Delicious, airy, fluffy baked dough filled with a smooth, chocolate mousse cream?…Yes please! Pastry items are one of my all time favorite goodies. I love the buttery taste, the flakey texture, the creamy and fruit fillings. Pastries, especially puff pastry, are rather difficult to produce. You can buy pre made puff pastry that tastes very similar to homemade. My goal is to try out making my own puff pastry and make turn overs, streusels, etc. I haven’t done this yet, but when I do, I will be sure to post it!
I made an easier type of pastry to produce, but one that patience and knowledge are necessary to achieve the correct product. Choux pastry! If you’re like me, I had never even heard of Choux pastry. Yummy treats like elcairs are a choux pastry. I made a thing called profiteroles, which are similar to eclairs, just shaped and filled a bit differently.
In baking, ‘paste’ is a term used for a raw dough mixture. The baked finished product is a pastry. (For example, you prepare a ‘choux paste’, but sell a ‘choux pastry’ good). Choux paste is a light pastry dough that has large air pockets inside. It is the only paste that does not require resting time (which can be time consuming and sometimes a bit easier). A mixture of boiling water or milk, fat and flour form the paste. When using milk, the end product will be light and soft with more color (the sugars in the milk produce the color under the heat) where water will make the paste crispier and firmer. Eggs are then added once the paste has cooled close to room temperature.
When making, chop the butter up into smaller pieces to help speed up the melting process. Melt the butter and water (or milk) in a pot and bring to a rapid boil. You want to make sure that all of the butter is melted before adding in any flour. Remove the boiling mixture from the heat and add the sifted flour all at once. This will prevent lumps from forming. Incorporate the flour with a wooden spoon. The starch cells of the flour will burst open, allowing them to accept more of the liquid mixture. Put the mixture back on the heat and stir with the spoon until the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pot. A white layer will also form at the bottom of the pot (this is the mixture gelatinizing from the starch in the paste). Once this happens, remove the pot from the heat again and let cool to room temperature (or about 115 degrees F). You want to make sure that the paste is cooled before adding the eggs or else the eggs will cook when added. Then the eggs can’t provide the stability and structure needed to help the paste keep its shape. After the eggs are added and mixed in, spoon the mixture into a piping bag and pipe the paste out in a semi-tall, circular swirl. Then bake. The paste will rise in the oven and get its airy texture. The steam from the eggs and liquids pushes the paste up and outward and provides the rise. The eggs start to coagulate and provide stability to the paste, allowing them to stay puffed up. Beware, though. The profiteroles will look like they are done before they are actually baked through. They appear puffy, but if you take them out before the center is completely cooked and the liquid is all evaporated, they will collapse as soon as they are out of the oven. I had this happen to me a couple of times when making them! The product is finished once the pastry is evenly golden brown and about double in size. When you tap on the top of the profiterole, it should feel firm, but sound hollow. A rule of thumb when baking pastry is to make sure that you do NOT open the oven within the first 10-15 minutes of baking or else the pastry product will collapse for sure. The pastry needs to be almost dry on the inside as moisture indicates that the egg has not set enough and the product will collapse and taste doughy.
What finished dough should look like. Even some of these profiteroles collapsed slightly, but overall airy and light with decent rise.
This happened to me the first two times I made choux paste. The first time I didn’t pipe out the paste thick and stacked enough so there wasn’t much room to begin with for the paste to rise. My oven cooks a bit slowly I’ve noticed so they needed to cook for a bit longer than the recipe called for. I thought the pastry was cooked, though, and took it out of the oven. Between me not piping enough paste and not having it in the oven long enough, it was one hot mess (literally and figuratively). You can see from the image below what a disaster it turned out to be. There was so little rise that I could barely even cut through them horizontally. Plus, they looked horrible! Part of the baking art and one of my goals is making your product look pretty, creative and appetizing. The taste didn’t seem like it was quite there either. I don’t think I let the mixture cool enough before adding the eggs. The egg flavor seemed more pronounced than it should have.
Eggs should be added one at a time and fully incorporated into the mixture before adding the next egg. FIrst mistake.
Mixture is too eggy and not well enough mixed. this will make the final product have a significant egg taste.
this travesty is what happens when you don’t leave profiteroles in the oven long enough. They appeared raised in the oven, but when i took them out, they immediately collapsed. the centers were not baked enough and the egg hadn’t set. sad!
The second time I made the paste, I piped the profiteroles out thicker and taller and I noticed that they were puffed up in the oven. I didn’t keep in mind that my oven cooks a bit slower and I took them out. As soon as I set them on the counter to cool, they slowly started deflating. The centers were not fully cooked!
The third time was a charm, however and the turned out quite well. They were very fluffy and airy inside and ready for the chocolate mousse. I feel like you could use any filling that you prefer, but boy is that chocolate mousse delicious! To melt the chocolate, I used a bain-marie method, where I boiled a pot of water and put a smaller bowl on top of that. I poured the chocolate into the bowl and mixed the chocolate around until it melted. You could also melt the chocolate in the microwave and then add the butter that way as well. I then used a stand mixer with the whisk attachment when whipping the egg whites to soft peak. When mixing egg whites, there are three different stages, or ‘peaks’ depending on how like you whisk them for. You have a soft peak, medium peak and firm peak. Soft peaks fall from the whisk in a ribbon (or sabayon) stage. The top of the peak will flip over like soft serve. Medium peaks loosely hang from the whisk. They tilt, but don’t touch the base of the bowl. Firm peaks are stiff and have no movement. They stand straight up right.
I whipped the cream that is added to the chocolate mixture at the end by hand with a whisk and this worked just fine. When trying to achieve a firm peak, the stand mixer does more of the work for you, which can be nice.
The finished mousse is SO delicious, especially if you’re a chocolate lover like I am. I could have eaten the whole bowl of that myself! I sifted confectioner’s (powdered) sugar over the top of the filled and finished profiteroles. They looked and tasted beautiful. They were some of the best goodies and reviews I got from my taste testers as well. So when trying to make your own pastry, remember, choux paste is the simplest out of them all, but won’t fail to impress others and lack flavor!