The last time I was at trivia was quite some time ago, but it happened to coincide with a time in my life when I was working out the kinks in an eclair recipe. As I typically do when working on a recipe I’d read books, websites, magazines and all manner of encyclopaedia to try and work out the different approaches to this recipe. I realised, as I oft do, that there are fifty different ways to approach the same problem. There are choux pastries (the base of an eclair recipe) with milk, some without, those with sugar and those without and a million different ways to bake and fill these babies.
Now, back to trivia. There I was at Wednesday night trivia. We’d arrived too late to get onto a scoring team, but as the questions came up, we answered and scored ourselves. There was a sports section on which we did dismally. A music section on which we did better and a cooking section on which we were doing exceptionally well until there was a question about choux pastry. ‘Which ingredient is not present in a typical choux pastry mix’ it asked.
Now of course they wanted you to answer “b”. Many choux pastry recipes (including the one below) do not contain milk, but there was no rule saying it had to be the case. I was appalled with what I considered to be an inaccurate answer. I wanted to challenge the MC, ask them to wipe the question. I could even offer proof of recipes that did contain milk. Alas, I did none of those things, I quietly steamed, drank my glass of wine and published an eclair recipe that did contain milk! Take that Wednesday night trivia!
Choux pastry has a reputation for being daunting. I’ve included plenty of photos to try and make the recipe simple and approachable. Once you have the puff down pat, the possibilities are endless. Pipe a long baton and make eclairs, or make the puffs as large or as small as you want. You can easily replace the filling too, with custard or mousse. Why not mix in some lemon curd or fruit puree with the cream to jazz up the filling.
- 1 cup water
- 1 stick/ 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter cut into cubes
- 1 tbsp. white sugar
- 1 cup/127g plain/ all purpose flour
- 4 eggs
Whipped cream filling
- 2 cups of whipping cream
- 4 tbsp. icing sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
Preheat your oven to 400F/205 C. In a small saucepan bring the water, butter and sugar to the boil.
As soon as the mixture comes to a boil, turn off the heat and tip in the flour. Using a wooden spoon mix until the mixture becomes smooth and then comes away from the sides of the saucepan.
Tip the still-warm dough into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low speed for a few minutes until the dough begins to cool.
With the mixer going, add a single egg and mix until fully incorporated. Repeat with 3 remaining eggs, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl intermittently.
After the last egg is added and incorporated you should be left with a soft, loose dough that will hold a soft peak.
Spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm/1/2inch nozzle. Pipe the dough onto a lined tray. I find that holding the piping bag over the same area and squeezing will give you a nice little puff/mound.
When you have a 1-1.5 inch mound lift up the piping bag leaving a little peak. This peak can be smoothed with a finger dipped in water to dampen. Alternatively you can spoon the dough onto the tray, keep the puffs about 2 inches apart.
At this point, you can freeze the puffs by placing the piped tray straight into the freezer. When baking from frozen, DO NOT THAW, simply bake from frozen, adding a few minutes to the bake time.
Turn the oven up to 425F/220C and place the puffs inside. This ensures that the oven is heating up as the puffs go in, it helps the puffs rise. Set the timer for 10 minutes. At 10 minutes turn the oven down to 350F/180C and cook the puffs until they are golden brown on the outside, about 12-15 minutes further.
For the filling, whip together the whipped cream, powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form.
You can either fill the puffs by slicing in half and and spooning the cream into the puff, or you can pipe it into the base using a piping nozzle to make a hole.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.
These puffs don’t keep for long, they are best served on the day they are made, while they are still crispy and fresh. If you’re on a tight schedule, make the dough early and freeze as stated above and bake as needed.