As most you who have been following my string of posts know, I embarked on the next chapter of my learning to bake book which was pate a choux by Alton Brown!
It turned out to be a two day adventure that really helped me get a better grasp at this whole baking thing
Day one started with making my Lemon Curd and Pastry Cream. I used the recipes from a well loved copy of the King Arthur Flour Baking bible. I made the curd first because it was something I was most familiar with. I had made Alton Browns recipe and this recipe seemed a bit easier. The result was a firmer curd than Altons with a wonderful rich lemon taste. I think Ill use this recipe from now on..
The cream was a completely new beast to me though. I had gone ahead and bought Vanilla beans at TJs to replace the 1tsp of Vanilla Extract the recipe called for. I figured that 1tsp really wasnt enough to effect the outcome of the custard and if the vanilla bean did turn out to be a dud, then I would just add in extract towards the end of the stirring
So I went head and prepared using ½ of the vanilla bean pod and I tasted it right before it began to set firm and it was wonderful! The flavor was subtle, but still VERY vanilla And the ½ pod was more than enough to fleck the about 2 cups of custard! BEAUTIFUL! Day one was a success!!
And all that was left on day two was to make the pate a choux puffs! After reviewing the Choux Shine Good Eats episode for probably 15 times, everything started off well. I paused and hit slow motion to make sure the texture of my initial paste was like Altons. I used my hand mixer and slowly began to add the eggs to the cooled paste and even held back a little on the last egg as I noticed the batter come together. But when I stopped beating, I noticed that the batter was a bit thinner than the one Alton displayed. I began to worry I put in too much egg and ponder if I should perhaps add a little more flour to make it a bit thicker.
But I decided not to be too experimental and put the first batch into the oven I was overjoyed when at my 10 minute check, I began to see them rise! YAY!! Maybe I hadnt mess up! :)
But when it finally came time to take them out, they never really rose PAST the that initial puff. They looked like little puffy disks. I pierced a hole to let the steam out and inside was the chamber. I tasted one and it had an eggy taste. I HAD put in too much egg Ack.
Looking back at the remaining batter I began to debate the adding of flour to thicken it up. I took a look at my cooling puffs and noticed how they looked like cookies. And then, it hit me, since they were small to begin with, Id play them off as cream puff cookies! I made the rest of the batch (All turned out the same). I filled them with the wonderful cream and then brushed on a simple chocolate coating on top (1 Cup Chocolate Chips and 1tsp oil. When refrigerated it created a wonderful hard icing.). In the morning as I set them out my co-workers just commented on how lovely they looked! And even the proclaimed cream puff expert complimented me on them (Taking care to note the wonderful pastry cream! :))
So, although not exactly a success, I think I finally learned to just roll with the punches when it comes to baking. My biggest fear to overcome in starting this baking journey was that Id spend all this time and money to make something and it doesnt come together and Id have to throw it out (With cooking, there is almost always SOME way to salvage your mistake ). But I havent had to do that just yet. I always somehow manage to use even my mistakes (The lime bar disaster turned out to make a yummy Ice Cream topping!).
And next up for me is my first cheese cake, a Lemon Cheese Cake from Cooks Illustrated! I still have quite a few lemons to use and I love they use an Animal Crackers cookie based crust! :)