It has been a little over a week since my last post in this series, Cooking Through Ratio. I don’t know why this is the case. I could argue that life just gets in the way, but it’s more likely other contributing factors. Perhaps it’s the French name that doesn’t translate well into English. It could be the double cooking method combined with the fact that I have never made anything like it before. Perhaps it’s because when you mention pâte à choux by name no one knows what you are talking about. Whatever the reason or reasons tonight was the night. The choux would wait no longer.
Pâte à choux goes by many names such as its name in full, choux paste, cream puff dough, as well as erroneously puff pastry and can take many forms from sweet to savory, endure many cooking methods such as in water, in oil or in the oven and depending on the direction you want to take it can be used in any part of a meal. It comes at the end of doughs and provides a good segway to batters, the next part of this book section as it depending on the point of cooking falls between a dough and a batter.
Nothing fancy here. I opted to use the basic ratio of 2 parts liquid (water), 1 part fat (butter), 1 part flour and 2 parts eggs. To achieve a result such as a profiterole or cream puff I opted to add 1/8 of a teaspoon of salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar as suggested by Ruhlman.
After assembling my mise en place, the water, butter, salt and sugar were brought to a simmer in a sauce pot. As instructed I added flour to the mixture, stirring vigorously until it was all combined and the flour had absorbed the liquid. At the expense of dirtying another kitchen item I transferred the “dough” to the stand mixer, letting it cool for a bit so the eggs would not curdle on contact, and added 1 egg at a time, waiting for each one to be incorporated into what was becoming a “batter”.
Once combined, I scooped out portions onto the parchment lined baking sheets using a table spoon. After the second or third it was immediately obvious why the preferred method of putting out pâte à choux is with a piping bag. As indicated in the book, the combination of ingredients probably took the same amount of time if not less to combine as it took the water, butter, salt and sugar mixture to come to a simmer. This stuff was easy.
I placed both baking sheets into the pre-heated oven at 425 degrees F. After 10 minutes, the heat was dropped down to 350 degrees F for another 10 minutes. This made sense when I thought about it. The rush of high heat at first would bring the temperature of the pâte à choux up quickly, creating steam and causing it to rise by creating air pockets. After the first wave of heat, the temperature was dropped to continue the baking process with less intensity. I could see similarities to biscuit dough minus any chemical leavening. I also saw parallels to cooking meat in the oven, where cooking at high heat creates a sear and crust on the outer layer, while dropping the heat down later allows for thorough cooking without drying out the meat. I digress.
When I took the baking sheets out of the oven, the pâte à choux on the top rack expanded at least twice as much as the ones on the lower rack. Overall everything had expanded in size and my anxiety quickly dissipated. I was triumphant in making pâte à choux. Biting into one tasted great. It was light, airy, and had a subtle flavor allowing me to distinctly taste each key ingredient as I savored it in my mouth.
Although the flavor was good, I wanted to spice things up a bit with something sweet. I haven’t made it to the custards yet which left me without ice cream or a traditional cream filling for my creations. The easy solution to this problem was to create a simple chocolate ganache with what I had on hand being some chocolate morsels and some milk. The result was a smooth chocolate sauce that was the perfect compliment in both flavor and texture.
Tonight was a fun night and a great lesson in confidence. Batters are next which continue the caloric binge I have been enjoying thus far.