Elegant Canapes and Dessert: Pâte à Choux; Choux à La Crème; Petits Choux au Fromage

Croquembouche: Photo and Recipe Copyright Elegant Survival, 2008 (click image to enlarge)

Two Cups Makes about Forty Choux or Puff Shells

In a two-quart, heavy saucepan, boil one cup of water,
Six tablespoons of butter,
One teaspoon of salt,
One teaspoon of sugar (OR one 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, depending upon whether the choux-paste will be used for cream puffs or savoury cocktail offerings),
and a pinch of nutmeg.

When butter has melted, remove pot from heat.
Pour into the mixture one cup of flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until the lot is blended.
Put pot back on cooker at high heat, and continue to beat until the contents separate from the sides of the pot. Remove pot from heat again.

Now, you will need four large eggs.
Making a well in the potful of paste, break one egg into it. Beat it into the mixture, and repeat with the following three eggs, one at a time. Continue beating by hand until the paste is smooth.

You are now ready to fill a pastry bag and squeeze the paste onto a buttered baking sheet. In the absence of a pastry bag, you may use a gallon-sized, disposable zipper-bag like Zip-Lock, cutting off a 1/2 inch at one corner of it to emit pâte à choux. If this is still a problem, you may use a spoon to drop the paste onto the baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 425* Fahrenheit.

Use the pâte à choux while it is still warm.

Form the pâte à choux into one-inch diameter circular mounds, 1/2 inch high. Space them two inches apart.

Brush each mound very lightly with beaten egg.

Bake for about twenty minutes. When the puffs are double their original size, golden brown and crusty, they may be removed from the oven. Make a 1/2 inch slit on the side of each puff to release steam.

I like to fill these puffs with Crème Pâtissière, or pastry cream:

In a 3-quart mixing bowl, beat
One cup of granulated white sugar into
6 egg yolks. Continue beating until the mixture is pale yellow.
Add one half cup of full-fat milk.
Beat in one cup of sifted white all-purpose flour. Mix this very vigorously until the small lumps of egg-yolk disappear into the flour and sugar.

Boil 4 cups of full-fat milk. Add it gradually, in a small stream, to the egg and flour mixture, while stirring. Pour the mass into a heavy 6-quart saucepan and set the stove burner on medium high heat. Stir with a wire-whisk or an electric mixer, careful to include the mixture at bottom of pot. Scrape the bottom of the pot with a spatula at intervals. When this reaches the boiling-point, turn down the heat to low, continue to beat for 2 to 3 minutes in order to cook the flour thoroughly. Don’t let the custard at the bottom of the pot get scorched.

Remove from heat, and incorporate one tablespoon of butter and one teaspoon of vanilla.

Choux à La Crème

When the crème patissière is cool enough, use it to fill choux. Dust choux with powdered sugar, drizzle with melted chocolate or with hot caramel sauce.

Crème patissière will keep in the refrigerator for a week, or may be frozen.

Petits Choux au Fromage

To make these savoury cheese puffs: omit the sugar, add a half-teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and add a cup of grated Swiss or Parmesan cheese to the warm pâte à choux. Bake at 425*F for about twenty minutes or until golden brown. Pierce to release steam from each cheese-puff.

~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2008