On the menu for Week 7:  choux pastry.

If you’re wondering what happened to Week 6, I was unable to attend and missed a lesson on breads and rolls. While I was disappointed to miss Week 6, Week 7’s class more than made up for it. Is there a greater creation in this world than choux pastry? I certainly don’t think so. Week 7’s class allowed us the opportunity to glory in of the great culinary joys:  the making of choux pastry. We used our choux pastry to make cream puffs and éclairs.

After a detailed demonstration by our instructor, my partner and I got to work. Choux pastry involves heating water, butter and salt until just boiling. As soon as the water beings to boil, flour is added and the entire mixture is stirred vigorously until you have a cohesive batter that doesn’t stick at all to the pot.

Having completed the first step, we placed our mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer and, with the paddle attachment, mixed it on low-speed for several minutes to allow it to cool slightly. Had we added the eggs right away, we would have run the risk of cooking the eggs and ending up with inferior cream puffs and éclairs. Once the batter had cooled enough, we slowly added the eggs and mixed until we had a thick, glossy choux pastry.

The actual formation of our cream puffs and éclairs allowed us to practice our piping skills once again. As our instructor told us during piping class, practice makes perfect and I could certainly use the practice. Trying to pipe the choux pastry wasn’t easy. Because the the batter is stiffer than whipped cream or icing, you really had to concentrate on holding your bag properly and controlling your hand movements. It was tough but I think we did a reasonably good job.

Once our cream puffs and éclairs were baked and cooled, we dipped the tops of the éclairs in chocolate fondant and allowed the chocolate to harden. We then sliced open our goodies and filled them with sweetened whipped cream.

I truly believe that the best teachers are the ones who are most generous with both their expertise and with their own personal experiences. Our instructor scores high marks on both counts. Besides reminding us to take our time and show patience, he recounted several personal anecdotes regarding his own experience in learning from great pastry chefs and this made the class even more enjoyable.

I wish I could show you a photo of my cream puffs and éclairs but they were inhaled shortly after I walked in the door.

And while I dearly wish that I could tell you that the swan pictured above was my doing, it wasn’t. While we busily worked away on our choux pastry, our instructor made swans for everyone. A bumpy car ride through the streets of Toronto meant that my swan was a bit banged up when I finally made it home. I managed to salvage the swan long enough to photograph it. However, shortly after this photo was taken, I ravenously consumed this lovely choux gift without even a twinge of guilt.

What can I say … I’m a Cream Puff after all!


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