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"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure.

In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude."

~ Julia Child

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Savory or Sweet Choux

One way to truly impress your guests is to make Eclairs.  They look amazing and so complicated.  Let me let you in on a little secret, they are easy.  All the chocolate and custard just blend so well with the airy texture of the choux.  I was always afraid to try this pastry gem but I through caution to the wind and gave it a whirl.   I now feel like a master pastry chef. Yeah uh not! 

One thing I learned from this little adventure is just how versatile choux is.  With this simple recipe and some extra ingredients I was able to transform this paste into a savory spicy cheese stick that can be filled with cream cheese for an appetizer or left as a stick and set to accompany soups. I think that you all will have so much fun creating delicious sweet and savory culinary wonders!
Okay get your pastry chef hat out and let's go!!

Basic Choux Paste
From The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook (King Arthur Flour Cookbooks)
 1 cup water
1 stick butter (8 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (I use King Arthur Flour always!)
4 large eggs

Put water butter and salt in a saucepan and bring the mixture to a rolling boil.  Remove it from the heat and add the flour all at once.  Stir vigororusly. Return to the burner and cook over medium heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture forms a ball. (this should take only about a minute or so)
Remove the pan from heat and let the mixture cool for 5 to ten minutes until the temp reachers 140 degrees F.  It will still feel hot, but you should be able to handle it. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat in the eggs one at a time the mixture will become fluffy. Beat at least 2 minutes after the last egg.
Your mixture is now ready for piping. 

Okay are you ready for the fun part?  Here are two different recipes using choux, one savory and one decadently sweet! 

Chocolate Eclairs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees f.
1 recipe  Choux Paste (above)

 Using a large round tip of a pastry bag shape 3 1/2 inch fingers onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Leave a bit of space between them. Bake the paistries for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 bake until sides are set about 20 minutes more.  Make a small slit in the ends of each pastry and return to the oven for 5 more minutes. Cool on wire racks while you prepare the pastry cream.

Pastry Cream
 3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon unbleached all purpose flour
4 large egg yokes
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter
1 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks

In a medium saucepan stir together 2 1/2 cups of the milk, sugar and salt.  Bringing the mixtre to a boil over medium heat.  Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch, flour and egg yolks with the remaining milk.
Whisk about half the boiling milk mixture with the egg yolk mixture, then pour back into the hot milk mixture and return to the heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and strain through a find sieve, and stir in the butter and vanilla extract.  Rub a piece of putter over the surface of the cream and cover with plastic wrap.  Be sure that the plastic wrap touches the surface of the cream so it does not form a skin.

When cream is cool fold in the whipped cream and you are ready for filling!

When the pastry cream is cold cut each eclair in half and fill the bottom half with pastry cream.

 Chocolate Glaze for Eclairs
1 tablespoon butter
1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate
1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Melt the butter with the chocolate in a microwave oven or in a double boiler on stove top.  Stir in the water and sugar. Beat with spoon or fork until the glaze is smooth and soft enough to pour and drizzle over the tops of the eclairs. 
Top each of the bottom half with the chocolate glazed top half and mmmmm Chocolate!

Spicy  Cheese Puffs
 1 recipe choux paste (above)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 425
Prepare choux paste as directed in the recipe above, increasing the salt to 1 tablespoon and combining  all the spices with the flour.  Once the eggs are beaten in beat in the cheeses.  Fit a pastry bag with a large open star tip.  Pipe the mixture to the size of your choice onto the baking sheet lined with parchment. Long to set on top of a bowl of soup or smaller to fill with Spicy Cream Cheese (following)
Bake the puffs for 15 minutes reduce the temp of the oven to 350 and continue to bake for an additional 15 minutes until puffs are golden brown. Open oven and allow to cool in the oven to dry them out. 

Spicy Cream Cheese Filling

1 package cream cheese softened
1 4 oz can of diced green chilies or jalapenos
1 or two cubes of Dorot Frozen Chopped Cilantro (or 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro)

I choose the frozen cilantro because I am not a big fan of cilantro and the leftover fresh would go to waste.  I love the Dorot Chopped Cilantro because it stays fresh frozen!  I found it at Trader Joe's

Mix all ingredients together well  cut each choux paste cheese stick in half and pipe cream cheese onto the bottom half  put the top back on and serve!

Okay let's party and get your YUM on!!!

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