This week's Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) recipe was chosen by Caroline of A Consuming Passion: the Peppermint Cream Puff Ring. It is inspired by the Paris-Brest, shaped like a wheel to commemorate the Paris-to-Brest bicycle race. The pastry is a classic pâte à choux, but instead of buttercream, Dorie fills it with light, tangy and refreshing peppermint cream. In place of a light dusting with confectioner's sugar, Dorie tops this dessert with a beautiful chocolate glaze. Knowing that I would be bringing these in to work, I opted to make mini éclairs and cream puffs instead of the large cream puff ring. I doubled the recipe and was able to make 48 éclairs and 9 cream puffs (I also sent a batch to the hospital with my husband). I had to adjust the baking times a bit (noted below), since they are much smaller.
Growing up, my mom was always baking things for church potlucks. One of the things that was repeatedly requested from her was her cream puffs. I honestly never paid attention to how she made them, but I was always involved in helping her with the assembly process - cutting them open and stuffing them with delicious pastry cream. I've always been intimidated by them - partly because they look so fancy, and partly because it's always hard to live up to something that Mom makes; so I honestly never saw myself even attempting these. That's one of the things that I love about being a part of TWD and the Daring Bakers - they challenge me to make things I would otherwise never make. It's also really nice baking the same recipe with hundreds of other bakers, because you can pick up on helpful tips along the way to ensure your recipe is successful.
For this recipe, I learned from the group that you should let the hot dough cool down a little bit before adding the eggs. So I let my KitchenAid mix the dough for about 1 minute before adding the eggs. Some had their pastry collapse after baking, while others found the center to be soft and eggy. Both problems, I learned, are from under baking. Knowing this, I made sure to let my pastry get nice and golden before removing it from the oven. Some suggested letting them dry out by leaving them in the oven after it is turned off. Since I was making multiple batches, this was not possible for me, but I found this step unnecessary as long as I let them bake until they were thoroughly browned before removing them from the oven. Instead of lining a baking sheet with parchment paper, I simply used a baking stone (and had no problems with sticking).
One of the reasons why I love baking more than cooking is the precision involved with it. I'm not good with subjective measurements like "to taste." So when Dorie instructs you to "whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl and very gradually add enough of the beaten egg to form a dough that is thick, shiny and silky," I was afraid. Very afraid. How would I possibly know when it was "shiny and silky" enough? As I added the egg, I could definitely see it becoming more shiny, but how would I know when it was shiny enough? I hesitantly added more and more egg, watching the dough become shinier and shinier. What would happen if I added too much egg, I wondered? I honestly don't understand enough of the principles behind baking to tell you what would happen if you add too much egg... all I know is that whatever I did, it seemed to work. So, for those who have never made a pâte à choux dough before, I give you a picture of my "thick, shiny and silky" dough:
I had planned on making half with the peppermint cream and the other half with chocolate pastry cream. While the peppermint cream was delicious, it was a little runny and not thick enough to pipe. The only thing I can think of that might have led to this problem was not chilling the cream long enough before whipping it up. It seemed plenty cold after two hours, so I did not wait the full 3 hours as Dorie suggested. I guess I was a little too impatient in this case! So in the end, I only made a handful with the peppermint cream and filled the rest with chocolate pastry cream. While the peppermint cream-filled éclairs were pretty good, I definitely prefer the chocolate pastry cream-filled ones.
Thanks again to Caroline for choosing this week's recipe. After further discussion about the topic, it has been decided that we will continue posting the recipes, but only on the blog of the person who chose the recipe. So if you would like this week's recipe, you can find it here. What I've included below are instructions on how I made my cream puffs and éclairs. Make sure you visit the TWD Blog Roll to see everyone else's lovely cream puffs this week.
*Quick Note: My laptop decided to die on me Monday night so I had to post without the benefit of Adobe Lightroom (if you've never heard of this program, you must download the free 30-day trial!) I know my photos are a bit too dark and leave a lot to be desired right now, but I wanted to post something rather than nothing. I plan to update my post with the edited pictures as soon as I get my computer up and running again.
*Update: The new photos have been updated!
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Chocolate and Peppermint Cream Puffs and Éclairs
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
Full recipe on A Consuming Passion
Pastry Dough (I ended up using about 3 1/2 eggs in mine)
Mint Cream Filling
Chocolate Pastry Cream Filling (recipe below)
Chocolate Glaze (I needed a double recipe for the éclairs and cream puffs)
White Chocolate Chips, optional
Fit a large pastry bag with a 1/2-inch-diameter plain piping tip. If you do not have this size tip, you can use a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch hole. If you do not have a pastry bag, you can simply use a ziploc bag and cut the corner of the bag for piping.
For cream puffs, simply pipe out a spiral shape (similar to a soft serve ice cream cone) until you end with the pointed tip.
For mini éclairs, pipe out a strip of dough approximately 2-3 inches long, then pipe a second strip next to it.
Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperate to 375F. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until puffed, brown and firm.
Using kitchen scissors, gently cut around the base of each cream puff or éclair, yielding two separate pieces. You can pull out and discard any soft dough from the inside if needed.
Spoon the mint cream into a clean pastry bag and pipe large rosettes into each cream puff or éclair (if using chocolate pastry cream, you can simply spoon the cream directly into each puff or éclair). If making cream puffs, carefully set the top of each cream puff on to the base-don't press down too hard, you want the top to just rest lightly. Then dust with confectioner's sugar. If making the éclairs, refrigerate the base while you make the glaze.
Once the glaze has been prepared, use a small icing spatula (I simply used a butter knife) to spread the glaze over the top half of the pastry. Carefully set the top over the base - again, don't press down too hard, just allow the top to rest lightly over the base.
Drizzle with melted white chocolate (you can add a small amount of shortening with the chocolate to thin it out) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.
Yield: 24 Éclairs, 4 Cream Puffs
Chocolate Pastry Cream
from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
Pinch of salt
7 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted (I used semisweet)
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar, cornstarch and salt until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the melted chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly--as I always do--put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.
Yield: About 2 1/2 cups