Pâte à Choux, Piping, and the Beginnings of Éclairs and Cream Puffs

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The other day, I was going through my cookbooks to mark out what recipes I wanted to try out this summer (that would also be feasible to make in the heat of the summer). Since I am also trying to learn some French pastries, today I decided to go with my French pastry book (The Art of French Pastry by Jacquy Pfeiffer). I was reading through the introductory parts of the book, which recommended practicing the beginning few recipes to develop a foundation for later recipes. The first challenging recipe I ran into was one for pâte à choux. So that’s what I devoted my afternoon to: making pâte à choux.

Turns out, the recipe isn’t all that difficult. Following the description that Pfeiffer provides makes it incredibly easy to make the dough. The hard part is piping. This was my first time piping, and the stupid little tails are so annoying!! I don’t think I ever got a tail-less pipe. And I piped a bunch (you see one round of three piping sessions with the dough below).

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Any way, those frustrations aside, I decided that it would be a complete waste of Plugra (which is super expensive, American-version of French-style butter) to not even know if the dough came out well. That’s where the “Beginnings” part comes in. I piped out barely decent èclair shapes and cream puff shapes and baked them! I even pseudo-finished the èclairs… all but the fondant top–I was running out of time and wasn’t feeling super up for another challenge of making something new. I made the chocolate cream filling with not the exact ingredients nor the exact amounts of ingredients (100% chocolate and whole milk mixed with 2% milk), but the chocolate cream turned out amazing regardless!

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Just a last comment, in the introduction to the pâte à choux recipe, Pfeiffer describes his amazement with this dough, how it gives a hard exterior and an almost entirely hollow center. I would just like to say, that this is absolutely true. The craziest in-oven transformation!! It’s worth the mess, just to be able to create this magic.

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