While searching on the origin of Choux Pastry, I learnt that it was invented by a French chef known as Panterelli way back in 1540. How clever of him to think of this unique way of creating a pastry that when baked or fried, would result in a puff with a hollow inside that could be stuffed with different fillings.
Two common desserts available here that are made from this pastry are cream puffs and éclairs. I’ve yet to come across savoury ones being offered in cafes and bread/confectionary shops here. In France, a favourite among the locals there is Cheese Grougere, a savoury puff made with grated parmesan and gruyère cheeses and eaten as an appetizer.
Here is a basic choux pastry recipe that I believe you will have as much fun playing with as I do. You can create many shapes with this versatile pastry. I like to shape the baked puffs into swans, a dessert that never fails to raise eyebrows. I’ve also tried making them into fruit baskets. Be adventurous with the fillings – sweet or savoury, you can’t go wrong with it. Your family and friends will surely be delighted by your creativity.
If you have no time or find it troublesome to make custard cream, you can buy instant custard powder to make custard cream that is just as tasty – just add milk or water and beat for a few mins… that simple! It is available at bakery supplier store Phoon Huat. A 400gm pack is enough to fill 50 to 60 cream puffs.
Have fun !
BASIC CHOUX PASTRY RECIPE
Ingredients (yields 25 puffs):
100gm unsalted butter
½ teaspoon sugar
pinch of salt
3 large eggs (60gm each)
½ teaspoon vanilla essence (add this only if you are making sweet puffs)
1) In a pot, bring all the ingredients in (A) to a boil.
2) Remove from heat. Add (B) and stir with a wooden spoon quickly to form a smooth paste.
3) Transfer the paste into a cake mixer and beat until lukewarm. Add in (C) one at time and beat until well blended and smooth. It is important to make sure that each egg is well incorporated before adding in the next one. Lastly, add in the vanilla essence (if using for sweet dessert).
4) Prepare a baking pan with parchment paper. Put the batter into a piping bag fitted with a plain or star nozzle. Pipe elongated or round, regular, evenly spaced moulds on the parchment paper (do not place them too close as the puffs will rise and expand during baking).
For making ‘Swans’, use a large star nozzle to make an oval shape for the body and a small round tip nozzle to make a ‘2’ shape for the head and neck.
5) Bake in a preheated oven at 200ºC for 20-25mins.
6) When done, remove to a cooling rack.
7) Make a slit lengthwise and fill with desired sweet or savory fillings.
To make Swan, cut the baked oval shaped puff into half (for the ‘body’) and cut the top half into halves again (for the ‘wings’) as in this picture
Fill the ‘body’ of the Swan with custard cream
Insert the ‘head’ and attach the ‘wings’
dip a thin wooden stick in melted chocolate to dot ‘eyes’ and ‘beak’ on the head
To make CUSTARD CREAM (for 25 cream puffs)
40gm custard powder
200gm whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1) In a bowl, mix (A) together until well blended.
2) In a saucepan, cook (B) until almost boiling. Remove from heat and add it gradually to (A)
3) Strain the mixture into a saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring until it thickens and boils.
4) Remove from heat and mix well with (C).
5) Cover the pan with a cling wrap or a wet tea towel to prevent a skin from forming on the top of the custard cream.
6) Leave to cool before use.
* For Chocolate Custard, add some melted chocolate to the cooked custard and omit the vanilla essence
the cooked cream custard
Suggestions for SWEET filling :
1) For éclairs : slice the puff lengthwise and fill the inside with coffee, chocolate, caramel or custard cream and drizzle the top of the puff with melted chocholate
2) For cream puffs : slice the puff lengthwise and fill the inside with custard cream or whipped cream. You may also top the cream with freshly cut fruits like strawberries, kiwis, peaches, etc. Sieve snow powder over the top of the puff for a ‘snowy’ effect.
Suggestions for SAVOURY filling :
Slit the puffs lengthwise and fill with your choiced fillings such as :
1) tuna mixed with chopped onions, eggs mayonnaise
2) eggs with mayonnaise
3) curry potatoes & chicken meat (like curry puff filling)
4) sambal shrimps, etc