Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tonight's Lesson - Pate a Choux, Pastry Cream, Chocolate Ganache, Churros, and Puff Pastry

Today's lesson was a real doozy and the recipes are kinda long, so I decided to put the recipes on my blog.  Today we learned how to make Pate a Choux, which is French for "cabbage paste."  It's because of what the shape of the pastry looks like after it's baked--like a little cabbage.  You can use Pate a Choux for making all sorts of pastries including eclairs, Napoleons, churros, and other delights.

I have to admit, it was a little intimidating at first, but my Baking class Chef is a really careful and considerate teacher who walks us through all the steps and comes by every so often to check our work and give us tips and suggestions.  He's very patient with all of us and never makes us feel as if we can't ask a question.  The best thing is, he's a professional chef who has worked in the industry for over 20 years, so he knows what it's really like to work in a professional kitchen.

If you live in the Baltimore area and are interested in learning culinary skills (for professional reasons or if you just want to brush up on your skills) I highly recommend Stratford University, my school.  Every one of my teachers is a professional chef, usually with an average of 15-20 years of experience.  We get brand new textbooks as part of our tuition and we get to keep them when we're done with our classes to use as reference books--they call it "building up your professional library.

The tuition includes all of your uniforms (2 chef's jackets, 2 pairs of checked pants, 2 neckerchiefs, 2 side towels, 2 aprons, and 2 chef's hats).  You also get a huge black knapsack for carrying all of your gear.  Our knife kits include a chef's knife, a bread knife, a boning knife, a paring knife, a honing steel, metal measuring cups and spoons, a rubber spatula, an off-set spatula, whisk, microplane grater, metal spatula, melon baller, a peeler, a measuring plate (kind of like a cheat sheet--a metal ruler that has all of the different types of knife cuts listed on it) a nice pair of scissors, and a digital thermometer.

The only things I had to buy myself were a bench scraper, a pair of work boots, and a $50 parking pass (for the year).  The VA pays for EVERYTHING else, plus I get the housing allowance.  The tuition is very reasonable for people who have to pay for it themselves and the training I'm receiving is invaluable. 

Okay, on to the recipes!

Pastry Cream (make before anything else so you have time to chill it before use)

1 pint of milk (16 oz. liquid measuring cup)
4 oz. sugar
1.5 oz. cornstarch
4 eggs
2 oz. butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

(This is a half recipe, meaning the original recipe is double these amounts)

Bring milk to a boil on the stove, watching to ensure it doesn't boil over.  Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and eggs in a bowl.  Take the milk and slowly add to cornstarch mixture, stirring constantly.  You don't want to add too much in at once or you'll end up with scrambled eggs!  Return the mixture to the stove and bring to a bowl--constantly whisking, until mixture thickens up until it's a little thicker than pancake batter.  Remove from heat, and add butter and vanilla, stirring to combine.  Strain through a sieve, then put in a bowl set on top of another bowl filled with ice and water.  Stir custard every few minutes or so to cool mixture down and to remove heat pockets.  Once custard has cooled, lay a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the custard, pressing down lightly.  This will ensure your custard will not develop a "skin."  Put bowl in fridge until you're reading to fill your pastries.

Pate a Choux (to make eclairs and churros)

8 oz. water
4 oz. butter, softened
a pinch of salt
6 oz. bread flour
8 oz. eggs (about 5-6 eggs, depending on size)

Combine water, butter, and salt, bring to a boil.  Add flour all at one time, stirring constantly until the mixture pulls away from the side of the pot.  Place mixture in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment attached.  Mix to cool mixture slightly.  Add eggs one at a time to form a medium stiff paste.  Fill a pastry bag with a medium tip, then pipe out long, oval shapes on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Leave spaces between eclairs.  Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 to dry out pastry.  Bake until golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.  Using another pastry bag, filled with the pastry cream (using small icing tip), poke a hole in each eclair and gently squeeze in the pastry cream, trying not to overfill.  If you have to, you can poke a hole in each end and fill from both sides to get more of an even fill.  After filling all of your eclairs, take each one and dip it in the chocolate ganache (recipe follows), shaking off the excess chocolate.  Set aside and continue dipping eclairs until done.  Let chocolate set about 10 minutes before eating.

