Chef Amanda Perez of The White Apron Pastry Co. in Naramata is a pastry sorceress. She used her magic to teach 20 home cooks of varying skill how to make four different choux pastry creations with fillings and toppings with voluptous names: Pate a choux, vanilla, raspberry and chocolate chantilly cream, chocolate ganache glaze, lemon curd (OK, not sexy but tastes pretty zippy), Swiss meringue and chocolate creme chibout.
The cooking class series was organized under the auspices of the blog and this class was a sweet success participants tell me because of Chef Amanda’s knowledge, organization, and enthusiasm, the fun group of participants and the tasty bubbles from Bella Wines in Naramata.
Chef Amanda is happy to share with all you chibouts three of the recipes from the class that miraculously combine to make lemon meringue eclairs.
Pâte à choux
Pâte à choux, or choux paste, is a paste made of flour, water, butter, and eggs — it’s slightly thicker than a batter, but not quite as thick as a dough. It’s pronounced “pat a shoe”. “Pâte” means paste and “choux” means cabbage — the name comes from the resemblance to little cabbages when the puffs come out of the oven.
The paste is thick enough that it can be scooped or piped into almost any shape you can think of, from puffs to éclair shells to thin straws. It contains no yeast or other leavening; instead, as the liquids in the paste evaporate in the oven, they puff up the pastry, creating a hard outer shell and a nearly hollow interior perfect for piping in creamy bursts of flavour.
The goal, according to Chef Amanda, is a light, crispy delicious pastry.
- Water 500 ml
- Butter 225 g
- Salt 5 g
- Bread flour 275 g
- Large eggs 9
Cut a sheet of parchment paper to fit a baking sheet. Fit a star-shapped piping tip into a disposable piping bag. Preheat oven to 375 F.
Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil in a medium pot. Once boiling add the flour all at once and stir vigorously to remove all the lumps. The goal here is to cook some of the starch out and remove a good amount of the moisture through steam so the dough won’t result in a soggy pastry. Keep stirring until the paste comes away from the sides of the pot and there is a bit of a film on the pot’s bottom.
Transfer the paste to a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat for about 30 seconds or so to release more moisture. (Don’t skip this first step and add the eggs too early or they will scramble in the hot mixture.)
Add the eggs one by one until the paste comes together smoothly.
Fill a pastry bag with the paste and begin by piping four small dots of choux paste on the corners of your baking sheet under the parchment paper to adhere your paper to the tray.
Using the star-shapped piping tip, pipe 4-inch lines of dough onto your parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Wet down a finger in a bowl of water and smooth out the end tip once piped. (Amanda tells us that the pastry tip makes lines that bring more space for the eclairs to rise and open. If you don’t have a star tip…use a fork to make the lines.)
Bake in a 375F oven for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Let cool on a rack while making your lemon curd and Swiss meringue.
Lemon curd is similar to pie filling but the texture is smoother and the flavor more intense. Pie filling is thickened with flour or cornstarch while lemon curd uses egg yolks and natural pectin in the zest and juice of the lemon. The secret to the smooth texture in lemon curd is butter unlike the commercial pie fillings.
Chef Amanda gift to us – her super secret lemon curd recipe.
- Lemon juice & zest 500 ml (about 9 lemons)
- Large eggs 6
- Large egg yolks 12
- Sugar 400 g
- Butter (cold) 340 g
Combine the lemon juice & zest, eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a bain marie (a non-reactive metal bowl set on top of a pot of gently boiling water or double boiler). Cook until thick and foamy. Remove from heat and add the butter in chunks stirring well until all the butter is incorporated. Strain the curd and chill well before use either over an ice bath or in the fridge.
- Egg white to sugar ratio by weight 1:2
Whisk over bain marie (double boiler) until sugar is dissolved. Whisk on high with the whisk attachment in a stand mixer until stiff peaks form.
Some assembly required
Fill a pastry bag with a round tip with lemon curd and squeeze the curd into both holes in the eclair moving the bag around to fill as much of the hollow choux pastry eclair as possible. Wipe off any excess on the top of the eclair.
Using a star tip pipe overlapping dollops of the Swiss meringue onto the filled eclairs. Use a kitchen torch to give the meringue its signature caramelized topping.
Some suggested resources from Chef Amanda
Bulk Barn – cake boxes and boards, gel food colourings, bulk Callebaut chocolate,
Wholesale Club – plastic deli cups, large bags of flour and sugar
Gourmet Warehouse – pastry tools and molds galore, some specialty ingredients
Williams Sonoma offset spatulas, Chicago Metallic brand good quality baking sheets, Silpats, the blowtorch that I use
Ming Wo — only the Chinatown location (Vancouver restauranteur secret – the Chinatown Ming Wo has every tool and gadget that a professional chef could need)
www.goldaskitchen.ca – Canada’s leading online resource for specialty pastry and decorating tools.
www.jbprince.com – the most complete tool catalog for pastry chefs. Every specialty product and tool imaginable can be found here!
www.vanillafoodcompany.ca – a great Canadian website for Valrhona and Cacao Barry chocolate, Neilsen Massey extracts, and also quite a good selection of tools.