To my delight, this week’s assignments were quite easy and might just be my favorite thing so far. (Aside from the French macarons). We made pâte à choux, a dough that is not only is super easy to work with, but is also super fun to say.
We learned about 5 different types of choux pastries, the first two of which would be our focus for the night, the éclair and cream puff. Then we learned about paris-brest, which is a donut shaped pastry. There’s also St. Honoré, named after the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. Who knew there was such a thing? The French think of everything. The St. Honoré is composed of cream puffs with a hard caramel around the top. It’s filled with waves of vanilla and chocolate diplomat cream and is assembled to look like a crown in honor of St. Honoré.
The last item we learned about, which also happens to be another fun one to say, was the croquembouche, which translates into “crack in mouth”. This is made from pastry balls stacked to look like a tree and commonly served at weddings, baptisms and communions.
After the short lecture, we set off to the kitchen to begin working on our éclairs and cream puffs. The procedure is really quite simple, you just mix the dough together, which is impossible to over mix – the longer it mixes the better. Pipe out your pastries, pop them in an oven at 425 for 10 minutes – this initial cooking will cause the dough to release steam and create the hollow area where your filling will go, then take the temperature down to 375 for the remainder of the cooking. Supes easy. Once they’re fully cooled off, fill with your pastry cream, top with the ganache and you can call it a day. While each step in the process is quite easy, it is time consuming. Eventually, I will post a recipe along with step by step instructions because this is definitely something I will make again. I promise!
We also made some custard-based desserts, none of which is easier than panna cotta. Listen up vegetarian friends – you can make a custard-based dessert without gelatin. You can substitute agar, which is a seaweed-based gelling agent instead of using gelatin. The conversion is 1 tsp of agar to 4 tbsp hot water. You must boil the agar before incorporating into your mixture, otherwise it will taste nasty. While it may be simple and boring to look at, panna cotta can be dressed up with a coulis or fruit topping to add to the presentation and taste. Eaten on its own, it tastes just like vanilla ice cream – so good!
One more week under my belt, 6 more to go!