It was inevitable. I had to come face to face with my nemesis one day. And that day was here. This month two of the baking groups that I bake along with chose recipes that had one thing in common- choux pastry! It was Paris Brest for the Daring Baker’s Challenge and Chocolate Eclairs for the Avid Baker’s Challenge.
Choux (pronounced ‘shoo’) pastry or pâte à choux (paht ah shoo) seems simple enough to make. It has the usual cast of characters- flour, butter, water and eggs. Yet it was enough to strike fear in my heart. Not that I had ever made it before, it just seemed…..scary!!
But I am so happy that I was pushed into making it. It really was easy.
Choux is a very versatile dough and is used to make many French sweet and savory delicacies like eclairs, profiteroles, croquembouche, Paris Brest and gougères (cheese puffs).
The Paris Brest (pronounced Pa-ree Brehst) is a delicate French dessert which was created by pastry chef Louis Durand in 1910 for the organizers of the Paris-Brest-Paris bicycle race. It’s an amateur cycling event between the cities of Paris and Brest.
The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.
The pastry is designed to resemble the wheel of the bicycle.
Choux pastry is piped out into three concentric circles, two side by side and one on top in the center of the two bottom circles. (I traced a 4″ circle on a parchment paper, inverted it and used it as a guide to pipe out the dough).
This is then baked and after it cools, it is slit into two halves and filled with a praline-mousseline cream.
Since one of the most important ingredient is butter, it is recommended to use a high fat, good quality butter.
I followed the choux recipe from the King Arthur Flour website but halved it to make two pastries and four 3″ long eclairs.
Take care to cool the dough sufficiently before adding the eggs to prevent the eggs from being cooked.
It is also important to add the eggs one at a time so that you have control over the consistency and the dough does not become runny. This way you incorporate only as much egg as required.
The resulting dough should be paste-like, shiny, glossy and of a ‘reluctant dropping consistency’.
I made the pastry cream and praline a couple days ahead and the mousseline the day I baked the choux. The amount of praline mousseline was enough for one Paris Brest and four eclairs.
When making the mousseline, ensure that the butter and pastry cream are at the same temperature (neither too hot nor too cold) otherwise it will become runny or lumpy.
The weather in Mumbai right now is quite hot and humid (temperature today was around 32C and humidity nearly 40%). So the mousseline was wetter than it should have been. It’s definitely not the result I was looking for.
Thankfully I have one pastry in the freezer which I will thaw and use once the weather improves.
Thank you Luisa, you helped me conquer my fear.