Pate a Choux Part Deux

Rather than leave you hanging, I thought I’d give you the final results of my pate a choux testing from yesterday.

I put a few of the puffs in the freezer to see how they’d fare and [drumroll please]….

  1. They thawed very quickly – I took them out of the freezer and put them on a baking sheet that I’d lined with some paper towels.  I set the baking sheet – uncovered – on the counter and made a quick trip to the grocery store.  When I returned they were completely thawed.
  2. They reheated well – because they were a little soft after thawing (which didn’t surprise me in the least), I put them in a 350 degree F oven for about 5 minutes to dry out and they were perfectly crisp.  I allowed them to cool while I made the chocolate velvets sauce and the filling, which took a total of 5 minutes to make both.
  3. They were scrumptious – I piped a little filling into each puff, made a beautiful zig-zag design on the serving plate with the chocolate velvet sauce, and artfully arranged the puffs on top of the sauce.  Then I piped a bit of chocolate sauce onto each puff and served them.

Finished Cream PuffsSo, to recap…

  • yes, you can use a scoop to form the puffs rather than piping them
  • the puffs get infinitely puffier if you mix the eggs into the dough using a food processor rather than doing it by hand
  • however, if you want a more uniform, less free-form finished shape – mixing the eggs into the dough by hand gave me that
  • yes, you can freeze the puffs – but you have to defrost them in a single layer and will probably want to re-crisp them briefly in a low’ish oven
  • Jeff likes his filling to be a little sweeter than I do (in case you wanted to know)
  • cream puffs are scrumptious!

I would encourage you [again] to play with your food – if there’s something you’re wondering about, test it….try it…play with it.  Experience in cooking, like in life, is the best teacher; and although you won’t always end up with perfect results, you’ll learn a lot along the way.

What’s Going On in My Kitchen? Pate a Choux (among other things)

There was a LOT of dough in my kitchen today…..too bad none of it was the kind you can spend!

Today was a day of testing recipes and boy did I work hard.  I got up at 6:30 a.m. (but please don’t tell anyone because it would ruin my reputation) and was in the kitchen cooking in earnest by 6:45.

I had a lot of recipes to test today and so, with a cup of hot coffee in hand, I got right to pate a choux.  This is the dough that is used to make profiteroles, eclairs, and cream puffs, among other delicious treats – both sweet and savory.  It’s a dough that is twice cooked (once on top of the stove and once in the oven) and a dough I’ve wanted to experiment with because I’ve been doing some reading on the subject recently.

There is some debate about whether it’s better to mix in the eggs one at a time by hand or to mix them all in at once using the food processor.  My hypothesis was that hand mixing the eggs one at a time would yield a better result; so I set out to prove myself right or wrong.  I also wanted to play a little with baking time to see the effects of shorter and longer times and the effects of turning off the oven after the baking time and allowing the “puffs” to cool in the oven with the door propped open. Finally, I wanted to see if you can really scoop the dough onto a pan with a cookie scoop (rather than piping it onto the pan) and get a good result.

For my first attempt, I made the dough on the stove top in a non-stick saucepan and added the eggs (off the heat) one at a time, mixing vigorously by hand between each addition.  I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet using a #40 scoop (which holds approximately 4 teaspoons of batter).

Many of the recipes I have read instruct you to bake the puffs until you hear a hollow sound when you lightly rap on them.  For the first iteration of the test I took them out of the oven just before I heard the hollow sound.  The result – the inside of the puffs were not dry enough to hold the structure that was created by the steam so they folded in on themselves when they cooled.  The interior of the puffs was still moist and “eggy” after they cooled.

Underbaked and Falling In on Iteslf

For my second attempt, I again made the dough on the stove top in a non-stick saucepan and added the eggs (off the heat) one at a time, mixing vigorously by hand between each addition.  I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet using a #40 scoop.

This time, I baked the puffs until I heard that hollow sound….and when I did, I removed them from the oven for just long enough to cut a small slit in each one that allowed the steam to escape.  I turned off the oven, put the puffs back in and propped the door open until they were cool.  The result – the inside of the puffs were now dry enough to hold the structure – they did not collapse when they cooled and the interior was slightly drier.

Baked To Perfection

For my third attempt, I again made the dough on the stove top – however this time I used a stainless steel saucepan, which made it easier to tell when the dough was ready to add the eggs.  When it was, I scraped the dough into the bowl of a food processor, added the eggs all at once and whirled it until a nice, thick dough formed. Again, I scooped the dough onto the baking sheet using a #40 scoop.

The result – oh my goodness.  Using the food processor allowed my puffs to reach heavenly heights!  The puffs from the third batch were much higher and lighter than those in the first and second batches.  I used the same method of cutting a slit in the puffs and cooling them in the oven (after it had been turned off).

Super Fluffy

The Size Difference from Food Processor

So it turns out I was wrong about using the food processor.  It did make much fluffier puffs.  The only “complaint” I had about the puffs from my third attempt is that they were much more “free form” than those in my second attempt, which held the shape of the scoop better and were much more uniform in appearance.  I’d have to do some additional testing to see if piping the food processor dough would yield a more uniform result.

All in all, I learned a lot playing with pate a choux.  The puffs are in the freezer tonight to learn about the effects of freezing on them!  Tomorrow, for a little treat, I will fill a few with some whipped vanilla filling and drizzle them with chocolate velvet sauce! Mmm mmm mmm!!!

In addition to playing with pate a choux today, I also made two dozen cupcakes, played with a new loaded baked potato soup recipe, made soft pretzels dough (and am still experimenting with some of that dough), boiled and baked some soft pretzel croutons, made a marinade for tomorrow evening’s dinner and prepared all the components for the kebabs we will enjoy after work tomorrow.

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I also snuck in a trip to the gym and the grocery store and a few other things this evening, including dinner at Brick Kitchen & Bar in Carlisle (do yourself a favor and try their Fresh Cut Chips with bacon, blue cheese & balsamic glaze with a Lavender Collins) with some of the best ladies on the planet!

Although earlier in this post I jokingly bemoaned the fact that the dough in my kitchen today wasn’t the kind you can spend,  I will tell you this – I wouldn’t trade my dinner with tonight’s dining companions for all the dough in the world!!!