For churros:  heat vegetable oil in a large pot to 350 degrees.  Put a star shaped icing tip on a pastry bag and fill with pate a choux dough.  Carefully squeeze out long tube shapes into the hot oil.  Fry until golden brown, then remove churros from oil and drain for a few seconds on paper.  Mix together equal parts of cinnamon and granulated sugar in a bowl, then add the warm churros to the mixture, tossing lightly to coat.  Ole!

Chocolate Ganache Icing (for dipping eclairs)

10 oz. dark chocolate, finely chopped
8 oz. heavy cream

Bring cream to a boil.  Pour cream into chocolate in a mixing bowl and let mixture sit for 3-5 minutes before stirring with a rubber spatula.  Start stirring by making small circles in the middle of the bowl and working your way out to the edge of the bowl.  Mix until mixture is smooth.  Start dipping eclairs immediately.  If you find your chocolate is starting to set in the bowl, put the bowl on another bowl filled with hot water and stir briskly.  You can also add a little more hot cream if you like.    This icing is also good on cakes or a pan of brownies.

Puff Pastry

8 oz. bread flour
8 oz. pastry flour
1 lb. cold butter
1/4 oz. salt
8 oz. cold water
softened butter

Cut butter into quarter-sized pieces.  Sift together bread flour and pastry flour into the mixing bowl of a stand mixture.  Stir in the salt.  Add the cold butter in, and using a paddle attachment, turn on low to cut the butter into the flour mixture.  End product should look like little pea-shaped balls.  Add the water and attach a dough hook.  Put mixer on low speed and mix the pastry until dough ball forms.  Remove ball from mixing bowl and let dough rest in fridge for 15 minutes.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a large rectangle.  Spread the softened butter all out over the dough.  Fold dough over itself in thirds, until you end up with another rectangle shape.  Roll out the dough into a large rectangle shape, spread with some more softened butter, and repeat the folding/rolling/buttering process again for 4 more times.

This folding/buttering process helps to create your flaky layers that everyone loves about puff pastry.  If you're going to use puff pastry right away, place on top of cobbler, pot pie, or other dish immediately, cut vent holes with a sharp knife and bake.  I use puff pastry in my chicken pot pie.  Everyone has said they love my pot pie, so I'll share that recipe with you too. :)  I take puff pastry, cut it into strips, then weave them back into a square shape, over/under, like weaving cloth.  I use a little egg wash (egg mixed with a little cold water) that I brush all over the surface of the puff pastry with a pastry brush.  I then bake it on a greased sheet pan at 400 degrees for about 10-15, or until golden brown.  After I mix up my pot pie ingredients, I put the mixture into a square casserole dish and lightly press the puff pastry square on top before serving.  Yummo!

Chicken Pot Pie

5-6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cooked, cooled and cut up into small pieces (or you can use the leftovers from a cooled rotisserie chicken)
3 carrots, scraped and cut into thin round slices
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced finely
2 C. heavy cream
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
2 TBSP butter
2 chicken bouillon cubes (or 2 tsp. chicken base)
2 TBSP vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste

Heat a large pot or braising pan on stove until it starts smoking slightly.  Add the vegetable oil and turn the heat to medium.  Add the onion, carrots, and celery, and saute until veggies are soft.  Add garlic and cook until soft.  Add butter to pan and melt.  Sprinkle the flour all over the veggies and stir to coat.  Slowly add in cream, stirring constantly.  Bring mixture to the boil, add chicken bouillon cubes, nutmeg, black pepper, salt, and reserved chicken pieces.  Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is to the thickness of your liking.  You can let the mixture reduce on the heat if your mixture is too thin, or add a little chicken stock if it's too thick.  Place mixture in a square casserole dish (the size of your puff pastry) and let cool slightly before lightly pressing your baked puff pastry sheet on top.  Serve immediately.

So there you have it, Pastry 101.  Sorry no pics this time (I'll post them at a later date) I flaked out and forgot to pay my Verizon bill so I can't use my cell to upload any pictures. :(  I'll post the pics on Friday when we get paid and I can get my phone turned back on. :)

Enjoy!  More baking to come on Thursday and Friday, and Hubs and I are FINALLY going to use our McCormick & Schmick's gift card to go out on Friday night after school/work to celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary!


  1. Thanks Homesteader's Wife for sharing all of your recipes with us. I am learning a lot from your experiences in culinary school. Keep them coming, I love seeing all of your recipes.

  2. Thank you, I love sharing my recipes with everyone!