Pâte à Choux (attempt no. 1)

I had this about 85% all typed out, and then Safari went ahead and refreshed all my tabs and ta-DAH I lost everything I wrote. Feeling annoyed and especially icky this morning. If Singapore's weather were a person, I would send him (or her) hate mail. 

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Anyway. I just want to give British Airways a shoutout for showing the Great British Bake Off on their in-flight entertainment. I was really happy when I found out as it's so hard to find the proper videos to stream online. I even stayed awake to watch it, which is quite a big deal for me because I'm the type who can and will sleep throughout an entire plane ride. No kidding. I can sleep the whole way on a flight to London, which lasts for 13 hours. It is for this reason I almost never get the window seat because "I want to look out of the window and admire the view" trumps "I want to lean on the side of the plane to sleep" every time, for it is argued that I will sleep anyway

They had most of the series 5 episodes, all of which I devoured on the flights there and back - I split it up. Watching the show made me want to start baking again - i was so inspired by what they made in the show and I couldn't wait to experiment with some of the flavour combinations involved and the bakes they tackled. I have so much respect for them for being able to make such complicated creations in such a short amount of time, especially the breads and bakes that require proofing time. 

But for me to be able to make these complicated items, I first had to master the basics. Patisserie is an area of baking that I have always wanted to venture into, such delectable delights! And what better way to start than with one of the classic pastry doughs, pate a choux - the base of so many pastries that we know and love: eclairs, cream puffs, saint honoures, and more. 

The recipe I used looked easy enough - a 4:1:1:4 ratio of butter, water, flour and eggs respectively. But the science behind it, the technicalities, that's the tricky part that so many of us overlook. I'd like to say that I made these successfully on my first try, but it wasn't quite so - the cream puffs rose beautifully, but the eclairs, not so. 

The puff in the pate a choux is made by pre-heating the oven at a high temperature, loading the trays of your piped pastry dough and then reducing the oven temperature. The initial heat will create a blast of steam from the liquid ingredients in the pastry that expands the dough, creating an airy shell that is perfect for fillings. After baking, the baked pate a choux needs to be poked with a toothpick to release residual steam inside the shell. 

I'd say that I got pretty mixed results with this. Next time, I think I'll also be using a 3:1 ratio of water to milk, as I read that milk helps with the browning of the pastry, while the higher water ratio will continue to provide the crispiness. I found that this page helped me a lot with their tips on making pate a choux! 

I filled these with a vanilla cream filling and topped them with my favourite salted caramel sauce. I felt that the vanilla cream filling was a bit too thick - I might put it through a strainer (as I was supposed to) next time, to thin it out a bit. I'm just a little afraid that it might end up straining into a liquid. My family liked this one, though. The salted caramel was as good as ever, but I could top the puffs with a little less next time as it renders the whole thing awfully sweet. 

With choux pastry, it's best to bake and fill them on the same day so as to retain maximum freshness and crispiness on the outside (and puff). I baked the pastry the night before and filled them the next afternoon and they weren't bad, but I think they would have been better made and eaten on the same day! 

But first things first, so I shall work on mastering the pate a choux itself!! Gonna take this one step at a time and learn along the way, practice makes perfect anyway :-) 

Recipes for the first attempt were from thekitchn (click here for the pate a choux and here for the vanilla pastry cream)! Don't think the recipe is perfect (or maybe I just haven't mastered the proper techniques yet), so... Here goes the hunt for the my perfect recipe!