Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!
So basically, this Month’s Daring baker’s challenge involved 2 things I’ve never done.
First of all making pate choux (aka pate a choux). And, if that wasn’t a little scary on its own….we got to make them in swan shape!!!! Yay!!!! I say that now, but my initial reaction was Eeeeekkkk!!!!
I find that youtube somehow manages to calm my baking nerves. Everything looks so much easier on youtube. These were the video that helped comfort me. Thanks youtube folks….or should I say merci?
I apparently really like videos without words – or in languages I don’t understand – keeps me focused on the visual.
After a couple of weeks of watching comforting videos and reading a variety of sources, to see if they could offer any additional insight or advice, I finally set to Making the Swan. And I think they turned out looking fine and dandy and tasting real yummy.
I filled the swan with vanilla pastry cream which you should make before baking the pate choux, and whipped cream that you should make after.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla extract or one Vanilla Bean
If you are using Vanilla Bean you must first:
Place a generous 1 cup of milk into a small saucepan. Cut the vanilla bean pod lengthwise using the sharp side of a paring knife.Using the back side/ dull side of the knife blade, remove the seeds and add to the milk. Place the pod into the milk as well. Bring the mixture to a simmer. remove from heat and allow to steep for 20-30 minutes. Remove the pod. Use 1 cup of this vanilla infused milk as you proceed with the recipe.
- Dissolve cornstarch in 1⁄4 cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.
- Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.
- Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking.
- Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla extract(vanilla should be only added if you didn’t use vanilla bean).
Pate a Choux Ingredients:
1 cup (240 ml) water
1⁄4 teaspoon (11⁄2 gm) salt
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm) (5 oz) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
- Line at least two baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper, or grease pans well.
- Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5 .
- In a small- medium saucepan, over low heat, combine butter, water, and salt until butter melts.
- Once the butter has melted increase the heat to medium and bring to a boil
- Remove saucepan from heat.
- Add flour all at once and beat. Beat the mixture until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pot.
- Return the pan to the heat (medium) and continue to cook and beat the dough for about another minute.
Now you need to have decided whether you plan on using your stand mixer or not. I used my mixer. Here is the MIXER METHOD
8. Place dough in the mixer and mix for about 1 minute to cool of slightly
If you chose not to use your mixer, feel free to watch the comforting video above once more (the one in French)
8. Remove the pan from the heat, turn off the heat, add one egg, and beat until well combined.
9. Add remaining eggs individually, beating vigorously after each addition.
10. Resulting mixture should be somewhat glossy, very smooth, and somewhat thick.
11. Use the string test to check your batter.
12. Place your batter into a pastry bag fitted with a coupler
13. Pipe out the shape of the swan bodies onto a prepared baking sheet (lined with parchment or a silicon mat). The video really helped me with this one. You want to make sure that the body is wide and full one one end and a little narrower on the other.
14. Using a round decorating tip that is about 1⁄4” (6 mm) in diameter, pipe out the swan heads by first piping “S” shapes (I made mine as a backwards “S”). To add the heads just pipe out a circle and pull away to the side to create the beak (do this using the same 6mm pastry tip)
15. If you want, you can smooth out any imperfections or pointy bits that may burn just by wetting your index finger and using it to smooth out the shapes. Be gentile, and keep in mind that they will puff up and your imperfections may become less noticeable. (I just tucked in some little points on the swan bodies, I didn’t want little burnt tips sticking out of my swan bodies).
16. Make sure that your preheated oven is at 375 degrees (it can be a tad higher, between 375-400. Try to avoid it being lower than 375 at this stage. The heat will help you get a nice rise). Bake the heads and bodies until golden and puffy. The heads will be done before the bodies, so keep a close eye on the baking process. It took me about 15 minutes to bake the heads. After the bodies had baked for 20 minutes I lowered the temperature to about 350 and allowed it to continue baking. This allows the inside to continue drying out without burning the outside. I had the bodies in the oven for about 35 minutes total. Your baking time may differ so watch them closely. Also, be sure not to take them out too soon, before they are a golden brown.
1 cup (225 ml.) cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons confectioners’ (powdered) sugar
Chill medium mixing bowl and whisk in freezer for 10 minutes before beginning. In chilled bowl, whisk cream until it begins to foam and thicken. Add sugar and continue to whisk just until soft peaks form. Do not over-whip.
- Take a swan body and use a very sharp knife to cut off the top 1/3rd to 1⁄2.
- Cut the removed top down the center to make two wings.
- Dollop a bit of pastry cream filling into the body and use a star tip and pastry bag to pipe on your whipped cream/ chantilly cream.
- insert head, and then add wings.