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