Saturday, June 30, 2012

Eclairs, Cream Puffs and other good stuff.

I just know you ran right out to the fridge, grabbed out some eggs and butter and flour and tried to make the Choux Pastry, and now you're wondering what to do with it.   You have these wonderful little golden puffs, (and if you haven't sampled one by now, I want to know why?), and need to fill them with something good.

In our house we love Eclairs and Cream Puffs, and I make them from time to time.    One  of the things I love about Choux Paste is that you can make a batch of these little puffs, and you don't need to finish them off right away, they freeze, and freeze well.   So if you're in the mood for an Eclair or a Cream Puff, just grab a few out of the freezer and let them sit on the counter after you've prepared the fillings.  By the time you get a pastry bag filled, the puffs will have thawed enough to work with.

There are two ways of filling a Puff.   One is by cutting it in half, squirting in the whipped cream or Creme Patisserie or custard, then placing the top back on and finishing them off.   My favorite though is to get a pastry bag with a large round tip, inserting the tip into the side of the puff and filling them that way.   Much more fun, and it cuts out a step.

Filling for Choux Paste

Sweet Side
Sweetened Whipped Cream
Creme Patiserrie
Chocolate Custard
Ice Cream

 Savory Side
Chicken Salad
Ham Salad
Crab Salad
Shrimp Salad

Honestly, you are limited only by your imagination as to what you use to fill your puffs with.  
Here's my favorite filling.   But if you have your own favorite custard sauce or custard recipe, by all means use it.

 Recipe:  Creme Patisserie
2 cups milk, heated
3 egg yolks
4 tablespoons sugar
2-4 tablespoons Cornstarch  (depending on how thick you want the custard)
1/2 -1 tsp Vanilla, or my favourite, Kahlua Liqueur

Beat eggs yolks with sugar and corn starch until well mixed.   Strain them if you like at this point to get that pesky little bit of egg white that always clings to the yolk out.    Set aside for a minute or two while heating the milk.     Temper the eggs by pouring a little of the heated milk into it, then add a little more, whisking it well each time.    Then add the tempered egg mixture into the heated milk, whisking it well.   You don't want to scramble the eggs yolks by pouring them directly into the hot milk, which is why you temper the eggs with some of the hot milk first.    Heat to a boil, whisking it all the time, let cook for about 30-45 seconds, then remove from heat.   It should be fairly thick.   This will thicken some upon standing.    Pour into a bowl, then cover it with plastic wrap, pressing it down onto the surface.   This prevents a skin from forming.   At this point you can place it into the fridge and let it cool down completely, or to hasten the cooling, just put your bowl on a bed of ice, and let sit for about ten minutes or so.   Then take off the plastic wrap and stir, replacing it after you stir.  It should be cool enough to pipe into the puffs after about 20 minutes.

Then just place the tip of the filled pastry bag that you just filled with your Creme Patisserie, into the puff and squeeze, filling the puff as you are drawing out the tip.   Top with some melted chocolate if you like and set it into the fridge to finish cooling.    

To make the chocolate topping, just microwave a couple of squares of baking chocolate, til it's softened, stir in one tablespoon of unsalted butter, mix thoroughly, then use a spoon or pastry brush to add a little chocolate to the top of the puffs.  And VOILA! you have an Eclair, or just a cream filled puff.   Call it whatever you like.

And if you want this puffs to do double duty just fill them with your favorite chicken or ham or seafood salad.

Filled with some lovely Chicken Salad, each one pretty much bite size.  
Now doesn't this look like a fun appetizer or dessert?     

I'll be posting a couple more ideas you can make with Choux Paste a little later on.

For now, go and practice making some custard.  One nice thing about custard, if you don't make it exactly right you can always eat the evidence.   No one has to know, it will be between you and your scale or ...  
Sidsel Munkholm - Author
Sidsel Munkholm - Author

Sid loves to cook, feed people and have fun in the kitchen. She shares her successes and the involuntary offerings she sometimes gives the kitchen goddess as well. And she's still looking for the mythical fairy to help her clean the kitchen after a marathon cooking session. Currently working on a cookbook showcasing the recipes from her Danish heritage.

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