Monday, August 27, 2012

Did you know swans mate for life? How about pastry swans...

Blog-checking lines: Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie 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!


Pate a choux is actually one of my very favorite pastry dough to work with. I have used it a few times before and enjoy it. I remember too when I was a kid my mother would make these pastry puffs that were filled with a pineapple cream of some kind; she made them for special sorority meetings and I frankly cannot remember if she made them for anything else. Why did I not ask for those for a birthday one year! Fortunately for me, she made us all wonderful family cook books several years ago, and in there is that recipe, which frankly I should have used for the filling in this month's challenge but for the fact that the husband does not like pineapple. 

This months challenge was pate a choux, specifically a choux shape, with an encouragement to try our hands a swans. I wanted to give the swans a try as for me I have always admired the window of pastry shops in Paris with their assortment of beautiful pastry both shaped and molded. So I gave it a shot. I was very nervous at first as many people in the Daring Bakers Group had reported struggles with their pate a choux. The other issue that I am very aware of is my need for perfection when in the kitchen; I was terribly afraid that I would not make swans that were pretty. After much hemming and hawing over which recipe to use, what filling to make I settled on using the Daring Baker's suggested recipe which I later learned is very similar to the recipe that Jacques Pepin uses for his Paris-Brest. The issue that I had with the Daring Baker's recipe was that there were no times, so I had to "wing" it. My heads baked for about 12 minutes, and my bodies baked for about 45 at the suggested 375. I should share with you as well that I have plans in the near future for my mother's pastries as well as the Paris-Brest from Jacques Pepin; I had a mini Paris-Brest the last time were were in Paris. Regardless here is my attempt at pastry swans. 



These are the bodies and the heads before filling. I did use a pastry bag and two different sized tips for piping. 



These photos were my for the photo shoot shots. They are filled with a chocolate pastry cream. More to come on that. 
This last photo is how I served them that night for dessert with friends after a wonderful dinner out. 

So the question remains, "Do pastry swans mate for life?" Only if you plan on eating two at one sitting, and well shamefully we did. I stuffed mine with a chocolate pastry cream because that is Ashley's favorite. I used the recipe from the book Encyclopedia of Classic French pastries by Susan Whatley. I have used this book many times, there is an earlier post about my croissants on my blog, and I love this book. I was not so happy with the pastry cream, but then I believe that may be my fault. The cream was too runny, which I attribute to my not cooking it long enough. I tried to remedy that by folding in some whipped cream when our guests were here for dessert. I specifically asked for statements from my guests about their impressions on the swans and there were many mmm, and yumms, and delicious; next time I must remember to write down direct quotes. I also took one to a friend at work who celebrated his birthday this past week and he enjoyed it, though I was surprised that the re-crisping made them too crisp, I won't do that again. 

What can you do with pate a choux that I did not do. It can be used for desserts as well as for savory dishes. One of the women in the group filled hers with a tuna mousse I believe, and made it into a crab, it is beyond cute, go to the link on crab to see her post! I think though my absolute favorite is shared by my sister, who may kill me for putting this final photo up. While in Paris we had a little bakery across the street from our hotel, and they had all kinds of pastry, regularly at night we would pick up a few eclair and enjoy them as we were winding down. She had two several times at night. 



She loved them, and ate both in that sitting. They were amazing. You can see the glee in her eyes as she devours them. Now if I could only figure out how to reproduce the pastry cream that was used in those eclair!!! I hope you try your hand at the pate a choux if you have never done so. Hope you enjoy your kitchen a bit more, I know I am enjoying mine

43 comments:

  1. Great blog and I want some of those swans-filled.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. momma the next time you come down maybe I will make you some.

      Delete
  2. haha I could be your sister's twin in that sense since I would also devour eclairs in twos at night but I had to stop when I started getting too fat for my jeans ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She has always had a hollow leg, and could continue to eat. I don't know that her jeans ever got too tight!

