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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pâte à Choux

Last month the newspapers in Taiwan reported that the food company I-Mei used expired soy protein isolate to make millions of packages of cream puffs. Almost no one expected a company like I-Mei would put people's health at risk for a little extra profit. The news also reminded me that I haven't made the pastry dough, pâte à choux, in a long time.

Pâte à choux is not difficult to make and I am always amazed that it is made with just four basic ingredients: flour, eggs, butter and water. Pâte à choux is a great dough to master because of its versatility - the basis for cream puff, eclair, Paris-Brest, gougère and Parisian gnocchi. Recently for a dinner party, I decide to make the classic bistro dessert, profiteroles.

Pâte à choux is made by first melting some butter with water and a little sugar and salt. Some recipes call for using water with milk to create a richer dough. However, Taiwan is too humid so I only use water. Flour is added to the liquid all at once and mixed rigorously to cookout the moisture, making a paste called the panade. Eggs are then added one at a time and mixed thoroughly. One can use a food processor or mixer to beat in the eggs, but typically I just do it by hand. I figure I should burn some calories before enjoying the finished product later.

I use a round tip with an half-inch opening to pipe the dough on to a Silpat. After tapping down the tips of the round pieces of dough with a little water on my finger, they are baked in an oven for around 35 minutes.

After the puffs are cooled, slice them in half and insert a small scoop of vanilla ice cream in between.

The warm chocolate sauce for the profiteroles is made by melting the chocolate with some honey and butter and then smoothing it out with a little milk.

I really enjoy making profiteroles, a very satisfying dessert to end a meal. I am a little rusty with using the piping bag so my puffs are not as uniform as I like. However, I don't think I will be so finicky about uniformity to pipe the dough into a silicone mold as suggested by the Bouchon Bakery cookbook. A little homemade-ness is not such a bad thing for a dinner party at home; certainly better than any puff in a sealed bag made with soy protein isolate in a factory.

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