Pâte à Choux aka Cream Puffs

Little Miss Irene came and went this past weekend without leaving her mark on our property.  There were some of us that said the storm would be overhyped in our area so we just stayed in and didn’t buy into the apocalyptic frenzy at the supermarkets, especially b/c we were fully stocked with liquids and snacks and batteries and candles and food anyway.  (I went grocery shopping on Monday afternoon and it was kind of funny to see bare shelves where cases and cases of water used to be and one lone dented jar of peanut butter next to tons of jelly and jam.)  We got lucky.  Some parts of the East Coast were hit hard: crazy flooding that covered cars, huge trees that crushed houses, and power outages that are STILL ongoing =(  Thankfully, no one I know got hurt…

The only thing that affected us was that the LIRR was suspended on Monday.  Man, what a pity =P  Vin and I worked from home and I was excited to use the extra time NOT COMMUTING to bake.  That didn’t happen.  A realtor was coming to check out our house the next day and I rushed to tidy up the place to appear semi-presentable.  I left work early to make sure I got home in time for the appointment with the real estate agent.  The train ride was surprisingly on time, so I had a couple hours to spare and decided to start making the dough for cream puffs, or pâte à choux en français.   I triple-checked to make sure I didn’t leave anything off the super simple ingredient list and cut the measurements in half (uhh, I have no reason to be making 80 puffs). 

Filled pâte à choux

As with many things that come out of my oven, this was a first time experiment and I made some amendments.  The first adjustment was… I mixed everything by hand.  I didn’t want to make a huge mess with the mixer so I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon and whisked the filling by hand.  And you wonder why I have Michelle Obama arms.  (Just kidding!)  I also added a whole extra egg to the dough just b/c I just felt like it.  In overused reality TV show speak, “this could totally make or break me,” and it turned out to be a great idea.  No risk, no reward, right?  (Though, I shouldn’t really be thinking such things considering my job.  haha)   The other change was that the recipe said to bake the choux for 25 min @ 380 degrees.  Uh… not in this kitchen.  I tested my first tray of puffs @ 350 for 10 minutes and they didn’t puff up enough (still tasty even though they look more like macarons than puffed pastries), so I tried the next tray @ 370 for 10 minutes.  MUCH better.  The final tray was the best @ 370 degrees for 12 minutes.  They were a buttery golden brown on top and puffed up to look like pastry roses b/c I piped them in swirl shapes.  I was worried about burning them or over-drying them, but I think if I left them in for just 30 seconds longer they would have been absolutely perfect.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  It needs to be tested.  =)

The realtor came in as I was placing the choux on the cooling rack and the house conveniently smelled awesome.  Seriously dude, I need to bottle that sh*t in a spray and have this odor wafting through the house whenever potential buyers come so maybe we won’t have our house stay on the market for long… I’d offer a year’s supply of baked goods to whoever buys our house but unfortunately I don’t think that’ll seal the deal.  haha  I whipped up a basic filling that tasted like a mix between whipped cream and Boston creme pie filling and squirted it in the puffs until they overflowed.  Vin tried one of the unfilled f*ck-ups.  He said it was still light, airy and fluffy. I couldn’t fill the flatter choux so I just dipped them in chocolate and dropped rainbow sprinkles on them.  Haphazard?  Yes!  Gross tasting? No!

I packed a bunch for my coworker since it was her birthday, hid a couple in Vin’s lunch, brought some to my sister and her boyfriend, and added some as part of a housewarming gift to a friend.  So far, the feedback has been outstanding (yay!): my coworkers loved them and said, “You always make people happy with your baking!”, my friend said “They’re so light and awesome I feel like I could keep popping them in” [A, that’s a totally TWSS  =P], and my sister said they were “Delightful!”  Vin said this is his favorite thing I’ve baked so far (crème brûlée, you just got served!) and almost ate all the extras last night.  haha  I can’t believe how incredibly easy this was, and I think for Thanksgiving I’m going to make a tower of them with caramel and spun sugar.  And hopefully, making a croquembouche won’t keep me up all night baking the day before the party.  haha

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