Week 2 – Baking – Pâte À Choux

I found out that three of my classmates already have jobs in the industry. This is exciting news, but also made me think about getting more “real world experience”. I have a meeting later today with Jen in Career Services and I’ll definitely bring this up.

Lecture

Class started off with again with a lecture, and then a demo on how to make Crème Pâtissière (pastry cream) and then it’s harder cousin Crème Anglaise which is a base sauce that can be used to create other things like ice cream. They both have the same base ingredients of eggs, sugar, and dairy (milk or cream) along with some salt and potentially vanilla, but Crème Anglaise is considered harder because it is more delicate. It doesn’t contain a starch like flour or corn starch which pastry cream does which acts as a layer of protection for the eggs so that they don’t cook or rather turn into sweet scrambled eggs!

The speed at which we cook some things is important especially when creating emulsions. Cooking something too slowly or to quickly can result in a bad product from separating or burning, poor flavor development and a myriad other challenges. Chef Deb cautioned us when making pastry cream and admitted that over time, mistakes in class will happen and those are good because that’s when we learned. As she stated in our last class, most things can be fixed unless you burn something.

Chef Recommended Books: Flour by Joanne Chang, How to Bake & The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri, Baking with Julia by Julia Child and Dorie Greenspan, Baking by Dorie Greenspan, The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg

Lab

Today I was responsible for three recipes to create one final product, cream puffs. I had to make Pâte À Choux, a Chocolate Crème Pâtissière (Pastry Cream) and a simple glaze made out of confectioner’s sugar and a tiny bit of liquid which in my case was milk.

I was paired with another classmate, Peter who was making èclairs, along with a Coffee Crème Patissière and a Chocolate Glaze. We were paired so we could mix and match flavorings and decoration for our final product.

My other classmates were assigned different variations of Pâte À Choux with sweet and savory treatments. This lab was a bit frenetic as most of us worked on multiple recipes or recipes with multiple components.

I spent a lot of time thinking about my mise en place and making sure I had everything I needed.

Pâte à Choux Mise en Place

Making the choux paste as pâte à choux is sometimes called in English, was fairly easy. It was much quicker than I imagined. I started by cooking my water, butter and salt. It’s important to not take too long so that you don’t lose too much moisture.

Making pâte à choux

Making pâte à choux

When everything was hot, I added my flour and stirred vigorously.

Making pâte à choux

At this point I was cooking out the raw flour taste from my dough. The dough is done when it looks like mashed potatoes. Once that was done, I cooled it down so that I could add in my eggs one at a time and not have them coagulate and be scrambled.

Making pâte à choux

Making pâte à choux

We learned the “spoon test” which is essentially putting the spoon in your choux. If it stands straight up, it needs more egg. If it falls slowly, you have just the right amount.

Making pâte à choux

After it was set, I had to pipe my cream puffs onto a sheet pan. Making them uniform and a good shape was tough and my first ones didn’t look so great. Chef Deb came by and showed me how to improve my technique which did get better as I went a long and got a feel for the pastry bag.

Piped pâte à choux for cream puffs

 

I had forgotten to dorure (egg wash) my cream puffs before putting them in the oven. Luckily, we have everything checked and Chef Deb noticed, saving me some execution embarrassment.

Piped pâte à choux for cream puffs with dorure (egg wash)

 

Baked Cream Puffs

I later had to work on my glaze and my pastry cream. I quickly found out that taking my time earlier, often meant I had to wait for things, or certain kitchen items were dirty and needed to be cleaned as I went along with my recipes. The glaze was super simple, being only confectioner’s sugar and a bit of water. It was the pastry cream filling that was challenging and where I made a mistake. I combined everything i the recipe and brought it to a boil, while trying to manage my heat.

Making crème pâtissière (pastry cream)

We were told not to cook the pastry cream for too long or stir too slowly as emulsion could separate. My pastry cream began to thinking with more cooking. As things turned out, I became the first class example of what happens when you don’t work with your pastry cream properly as mine separated.

Making crème pâtissière (pastry cream) - breaking

I managed to temper and my chocolate ok and after fixing my pastry cream, was able to mix the chocolate ok and set things to chill. The last step for my recipe after chilling was whipping up some heavy cream to a soft plop stage and folding it into the chilled chocolate pastry cream. I wasn’t sure what soft plop meant, and I had over whipped my cream in my first Food Basics class. Chef Deb offered a demo to the class.

I was confident about folding. I had learned the proper technique last week, although Chef Deb demonstrated it to the entire class this week once the cream was set.

Chef Deb also showed us how to properly fill both the cream puffs and the èclairs.

At the end of class, we got to see another demo. This one was for assembling the cream puff swans which was great as we saw them come “alive”.

This lab was full of challenges and technique. I definitely left happy, knowing that I could practice this at home and refine my technique.

My recipe, Creme Puffs

Cream Puffs with Chocolate and Simple Glazes

Èclairs

Eclairs with Chocolate and Simple Glaze

Cream Puff Swans

Cream Puff Swans

Gougère

Gougère

Cheese Beignets

Cheese Beignet

Dauphine Potatoes Choux

Dauphine Potatoes Choux

Dessert Beignets

Dessert Beignets with Sour Cream Orange Sauce

Petit Choux Hors Dœuvres

Petit Choux Hors D'œuvres

Paris-Brest

Paris Brest

Savory Cream Puffs Filled with Caponata

Savory Cream Puffs Filled with Caponata

 

Key Observations and Learnings

  • I’m slow! I’m the last one done this week.
  • Timing is important especially when working on multiple things at once. Read the recipes for all of your components and think about how to execute them in order so that they all come together at the end without much downtime.
  • Fighting for the stove and ovens. Get mise done quick and get your stuff in so you don’t run out of time later!
  • There is only one bad question, “what do I do next?” You should read your recipes and ask questions then, not while cooking.

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