With the completion of the Tarts & Cookies unit, we've moved on to pate a choux. Pate a choux is cream puff pastry. Initially, I wondered how many things you can make with cream puff pastry, and like I suspected, not much. The whole unit is only four classes long and we've already done two of the. The last class is entirely devoted to making a croquembouche. I had attempted a croquembouche (cone-shaped tower of cream puffs) for Christmas Eve, and it was a total disaster. Maybe I'll post that sad picture next week.
Choux is a really cool dough. You cook part of the ingredients (flour, butter, water) on the stove until it's thickened and then you cool it down in a mixer before adding a TON of eggs. Seriously, 10 eggs per batch of dough. That's a lot. When you pipe it into whatever shape you desire, and it looks pretty flat and dense. Then you bake it and it puffs up almost triple its size and the inside is completely hollow and airy, ready to be filled with something delicious. Like I said, cool stuff.
The first item in choux was eclairs. I thought I didn't like eclairs, but these were really good. I think the key is that I don't like pastry cream that eclairs are usually filled with. It's too thick and weird-textured. The eclairs we made in class though were filled with flavored creme legere (pastry cream lightened with whipped cream). We made vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. The coffee were awesome.
The second class in the choux unit had cygnes (swans), profiteroles (ice cream-filled cream puffs), and Paris-Brest. Paris-Brest is sort of like a cake. It was created by a baker in France to commemorate the bicycle race between the cities of Paris and Brest, which is why the choux is shaped like a bicycle wheel. Once the choux pastry is baked (with almonds sprinkled on top), it is cut in half and then filled with a special praline buttercream that is carefully piped into the center to further resemble the treads of a bicycle wheel.
We had our first introduction to plated desserts with our cygnes and profiteroles. Both were plated in a lake of chocolate sauce, and we decorated the plates with some of the creme anglaise Chef Joseph had reserved before spinning the rest into the rest into ice cream. I have a lot to learn about plating, but I thought my first attempt wasn't too bad.
Chef Cynthia also demoed popovers for us. Because they're so hard to get clean out of the pans, she thought it was best not to have us all make them. Which was probably a good call. After seeing the pan, I think it would have taken us all class to scrape out the remnant popover.