Pate a Choux

1 1/2 cups water
6 oz. butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 cups flour, about 10 oz.
8 eggs

Make the Pate a Choux: Bring the water, butter and salt to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour all at once. Returne to the heat and cook the paste, beating with a wooden spoon, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove the paste to a bowl, beat to cool slightly, then beat in the eggs one at a time

Using a 1/2-inch plain tube, pipe 80 to 90 choux on two paper-lined baking pans. Holding the bag at a 45-degree angle to the pan, with the tube touching the pan, pipe 3/4-inch choux, 1 inch apart. At the end of each choux, release the pressure and lift the bag toward the choux to avoid leaving a tail.

Make the Egg Wash: Wash the egg and salt together, then gently brush the tops of the choux with the egg wash, smoothing over any points left from the piping.

Bake the choux: Bake at 425F until well risen and beginning to color, about 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350F and continue baking until well colored and dry, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool. (Note: don't undercook them. Wait for them to brown.)

Vanilla Creme Mousseline

3 cups milk
1 cup sugar, about 7 1/2 oz
9 egg yolks
6 T. cornstarch, about 1 1/2 oz.
1 T. vanilla extract
4 sticks butter, 1 pound, softened

Preparing the Creme Mousseline: Bring 2 1/2 cups of the milk and the sugar to a boil. Combine the remaining milk and cornstarch in a 2-quart bowl and whisk smooth. Beat in the yolks. When the milk boils, whick one third of the boiling milk into the yolk mixture, return the remaining milk to a boil and whisk in the yolk mixture, whisking constantly, until the pastry cream thickens and returns to a boil. Whisk in the vanilla. Pour the pastry cream into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold.

Beat the butter until soft and light. Add the cold pastry cream all at once and beat on medium speed unitl smooth and light, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Fill the Choux: Using a plain 1/4-inch tube, pierce the bottom of each choux. Insert the tube in a pastry bag, fill with the Creme Mousseline, then fill the choux. Place the filled choux on paper to avoid contact between the exposed pastry cream and anything metallic.

Caramel Glaze
3 cups sugar, 22 1/2 oz.
1 T. lemon juice

Prepare the Caramel: Divide the ingredients in half to prepare two separate batches, one to glaze the choux and another to adhere them together. If the caramel thickens too much during the glazing or the assembly, reheat it briefly over very low heat.

Prepare the first batch of caramel for glazing the choux. Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan with a wooden spoon. Place on medium heat; cook without stirring until the sugar starts to melt around the sides of the pan and the center begins to smoke. Start to stir the sugar. Continue heating, stirring occasionally, until the glaze turns amber in color and is clear and free of sugar crystals. Remove from the heat at once. Dip the bottom of the pan in at least 2 inches of cold water for 30 seconds to stop the cooking.

Glaze the Choux: Glaze the top of each choux with caramel, working quickly. Place the choux, glazed -side up, on paper-lined pans. Allow the caramel to set.

Assemble: Prepare the second batch of caramel. Make a ring of twelve choux around the edge of the base of a platter, glazed sides out, using additional caramel. Top with a ring of eleven choux. Continue layering, decreasing the number of puffs in each layer by one. (Note: We started doing this but quickly ended up just sticking the puffs onto the pile randomly.)

Notes: Lisa and I doubled the recipe for the choux as shown above. We used a standard pastry cream and flavored it with coffee and kahlua, but we regretted it because it was too thin. We would use the Mousseline recipe above next time.

We garnished the platter with rosemary brushed with egg whites and sprinkled with granulated sugar. We added some dried violets and pink balls to the Croquembouche as decoration.

Serves: 10-12

Source: Nick Malgieri's Perfect Pastry

Prepared by: Lena and Lisa for the December 2010 meeting.