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Choux Pastry (Eclairs and Puffs)

Paris Brest with Pistachio Praline Creme Patissiere Filling

This Paris Brest with Pistachio Praline Creme Patisserie Filling is a classic French dessert that’s made to impress – it has a airy choux pastry with a smooth, nutty pastry cream filling. For this version, I made my own pistachio praline (it’s easy, I promise!) and topped my choux with pearl sugar for some extra crunch. The fun fact about Paris Brest: it was created by chef Louis Durand in 1910 to celebrate a bicycle race from Paris to Brest with a traditional hazelnut praline cream filling. Its circular is to mimic the shape of the wheels.

I have written a detailed guide to making the perfect choux pastry for my charcoal black sesame cream puff – please refer to it if you feel like some extra help!

Hello my old friends, I AM BACK. If you’re here for the first time, welcome. This come back post means the world to me. Away from this blog for over 8 months, I have decided to come back and write about food and life. Over the past 10 months, I had been working as a junior pastry chef at a local bakery in Sydney. However hard it is to admit, I was constantly preoccupied with working in big commercial kitchens, and I gradually lost interest in pastry myself. Although I did gain a lot of skills and techniques at work (which I am incredibly grateful for), I felt stuck and I was mentally & physically exhausted; I lived like a zombie without purpose.

Good news is, my full-time work placement has come to an end lately, and I have some time to sit down and organise my thoughts. I’ve come to realise what I want for my career – I want to teach people how to make desserts, overcome their fears in the kitchen and essentially bring positive influence to the world through food.

Paris Brest with Pistachio Praline Creme Patissiere Filling

A little secret: Starting my own cake business and Youtube Channel has been my goal for quite some time, but somehow I constantly let self-doubt got the best of me. There’re millions of talented pastry chefs out there, and I realised my fear of failing had been my biggest obstacle. A friend of mine recently reminded me that EVERYONE FAILS at some point in their life, and it’s merely part of the process to be successful. It’s time to set aside all my worries and just start doing it. What I am going to gain in the coming months is totally unknown, but I hope to experiment as much as I can, fail as much as I need to, and just grow as I go. And I hope you all will here to witness and be part of my journey. 🙂

Ingredients:

Choux Pastry

  • 200g water
  • 200g milk
  • 8g sugar
  • 8g salt
  • 180g unsalted butter
  • 220g all purpose flour
  • 400g eggs

Pastry Cream

  • 450ml milk + 50ml milk 
  • 1 tbsp vanilla bean paste
  • 100g egg yolk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 60g corn flour
  • 40g unsalted butter

Pistachio Praline

  • 1 cup pistachio
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

Choux pastry 

  1. Preheat oven to 220C. Prepare a baking tray sprayed with cooking oil. Remove excess oil with a tissue paper. Set aside.
  2. Bring water, milk, salt, butter and sugar in a saucepan to a boil.
  3. Turn off heat, add all purpose flour all at once.
  4. Turn back on the stove to low heat, keep cooking while vigorously stirring with a big spoon for around 2-3 mins. It is ready when it forms a shiny, smooth dough that pulls away from the sides of the saucepan. You should see a skin forming at the bottom of the pan.
  5. Transfer the dough into a mixing bowl, and use paddle to beat on medium-high speed for around 10 mins to let cool.  Meanwhile, fully beat the eggs in a measuring cup and set aside.
  6. When the dough is cool to touch, beat the dough on medium-high speed and slowly add the eggs (only add around ÂĽ of the egg mixture each time). When the mixture is well combined and the eggs have been incorporated, add gradually another batch of the eggs mixture and continue beating. Repeat the process until the mixture is thick, shiny and it falls nicely when you lift it up with a scraper. (The amount of egg that you add will vary, depending on the weather or how much the flour absorbs moisture. You might have to add extra egg, or you might have some eggs to hold back.)
  7. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag topped with a star nozzle. Massage the bag with your hand to remove any air bubbles. Hold the bag and nozzle perpendicularly to the prepared tray, and pipe rounds of the desired size. Leave at least 4 cm in between each choux to allow space for expansion. Sprinkle chopped pistachio and pearl sugar on top if desired.
  8. Bake at 220C for 15 mins until risen up and golden. Lower the temperature to 160C, and open the oven door to release the steam for 15 seconds. Close the oven door and continue baking for 10-15 mins until the choux feels firm and dry.
  9. Place the choux in another tray to cool for 10 mins.
  10. Cut the top of the choux with a serrated knife, as the “cap” of the Paris brest. Do this step once your choux is cooled and firm enough to cut as it helps the moisture trapped inside to escape and prevent the choux from becoming soggy.
  11. Leave them at room temperature until ready to assemble.