      Delete
  3. Even before cut and assembled your swans look so perfectly piped, baked and puffed. They may not be as big as those eclairs but are more of a feast for the eyes. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Pâte à choux and chocolate, a great combination! Now I'm craving an éclair! lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is terrible the suggestion we can experience with photos! Isn't it.

      Delete
  5. thank you so much for stopping by and for the warm comment. love reading about the backstage of your baking and I can reassure you that these swans do look pretty! actually perfect. and of course I appreciate the chocolate filling and the chocolate eclairs... I also consulted a tick cooking bible for this challenge, for the Italian custard actually. so cute to read about your childhood memories as well... so lucky to have a family cookbook!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I believe I am very fortunate to have my family cookbook, and it allows for tradition in some things not to be lost!

      Delete
  6. your swans are very beautiful, and i'd love for you to share the pineapple filling! sounds so yummy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will gladly share it with you. I will return to your blog to send it to you. It may take me a few days, but I will get it there.

      Delete
  7. Gorgeous swans! I think the pineapple filling would be delicious with these!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeanne, I plan on sharing the pineapple filling with at least one other person, maybe I should do a whole blog post on it.

      Delete
  8. Love the mating for life and needing to eat two part! Great job on the challenge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Barbara, they were so yummy.

      Delete
  9. I think that in our house, flocks of swans mated for life - because the whole flock went down very quickly!
    Cute swans :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, they were tasty weren't they!

      Delete
  10. So beautiful, amazing presentation, your swans look professional!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey, any reason to eat two, right?? :) Beautiful swans!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes exactly any reason to eat two. Thanks so much for the comments!

      Delete
  12. Your swans look so lovely and elegant! I love the thin necks on them, they look very graceful. The eclairs also look so yummy. I'm so hungry now!


    On a more random note, the Zoology nerd in me is coming out now - but did you know the mating for life thing is a myth? Since we've been able to use DNA technology, we've discovered that not only do swans divorce, but there's a high rate of extra pair paternity (i.e. cheating on their partners). This is the same for all birds - it really turned what we thought we knew about birds on its head.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comments.. As for being a zoology nerd, no worries, I actually had done my research, and I like to believe swans mate about like people do. Call me a hopeless romantic.

      Delete
    2. It's definitely a much nicer way to think about them!

      Delete
  13. Your swans are VERY pretty. Did you use a leaf tip to pipe the bodies? The ridges on the wings look fabulous!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much. The tip I used was a standard open star tip the larger one. I am not sure the number on it. The thing I saw on some of the youtube videos that Jacques Pepin did, he said you needed to use a fork or something along the choux to help it expand, so I used that tip instead.

      Delete
  14. The chocolate filling sounds so tasty! I love the shot of the two swans beak to beak. Great job!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Very well done on this challenge! I really should practice piping choux more often because you swans look incredible. Thanks for checking out our blog and commenting - we appreciate the encouragement! =)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you. I really was concerned with how they would turn out, and so proud of them once I was done!

      Delete
  16. Great swans and the chocolate eclairs look amazing - cheers from Auckland , New Zealand

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heather thanks for stopping by. The exlairs do look amazing don't they, now if I can figure out how to make chocolate pastry cream like the French do!

      Delete
  17. I love the photo of the two swans - so sweet! And the chocolate pastry cream... YUM! Looks divine!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Nice swans! I like the fact that you piped the bodies with a fancy tip, they look more elegant that way. And by the way, I ate two at once too, but they were so featherly light!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Your swans are so cute and delicate, great job!

    ReplyDelete
  20. That pinapple filling your mum made sounds amazing.
    I look forward to seeing that recipe :)
    You did a beautiful job on this challenge :) I love the chocolate filling too, need to try that next time

    ReplyDelete
  21. Yum! Those eclairs are calling my name! I think I may have to make a few.
    Well Done!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Points to you for doing the swans! I think my Paris-Brest was the "easy way out" :) Looks great!

    ReplyDelete