Monday, November 07, 2005

Pate a Choux (pat a shoe)

Mia had a BBQ on Saturday night, and a weird string of conversation led to Paul and me deciding to make gougere (creme puff dough w/ cheese). He has been hinting that for being a former pastry chef, he certainly isn’t eating, seeing or learning to make any pastries. My local grocery store didn’t sell any gruyere cheese, so we just went with parmesean and I decided to add some of my fresh rosemary, too.

He was amazed at the process of making the dough and seemed to really like working with a piping bag. His parents don’t know how to cook, so he thinks he will make these for them when he goes home next. I very much like pate a choux paste, because it isn’t a fussy dough like puff pastry, pate brisee or pie crust. It isn’t hard to make and if you do it even basically correct, it will work.

So here is the super-yummy recipe we created:
1 stick butter (I used salted, add salt if using unsalted butter)
1 C Flour
1 C water
4-5 eggs (large)
(the above is the basic dough – add a tablespoon of sugar for cream puffs or other dessert applications)
3/4 C. Roughly grated cheese
1T+ Rosemary, fresh, chopped
Fresh grated black pepper

Preheat oven to 400. Melt the butter in the water in a 2 quart pot. While this is heating, crack one egg into a bowl and beat with a fork. When the butter has melted, remove from heat and dump in all of the flour -stir with a wooden spoon until it is a smooth mass. Return to heat and continue stirring for about a minute – you will see a film begin to form on the bottom of the pan.
Add the four eggs one at a time – stirring each egg in completely before adding the next one. It will become work to stir. This is the only tricky part about making this dough. You are looking for a batter/dough that slides like a ribbon off of the spoon – it shouldn’t plop off in a clump. Add small amounts of the beaten egg until it reaches this point.

Stir in the rest of the ingredients. Take two sheet pans/cookie sheets and line with waxed or parchment paper. Fill a pastry bag with a large straight tip and either make individual rounds, or almost-touching rounds in ring shapes (they will then fuse together during baking for a pretty ring that works well for entertaining, because a bowl can be placed inside, or a mound of crackers or some other food can become the center of the ring). If you don’t have a pastry bag, just spoon the paste onto the pans. Wet your fingers and smooth out the mounds – peaks will burn. Take the remainder of the egg, add a little water for egg wash and brush onto the paste before baking.

Bake for about 15 minutes in a closed oven. After 15 minutes open the door for a minute or so to let the steam out. The remainder of the baking time is used to dry out the inside of the puffs. They should be pretty dark when they are done.

If you added sugar instead of cheese, you have cream puffs. Piping the dough in long lines instead of mounds will create eclairs. The sweet dough can be filled with whipped cream, pastry cream or many other yummy fillings.

These are best eaten shortly after baking – especially if they are filled. They will eventually get soggy and lose their outer crispiness, and fillings speed up the sogging. However, these are great pastries to prepare ahead of time without any loss of quality. Make the dough, pipe out and freeze. Do NOT thaw, but simply toss in the pre-heated oven. Very easy to keep in the freezer for fancy unexpected entertaining. OR, bake the puffs, freeze and re-crisp in oven. Do NOT freeze the mass of unformed dough – you will have a mess.

Sorry – I’ll try not to turn this into a recipe page too often.

The people at the party loved the puffs. Paul and I got completely drenched biking back home. It was the night of the Indiana tornado, and we were biking in a nighttime, November flash thunderstorm. Ugh – drenched denim.

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