Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cream Puff Pastry Swans

Cream puff pastry dough (choux pastry) is used to make éclairs, profiteroles, gougerès, and cream puffs. The techniques are the same, only the sizes and fillings are different. Éclairs are filled with pastry cream and coated with chocolate glaze, profiteroles are filled with ice cream and chocolate sauce is poured over when served. Gougerès are little cheese puffs with no filling and cream puffs are filled with sweetened whipped cream.

I have always wanted to make these cute, little swans. Most of us wouldn't bother with them because they look a lot harder to make than they are. The tricky part is piping the swan necks and teardrop-shaped bodies. If they turn out funky, just scrape up the dough and put it back in the piping bag and start over.

 Makes 10 to 12 swans.

You'll need 3 pastry bags with a 1/2-inch round tip, 1/8-inch round tip, and a 1/2-inch star tip.

for the cream puff pastry dough: makes 1 1/2 lbs dough
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup flour, sifted
about 4 eggs

Combine the water, salt, butter, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. There's no need to stir. Turn the heat down to medium and add the flour all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture forms a cohesive mass and pulls away from the sides of the pan leaving a film of flour on the sides of the pan.

Transfer the panade to a bowl or a stand mixer and beat it with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment for about 1 minutes, or until slightly cooled.

Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until you've added 4. Check the consistency of the batter by pulling a wooden spoon through it. When the groove it makes slowly closes in on itself you've added enough eggs. Another way to check is to see if the batter droops from the spoon when it is held sideways and not stick straight out. If you are using a stand mixer, you'll know you've added the right amount of eggs when the dough pulls away from the paddle attachment in a thick rope. If so, it is ready. Add more eggs and little at a time if needed until the batter passes the groove test. The dough is best used right away, but will keep for several hours in the refrigerator.

for the egg wash
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat the egg and salt.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Fill a pastry bag with the 1/2-inch round tip with dough. Pipe tiny dollops into the corners of 2 sheets pans and press a sheet of parchment paper onto each one. Working on the side of a sheet pan farthest away from you and holding the pastry bag tip about 1/2-inch above the surface of the sheet pan, squeeze as though you were making a small round. When the round is slightly larger than 1 inch across, pull the pastry bag toward you while squeezing gently so that it forms a teardrop shape, about 3 inches long. Continue until you have between 10 and 12 teardrops. Brush with egg wash.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Turn down the oven to 300°F and bake for 20 minutes more. When you take the teardrops out of the oven, turn it back up to 400°F. Let the teardrops cool for a minute and peel them off the parchment paper.

Fill the pastry bag with the 1/8-inch round tip with the remaining dough and pipe between 10 and 12 S-shapes onto the second sheet pan, to form the necks. Give a little extra squeeze at the beginning of each S to form the heads. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the necks cool for a minute and peel them off the parchment paper.

Cut the teardrops in half crosswise—the top half will be shorter than the bottom half, which will be the body. Cut the top halves in half down the middle to form the wings.

to finish
1 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons icing sugar or more if needed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
icing sugar for dusting

In a bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks and add the sugar and vanilla. Fill the pastry bag with the star tip and pipe the cream onto the bottom halves of the teardrops, using a slight up and down movement as you pull he pastry bag toward the back of the swan to create a ripple effect. 

For each swan, stick the end of the S-shape in the cream, where the neck would be. Place the two halves of the top of the teardrop on the cream to form the wings. Dust with icing sugar just before serving. 

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