Choux-ing off!

Stumped. Gobsmacked. Stunned.   I just can’t tell you what I felt like when I saw the Daring Bakers’ challenge for the month of August, really my jaw just dropped to the floor when I saw that Filled Pate A Choux Swans was our challenge for this month set by Kat of The Bobwhites. Now, thanks to being a Capricorn, the minute I’m confronted with a challenge the panic lasts just for a couple of seconds but after that it gets worse – I start obsessing about what I have to do. I’ll make lists in my head, mentally make the dish, pipe squiggles instead of beautiful swans (shudder!) and even imagine what the dish tastes like, all in that busy head of mine!

Oh! What a beauty! 

I’ve eaten choux pastry in eclairs, cream puffs and even in a croquem bouche once, what I love about this pastry is the way it just melts into your mouth. Absolute heaven. Since I try to bake eggless most of the time, I thought that it would be nice to do a egg-free version of the choux pastry too but I just couldn’t compound the recipe in my head. It just didn’t tally. So when I looked online and read reams and reams about perfecting choux pastry, I learnt that eggs are next to essential in this recipe because that’s what helps the pastry rise. I thought of adding yeast instead but I didn’t want a bready, chewy texture to the pastry.

To tell you the truth it wasn’t the choux pastry which was all that intimidating, even though I’ve been told that it is one of the toughest pastries to master, what was scary is getting the shape of the swan right. I’m a lazy bum when it comes to piping and I try and avoid it as much as I can in cakes (besides the fact that I don’t like icing so much) so this was the thing that was giving me nightmares!

Anyway coming down to the Filled Pate A Choux Swans, I did a chocolate ganache filling because I knew that even if the swan turned into an ugly duckling the chocolate would salvage the dish! The result: A melt-in-the-mouth pastry that offset the bittersweet ganache really well. The swans disappeared really quick and I could manage a picture of just one of them.

Filled Pate A Choux Swans

For the choux pastry
Adapted from Step-by-Step Baking 
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
4 tbsp of water
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt

Heat the butter, salt and water over a low flame. Keep stirring continuously and when the mixture reaches boiling point, remove it from the heat. Allow the mixture to cool down a little and gradually add the eggs to this, one-by-one whisking all the time. When you get a smooth, shiny mixture you are done.

Grease a baking tray and line with paper or foil. Use the tip of a knife or fork and trace out the patterns for the swan’s necks.

Pour the choux pastry dough into two piping bags – one with a bigger nozzle for the swan’s bodies and a smaller one for the neck. Slowly pipe the swan’s neck on the baking tray using the pattern as a guide. On another tray pipe rounds for the swan’s bodies. Bake this at 180 degrees Celsius for about 10-12 minutes, until the pastry has turned golden brown and risen well. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool down before proceeding.

I got some swans a little more brown than the others, in fact I even burnt a batch trying to get the timing right. Even though my swans had very brown tips I didn’t mind because I felt the colour added another dimension to the dessert.

Shades of brown 

For the chocolate ganache
150 gms of dark cooking chocolate
2 tbsp of fresh cream
1 tbsp of butter
1 tbsp of sugar

Melt all the ingredients together in a double boiler or a microwave and stir until you get a glossy mixture. Allow to cool down before proceeding.

To assemble the swans:
Take the circular pieces of choux pastry and slice a piece off the top, about 1/3 of the entire thing. Now cut this bit into two by slicing it vertically.

Now spoon in the chocolate ganache into the cavity of the bigger piece and then place the swan neck on this.

Place one piece of the sliced choux pastry on either side to form the wings.

Chill the swans for about 15 minutes before serving.

*You can flavour the choux pastry with chocolate or even some essence like orange blossom or rosewater.
* The fillings can range from a whole variety from custard to fresh fruit coulis and even a Chantilly cream.
* The most important take-away from this experience: Watch over the choux pastry like a hawk while it is baking, you really don’t know when it is going from a dark caramel brown to a horrid burnt one.

I’m also sending this to Bake Fest which was started by Vardhini and is now being hosted at The Mad Scientist’s Kitchen this month


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