Pastry Cream 

  1. Put 450ml milk and vanilla bean paste in a sauce pan and bring to boil. 
  2. While milk is being heated, add the remaining 50ml milk, egg yolks, caster sugar, corn flour in a mixing bowl, and mix with a whisk until a smooth paste is formed. 
  3. As soon as the milk starts to bubble, pour 2/3 of the milk, while continuously whisking, to the egg mix to temper the egg mix, then pour everything back to the sauce pan. 
  4. While whisking vigorously, heat the custard base over medium heat until it starts to thicken. Turn off the heat when the custard comes to a boil and starts to bubble. This should take around 2 mins. 
  5. Remove from heat, and whisk in the butter until completely incorporated. 
  6. Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic cling wrap (to prevent the formation of skin on the surface). Set aside in fridge until ready to use. 

Pistachio praline

  1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, and spread pistachio evenly in a single layer on it. Set aside. 
  2. Put sugar and water in a small sauce pan on medium-high heat. Mix with a spatula to ensure no sugar lumps are stuck at the bottom. Boil the syrup over high heat without any stirring until it reaches a golden amber colour. (To avoid crystallisation of sugar, run a wet pastry brush around the inside of the pot once in a while) 
  3. Immediately pour the hot syrup (It’s extremely hot, be careful) over the pistachio. Set aside for 15-20mins for the caramel to set. 
  4. Break into small pieces and put in a food processor. Process the praline to a coarse crumb. Store in airtight container. 

Assembly:
To prepare the pistachio praline pastry cream, beat 500g pastry cream with a paddle on low speed until smooth, and add 50g pistachio praline. Mix until incorporated. To assemble, pipe cream in circular motion onto the base of the choux pastry and top it gently. 

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Charcoal Dark Chocolate Cream Puff with Black Sesame Chantilly Cream and Tofu Creme Patissiere

It’s been a while everyone! I’ve spent some time to come up with this recipe with choux pastry,  because I want to make a cream puff, aka profiterole, that is out of the ordinary and surprise the person who eats it. This charcoal dark chocolate cream puff with black sesame cream chantilly and tofu creme patissiere is the one to impress your guests – it has a monochrome exterior with a multitude of flavours and textures layered between.

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Cream Puff with Black Sesame Chantilly Cream and Tofu Creme Patisserie4

Black sesame is one of my favourite asian flavours to use on desserts. It is used extensively in Asian sweets and sometimes savoury, as apparently its nutty and rich taste is quite addictive. Check out my Charcoal Black Sesame Cake Roll if you are also a fan of black sesame like me!

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Cream Puff with Black Sesame Chantilly Cream and Tofu Creme Patisserie5

 

To pair with the black sesame chantilly, I decided to use silken tofu for my creme patissiere that has a smooth texture and a subtle soybean note. If you don’t have immediate access to silken tofu, you may consider using soy milk instead. Also, I sneakily incorporated chocolate elements in my choux and craquelin (the “cracked skin” on top of the choux) because it is chocolate, period. And I may or may not have added some oreo biscuit at the bottom for some extra crunch as well.

