
Last week was reading week so there were no classes. It was nice to have the break! Baking is intense! Next class we are doing Quick breads – Banana bread, tea biscuits and muffins! I can’t wait to share!
* This post has been created as part of a paid partnership between myself and Centennial College, however, and as always, all opinions are my own.
Growing up in my Italian family, sandwiches were our go-to lunch on the weekends. They are quick and hearty and the options