When I cook, I spend the entire day in the kitchen, leisurely cooking to my hearts content. I wear a cute frilly apron, some adorable knee-length dress and a string of pearls. I usually sing a little tune, like “Whistle While You Work” and pretty birds alight themselves on my window to add backup.
Said, no cook…EVER!
I’ve spent days in my kitchen, on my feet for hours, trying to balance prep and cooking to military precision, all while washing dishes, because they’re needed elsewhere, and constantly shuffling crap on my counters to make space. I was not blessed with a well designed kitchen and it was the one thing that nearly prevented me from buying my home. But that’s a story for a different day.
Even if I haven’t had many days where I’ve left my kitchen feeling like I’ve marched for miles and fought my way across a battlefield, I’ve seen chef’s work and watched enough episodes of “Cooked”, “Chef’s Table” and “Hell’s Kitchen” to know it’s brutal, it’s stressful and it’s freakin’ exhausting.
When you have a full time job, kids to take care (at all ages), a house to care for and a million other things to do in a day, making the most of my time in the kitchen is essential to survival. This is why puff choux and cookie-cups are the gods of dessert in my kitchen. I make them in bulk and store them in the freezer. They can be whipped up into so many combinations, the family can have a different dessert every night and not realized they’re having sorta the same thing.
So let’s talk puff choux.
“Choux” is actually the French word for “cabbage” and these pastries were eventually given this name due to their resemblance to small cabbages; in look only of course. The official name is “pâte à choux” (pat a shoe) and the recipe has undergone several changes since it was incepted by an Italian chef around 1540.
The beauty of puff choux is in all the amazing things you can do with them. You can freeze the dough after piping or shaping it, then deep fry it while frozen to make churros or beignets. You can use them as “building blocks” by “gluing” them together with frosting into towers and other shapes. Fill them with ice cream, sweet cheese, honey, mousse, pudding, pastry cream & beyond.
Even the way you pipe them can determine their use. Eclairs, spirals, circles with a hole in the center, use the star tip to pipe several stars together. The ideas are endless. In Paris, there are patisserie’s that sell nothing but eclairs in every combination you can imagine, and then some.
Puff choux can be a bit tricky because it’s the moisture that causes them to rise, but too little and they don’t rise, too much and they don’t cook. I recommend creating a few small batches at first to practice until you get the hang of it. Always use room temperature eggs. How long you cook them can depend on how big you make them and into what shapes.
Keep in mind these will nearly triple their size as they cook so play with their cooking times a bit and give them plenty of room to grow. Once you have a good idea of the proper time based on their size, keep a notecard for quick reference. They can be a bit time consuming so take my advice, bulk up! I usually double this recipe and regular ping pong ball sized puffs (uncooked) will give me 40+ easy! They keep in the freezer very well but be sure to freeze whatever you don’t use the day you make them. The high water content in these will ensure they are stale by morning, and we don’t want that, do we precious? No we do not.
What are some things you make with puff choux? I would love to see your pics and hear your ideas.
Enjoy Life. Eat Well
- Puff Choux
- Chantilly cream
- Chocolate Sauce (optional)
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 6.5 oz water (or milk, or 50/50)
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp sugar
- ½ cup flour
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 Tbsp confectioners sugar
- ½ tsp brandy, vanilla extract or flavored extract of choice
- Set eggs out and bring them to room temperature before using. This is VERY important!
- Melt butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan. Once melted bring to a rapid boil then immediately remove from heat.
- Add the flour gently and stir completely until a smooth paste forms.
- Return to the heat to dry any remaining liquid. Stir until paste forms a ball and pulls away cleanly from the sides of the pan.
- Remove from heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Break the ball up a few times or stir to release the heat from the center as it cools.
- Transfer to a bowl and add the 5 of the eggs one at a time. Beat in completely with a wooden spoon adding as much air as possible. The paste should be smooth and glossy after all the eggs are incorporated.
- If the paste doesn't fall off the spoon in a point or if it's too thick, beat the remaining egg and add it a little at a time until the proper consistency is reached.
- Heat over to 425 and line a cooking sheet with parchment paper.
- Pipe neat rounded mounds of paste and try to avoid forming a tall peak. Don't make them too large to avoid them collapsing once they come out of the oven.
- Brush the buns with egg wash and cook for 10 minutes at 425 then reduce heat to 350 and cook an additional 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the puffs.
- Keep watch, they may look done on top but not inside. They should be golden brown. Best to cook them on the middle to lower-middle rack to ensure the bottom and insides cook w/o overcooking the top.
- Careful remove them from the oven and let them cool completely!!!! If they fall, they are not cooked thoroughly.
- Combine all ingredients with mixer on high until stiff but smooth peaks form.
- Cut the puff choux in half and pipe or dollop some of the cream into the center. Top with sliced strawberries and add the top of the chioux. Garnish with chocolate sauce, powdered sugar and a slice of strawberry.
- *Puffs - Store extras in the freezer up to two weeks. Thaw them on the counter for 20-30 minutes on on low in the microwave when ready to use.
- *Chantilly Cream - for this recipe I used a dash of strawberry extract to boost the flavor.
- Store the cream in the fridge. It'll keep for several days.