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Cream Puff with Black Sesame Chantilly Cream and Tofu Creme Patisserie7

Making choux essentially involves two steps:

  1. Cook while constantly stirring flour, butter, water/milk, salt and sugar in a saucepan to form a panade.
  2. Add BEATEN eggs gradually until the right consistency is reached

If you aren’t experienced in making choux pastry, it can be a little bit tricky to pull off. You need to have enough practice to know how much eggs you should add to the panade to reach the desired consistency of choux pastry. When I first learnt how to make choux for eclair, I was told to incorporate the eggs by hand as I could have more control. However, I would say adding the eggs by hands is only suitable for a small recipe as it can be really exhausting. That said,if you are confident enough, feel free to use the machine right away! Just be mindful that a tiny extra amount of egg can make the choux too wet to pipe properly, and you might have to start all over again.

In short, your ideal choux pastry should have:

  1. A pipeable consistency, not too stiff or runny
  2. Proper sheen due to the additions of eggs  

If you are looking for a detailed explanation of how to make a perfect choux pastry, I recommend The Favour Blender’s How to Make Perfect Choux Pastry .

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Cream Puff with Black Sesame Chantilly Cream and Tofu Creme Patisserie2

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Cream Puff with Black Sesame Chantilly Cream and Tofu Creme Patisserie3

Another key to making choux is proper baking method. You need to be careful with temperature and time in order to get the signature “puff”.  The reason why cream puff got a hollow structure is that the liquid in the choux paste evaporates and the steam causes the choux to expand and puff up. To attain this result, I find it the best way is to bake at high temperature (180C) for around 25-30 mins to let it puff up, then lower the temperature (160C) for 10-15 mins to dry the cream puff. If the cream puff aren’t dry enough, they will absorb the moisture from the inside and become soggy after a while, which is obviously not ideal.

For me, a perfectly baked choux pastry should be:

  1. Deep golden brown in colour
  2. Crispy, light shell on the outside
  3. Soft and custard-like inside

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Cream Puff with Black Sesame Chantilly Cream and Tofu Creme Patisserie6

 

One more thing I should mention is the craquelin, i.e. the famous crunchy topping of choux pastry. A well made craquelin has a few purposes:

  1. it give additional texture to the choux pastry
  2. It is a way to introduce other colours and flavours
  3. It acts as a cover to control how the choux pastry expands in the oven upon heat, thus helping the choux to maintain the desired round shape  

You should remember that craquelin is always the first thing you should prepare, because it needs time to chill and firm up so it can be easily to handle and manipulate afterwards.

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Cream Puff with Black Sesame Chantilly Cream and Tofu Creme Patisserie

If you love making choux pastry please give this recipe a go! Otherwise, it is always a good thing to practise as practice makes perfect. I hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Ingredients: (make around 15 medium size cream puffs)

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Craquelin

  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 145g brown sugar
  • 145g all purpose flour
  • 25g almond meal
  • 25g melted chocolate
  • 1 tsp charcoal powder

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Choux Pastry

  • 125ml water
  • 125ml full cream milk
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 100g unsalted butter, chopped into small cubes
  • 75g all purpose flour
  • 75g baker flour
  • 30g dark chocolate, melted
  • 250g eggs (+/- 10%, variable)
  • 2 tsp charcoal powder

Black Sesame Chantilly (black sesame whipped cream)

  • 250ml pure cream
  • 40g black sesame paste
  • 20g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp charcoal powder

Tofu Creme Patissiere (tofu pastry cream)

  • 300g silken tofu
  • 100ml milk
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 25g corn flour
  • 1 egg (50g)
  • 20g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp charcoal powder

Instructions:

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Craquelin

  1. Mix all ingredients together to make a short crust pastry.
  2. Flatten it into a rectangle. Cool in refrigerate for 15 mins.
  3. Roll out at 2mm thick and cut circles using a round cutter*
  4. The size of the cutter depends on how big you pipe your choux. Ideally, when placed on the uncooked choux puff, the craquelin should cover the whole choux to form a “hat”.
  5. Keep in refrigerator to firm up until ready to use.

