This past weekend, my adventure began at Cambridge Culinary Institute (CCI) located in Cambridge, MA. My goal was to build upon my baking skills, knowledge and recipe repertoire. Prior to this endeavor, I have been busy baking for several months, tweaking all my recipes and learning about food styling.
European culinary arts is the focus of both CCI baking and cooking programs. There should be no surprise that my first 2 classes were centered around French recipes. Admittedly, I have difficulty pronouncing FRENCH words, as you may have noticed from my blog title. In fact, they “freak” me out. You see . . . in middle school, I was kicked out of French class because I didn't have the right nasal sounds. Lucky for me, I was able to pursue Spanish.
Enough of that. .On Saturday, we made an assortment of meringues & duck-qua's (dacquoises). But on Sunday, (drumroll. . .please) we made Pate a Choux, a cream puff paste with a scrumptiously delicious vanilla whipped pastry cream filling. My most memorable dessert from my Italy vacation was cream puffs with an unbelievably yummy chocolate sauce at Trattoria Mamma Gina in Florence! Okay now, back to reality. Upon arriving home each day with "almost" full pastry boxes, ( I sneak a few) my family got to sample my creations. I was even able to stash one lonely cream puff for photographing and then consumption. HOOOOO RAYYYYY!!! See photos & recipes below!
Just a little food for thought:
Pâte à Choux; Pronunciation: paht-ah-SHOO
The word choux in French means cabbage, and choux pastry gets its name from the fact that the little balls of choux paste used to make cream puffs resemble little cabbages.
Recipe for Pate a Choux
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
4 to 6 large eggs
In a heavy saucepan bring water to a boil with butter and salt over high heat. Reduce heat to moderate. Remove pan from stove and add flour all at once. Return to heat and beat constantly with a wooden spoon until mixture pulls away from sides of pan, forming a dough! Dough should be greasy to the touch, not watery!
Transfer dough to bowl of a standing electric mixer (unless you have a lot of upper body strength and need a workout) and beat in 4 eggs, 1 at a time, on high speed, beating well after each addition. Batter should be stiff enough to just hold soft peaks and fall softly from a spoon. If batter is too stiff, in a small bowl beat remaining 2 eggs lightly, 1 at a time, and add to batter, a little at a time, beating on high speed, until batter is desired consistency.
Preheat oven to 425°F. and butter and flour 2 baking sheets. Spoon pâte à chou into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip and pipe mounds onto baking sheets, each about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, leaving 1 1/2 inches between mounds. With a finger dipped in water gently smooth pointed tip of each mound to round puffs. Bake puffs in upper third of oven 10 minutes, switching position of sheets in oven halfway through baking if necessary. Reduce temperature to 400°F. and bake puffs 20 minutes more, or until puffed and golden. Let puffs stand in turned-off oven 30 minutes. Transfer puffs to racks to cool. With a skewer poke a 1/4-inch hole in bottom of each puff. Puffs may be made 2 days ahead and kept in an airtight container. Recrisp puffs in 400°F. oven 5 minutes and cool before filling.
Recipe for Vanilla Pastry Creme
1 1/2 cups half and half
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Bring half and half to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk sugar, eggs, egg yolk and flour in medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in hot half and half. Transfer to saucepan. Whisk over medium heat until mixture thickens and comes to boil, about 5 minutes. Boil 1 minute. Pour into medium bowl. Stir in vanilla. Press plastic onto surface of pastry cream. Cover; chill until cold, about 4 hours or strain cream over an ice bath and stir until chilled or no longer warm.
Cream Puff Filling(Mousseline): In bowl of a standing electric mixer beat pastry cream until just smooth and soft enough to fold in heavy cream (do not overbeat). In a mixing bowl with beat heavy cream until it holds soft peaks. Fold whipped cream into pastry cream. Transfer filling to a large pastry bag fitted with a small (1/4in) plain top. Poke a small hole in the side of the cooled puff with point of a sharp knife and fill each puff.
Options: You can easily make both coffee and chocolate pastry creme fillings. Also, this pastry dough can be used with savory fillings. The sky's the limit!
enjoy & happy eating,