When Suzanne from Home Gourmets announced the theme for this months Hay Hay it's Donna Day, I quietly cringed. Choux pastry....Aaarrgghh! I love eating the stuff, but successfully cooking it is another matter. My first and only attempt, up until now, was quite disastrous. After reading up a bit on how to make Choux, I realised now that I did every possible thing wrong in my first attempt. My pot was too small, the heat wasn't right, I felt that I had to stir it like a cement mixer...the list goes on. However, this event that is now nurtured by Bron Marshall and originally conceived by Barbara at Winosandfoodies is all about setting participants a challenge. And who doesn't love a challenge?
So with the assistance of Monsieur Larousse, who states " The first stage in making the paste is to heat the liquid (water or water and milk) and butter until the butter melts. This should be done slowly at first, without allowing the mixture to boil (if the liquid boils before the butter melts, it will reduce)". Wish I'd known that important little tip the first time. When referring to mixing the paste until a ball forms, Monsieur Larousse kindly points out "do not beat the paste at this stage or the fat will separate out slightly, making it oily". Yet another mistake I made first time round. Merci, Monsieur.
I decided to go ahead with Chantilly Cream Puffs, because I love saying Chantilly in French ("shahn-tee-yee "), and I have always put vanilla and sugar in my whipped cream, unknowingly making Chantilly cream all along. When he stated that these cream puffs are made to resemble swans, I nearly swallowed my tongue. Oh puhleese, can I just get the puffs right before murdering them with my lack of artistic abilities? Oh well, looks like I have more challenges on my plate than I expected.
The result? Not quite perfect (even a bit tacky) Chantilly Swans. Once again my family thanked Hay Hay it's Donna Day for allowing them to devour this indulgent pastry, which they have been deprived of in the past. You never know, I might even have another go at this satisfying paste. It's not as hard to make as I thought it was....once you know the secrets!
Chantilly Cream Puffs
In a medium sized pot add 1 cup of water, or equal parts milk and water to make 1 cup. Toss in a large pinch of salt and 65 g (5 tblsp) of softened butter cut into small pieces. Add 2 tsp caster sugar. Heat gently until the butter melts, then bring to the boil. As soon as the mixture comes to the boil, remove the pot from the heat, add 125 g (1 cup) of plain or all purpose flour and mix quickly. Return the saucepan to the heat and cook until paste thickens, stirring (it takes about a minute for the paste to leave the sides of the pan). Don't overcook the mixture or beat it vigorously as this will make it greasy or oily. Beat in 2 eggs, the 2 more eggs one after the other, continuing to beat hard until a smooth glossy paste is obtained (I did this last step in the KitchenAid ...much easier).
Pipe or spoon onto baking sheet and place in a heated oven (220 C) for 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 200 C and continue cooking until golden and crisp. The initial warmer temperature is to create steam inside the bun, causing it to "puff". Pipe some backward "S" shapes (think of the number 2) onto the baking sheet. Obviously these "necks" won't need to be baked as long as the puffs, so I placed them on a separate small tray and put them in the oven towards the end of the cooking time.
Place 400 ml (1 3/4 cups) of very cold double (heavy) cream, 100 ml very cold milk and 1 tblsp vanilla sugar in a chilled bowl and whip. When the cream starts to thicken, add 40 g (3 tblsp) caster sugar continuing to whip until thickened to desired consistency.
Split and cool the buns, then cut the top off each bun, cutting the top in half lengthways which will form the swan's wings. Fill the buns with chantilly cream . Place a "neck" at one end of the bun and stick the "wings" into the cream on either side. Dust generously with icing sugar.