Choux pastry seems a bit daunting to make and I myself have often been put off making it after getting choux buns which turned out more like blinis. But after doing extensive reading into how to make choux pastry, I think I’ve finally managed to get the technique right and I get perfectly risen and hollow choux buns and eclairs!
As it’s Halloween soon, I gave my choux buns a Halloween twist with a smooth coffee custard filling and some spooky chocolate eyes and I’m also calling them my Cho-oooooh Buns!
Choux pastry has two important stages in the cooking and mixing process, the cooking of the flour and the addition of the eggs. Choux pastry employs a different method of pastry making compared to the rubbing in of the fat into the flour for shortcrust and the folding/layering of fat in rough puff, flaky and puff pastry. The flour is added to boiling liquid and cooked out over the heat. Heating up the flour will allow the flour to gelatinise as the starch molecules in flour absorb the liquid and swell upon heating. You’ve cooked out the flour enough when the bottom of the pan starts to look furry.
The second stage is adding the eggs (only once the dough has cooled down slightly or the eggs would curdle!) which are responsible for adding extra moisture which will expand in the oven and create the puffed up hollow choux bun. Eggs are a source of protein and lend themselves to giving a structure capable of holding the shape of the puffed up choux bun. And in the oven, the moisture from the water in the first stage and the eggs will evaporate, forcing the choux bun to expand.
I always think of choux pastry as the pastry that looks like it’s going wrong. You add the flour into the liquid and you think it will never mix together to form a dough; you start to beat in the eggs and you never think the choux pastry will come together but after a solid minute of beating, the eggs emulsify and the pastry comes together. This recipe is enough to make 9 large choux buns.
For the choux pastry:
55g margarine or butter, cut into cubes
¼ tsp salt
75g plain flour
2 large eggs
For the coffee custard:
200ml whole milk
100ml single cream
4 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp Camp Coffee essence
For the chocolate eyes:
50g white chocolate
50g dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line a baking tray with some baking parchment.
Place the margarine, water and salt into a pan and heat until the margarine has melted. Turn up the heat and bring it to the boil. Once the water is boiling, take the pan away from the heat add in the flour all at once; this technique is often referred to as shooting.
Beat the flour into the liquid with a wooden spoon until it forms a dough. Return the pan to the heat and cook the choux pastry until the bottom of the pan looks furry and a ball of dough which is smooth has formed. Remove the pan from the heat and let the dough cool.
Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding the second once the first has fully incorporated, until it forms a smooth and glossy pastry which when you dollop it off the wooden spoon will form a ‘V’ shape hanging from the spoon.
Fill a piping bag with the choux paste and twist the top firmly so none of it leaks out during piping. Cut off a 1cm hole and pipe out 9 large rounds of dough around 2 inches across. With a wet finger, dab down the choux buns so they are smooth on the surface. You can brush them with egg wash if you wish for a better colour but I skip this stage.
Bake the choux buns immediately for around 20 – 30 minutes until they lift off from the baking parchment fully, are golden brown, are puffed up and risen and are hollow in the centre. Take a knife and make a hole in the base of the choux bun to allow steam to escape and prevent them from going soggy.
For the coffee custard, heat the milk and cream gently in a pan. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs with the sugar and flour until it is evenly mixed. Add in the coffee essence and it will go a dark colour. Gradually pour in the warm milk and cream and whisk constantly.
Return the mixture to the pan until the custard boils and is a thick consistency, whisking all the time to prevent curdling or an uneven custard. Once it has thickened (and you know when it’s done when it bubbles – this is the starch molecules bursting – and is smooth. Transfer to a bowl to cool down fully, covering it with clingfilm making sure the clingfilm touches the surface to prevent a skin forming.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of simmering water and place into piping bags, cutting off as small a hole as possible. To get circle shapes, keep the piping bag vertically upright in the same place above the parchment, exerting equal amounts of pressure on the bag and it naturally takes a circle shape. Mix and match the chocolates as you see fit to create spooky eyes! Refrigerate on the parchment-lined tray for 30 minutes until set.
To assemble the choux buns, cut the buns in half horizontally and pipe in the custard filling generously. Put the chocolate eyes on the top of the choux buns using some of the custard to help stick it down.