Charcoal Dark Chocolate Choux Pastry

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Prepare a baking tray sprayed with cooking oil. Remove excess oil with a tissue paper. Set aside.
  2. Boil water, milk, salt, butter and sugar in a saucepan.
  3. Add all purpose flour, baker flour.
  4. Over low heat, keep cooking while vigorously stirring with a big spoon for around 3-4 mins. It is ready when it forms a shiny, smooth dough that pulls away from the sides of the saucepan. You should see a skin forming at the bottom of the pan.
  5. Add melted chocolate and charcoal powder. Mix well with a whisk until incorporated.
  6. Let cool in a mixing bowl for around 5 mins. Meanwhile, fully beat the eggs in a measuring cup and set aside.
  7. Using an electric mixer with a beater attachment, beat the dough on medium-high speed and slowly add the eggs (only add around ÂĽ of the egg mixture each time). When the mixture is well combined and the eggs have been incorporated, add gradually another batch of the eggs mixture and continue beating. Repeat the process until the mixture is thick, shiny and it falls nicely when you lift it up with a scraper. (The amount of egg that you add will vary, depending on the weather or how much the flour absorbs moisture. You might have to add extra egg, or you might have some eggs to hold back.)
  8. Transfer the mixture into a piping bag topped with a round nozzle. Massage the bag with your hand to remove any air bubbles. Hold the bag and nozzle perpendicularly tover the prepared tray, and pipe circles of the desired size. Leave at least 4 cm in between each choux to allow space for expansion.
  9. Take out the prepared cut craquelin and place gently onto the choux.
  10. Bake at 180C for 30-35 mins until risen up and golden. Lower the temperature to 160C, and open the oven door to release the steam for 15 seconds. Close the oven door and continue baking for 10-15 mins until the choux feels firm and dry.
  11. Place the choux in another tray to cool for 10 mins.
  12. Cut the top of the choux with a serrated knife, as the “cap” of the cream puff. Do this step once your choux is cooled and firm enough to cut as it helps the moisture trapped inside to escape and prevent the choux from becoming soggy.
  13. Leave them at room temperature until ready to assemble.

Black Sesame Chantilly Cream (black sesame whipped cream)

  1. If your black sesame is refrigerated and too stiff, microwave it for 10-15 seconds to make it soft. Otherwise, go straight to step 2.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the pure cream and sugar to soft peak.
  3. Fold in black sesame paste and charcoal powder until well mixed.
  4. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

Tofu Creme Patissiere (tofu pastry cream)

  1. Drain water from silken tofu. Blend the tofu until completely smooth. Mix in milk, set aside.
  2. Beat caster sugar, egg, and corn flour with a whisk in a mixing bowl, until pale.
  3. Heat the tofu-milk mixture in a saucepan on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.
  4. Gradually add the tofu-milk mixture while whisking into the egg mixture until incorporated. This step is to temper the egg.
  5. Pour the whole mixture back to the saucepan to continue cooking. Add charcoal powder. Stirring with a whisk all the time until the mixture starts to thick and form bubbles. Heat off, whisk in butter. 
  6. Let the pastry cream cool in a mixing bowl. Use a plastic wrap to cover the surface of the pastry cream to avoid skin from forming.

Assembly:

  1. Whisk the tofu creme patissiere until smooth and transfer it to a piping bag topped with a round nozzle. Pipe into the cream puff until full. Smoothen the surface with a small palette knife.
  2. Transfer the black sesame chantilly cream to a piping bag topped with a star nozzle. Pipe on top of the cream puff.
  3. Cover with the craquelin “cap” that you previously cut. Do it gently so not to squash the chantilly crema underneath.
  4. Optional: chocolate decoration with black lustre powder.  

 

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Four Lemon Curd Limoncello Meringue Éclairs
This post is my salute to the Ă©clair  – the stunning, wicked treats found in most French pastry shops which by their very nature capture everyone’s steal hearts. By definition, an Ă©clair is a finger-shaped pastry made with choux dough, filled with cream or custard and topped with icing. It’s no exaggeration to say that they look like art and taste like heaven – something achieved with patience, precision and care.Four Lemon Curd Limoncello Meringue Éclairs

8 comments