[throwing pink sparkles and dancing on the double rainbow]… Cooper The Unicorn is here! Let’s see what interesting he has for us today.
Hey dude!! Do I need to say that I’m super excited to be here again? I really do! You did an outstanding job mastering all those tart recipes last month and I’m very proud of you!
If you’re wondering what I’ve been up to recently, I’ll be glad to share. As it often happens to me, I spent most of the time browsing small and large bakeries, boldly prying into their kitchens and finding out tips and tricks they use there. I utilized a huge bag of flour and sugar testing out different techniques, tasted way too much pastries, and all of this with one ambitious goal in mind — to amaze you with the best recipe to make at home!
In May we gonna play with cream puffs. Éclairs, profiteroles, gougères — all these fancy french words/pastries — are made using the same kind of dough. And it’s time to roll up sleeves and dig into the process!
For the dough:
makes 2 large sheet pans
250 g water
5 g sugar
100 g butter, cut into pieces
150 g flour, sifted
4-5 large eggs
egg wash, for coating (an egg beaten with a pinch of salt)
Do you remember rule #1, buddy? Yep, you’re right, it’s prepare everything you need in advance! French people even have special term for it — “mise en place” — which literally means putting all ingredients in place and setting up a working station. And they know a thing or two about baking, aren’t they?
When everything is measured, preheat the oven to 220 C/425 F. Line two large sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside.
In a heavy bottom saucepan combine water, sugar, salt and pieces of butter. Place the pan over high heat and bring to just a boil. Do not allow the mixture to boil because water can quickly evaporate and it will alter the proportion of liquid to dry ingredients in the dough and change the final result.
A nerdy note: we use a small amount of sugar to add color and crunchiness to a pastry, and salt is here to activate gluten in the flour and add strength to the baked pastry.
Once all pieces of butter are melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the sifted flour, all at once.
Working with a spatula mix liquids and flour together, making sure there are no flour lumps left. Because who loves to eat raw flour? Meh, nobody!
Return the pan to a medium heat and continue to beat the mixture with a spatula for 2-3 minutes. It should begin to thicken, dry out and form a mass. The dough should easily pull away from the sides of the pan.
Transfer the mixture into a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Working on a medium speed beat the mixture to release steam and cool it down a bit. This is a very important step to take, buddy, because if we add eggs to a still hot mixture they can begin cooking. And we don’t need scramble eggs in our pastries, let’s leave them for a tasty breakfast!
While the dough is cooling down, thoroughly whisk eggs and strain them though fine sieve. Start to add eggs to a mixture in a bowl, one splash at a time. Scrape the sides of a bowl with a spatula in between. Keep an eye on dough texture, you might not need all eggs. One of the best ways to check the readiness of the dough is to lift the paddle out of the bowl — if the dough forms a ribbon that doesn’t break, you’re there!
Transfer the dough into a pastry bag fitted with open star tip.
And now, my friend, I will show you a unicorn trick aka the best way to fill pastry bag with any kind of filling. All you need is to cut a small piece of a bag with scissors, place a tip inside and secure the open end by twisting and pulling it into a tip. Then insert a bag into a tall jar and put the filling in it. In this case all your filling will remain inside of the bag and won’t leak to the jar. Easy peasy!
Remove the bag from the jar, untwist the end and using a dough scraper or any flat surface (eg. a ruler) push the filling closer to the end.
Pipe the dough in alternating rows into 10 cm long pieces leaving enough room between them. This will ensure even baking cause pastries expand in the process. Using a brush, lightly coat the pastries with egg wash.
Place the pastries into a preheated oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, they should pop up and brown a bit. Reduce the heat to 175 C/350 F and continue to bake for additional 25 minutes or until they’re golden brown and baked through.
As always, a pinch of magic help from unicorn: lift the pastry, when it’s ready it should fill light and hollow, and any cracks on the bottom should match the color of the surface. Just like this!
Do you feel like cream-puff-dough-ninja now? Nope? I know what can help, dear — practice x 100! The truth is that everyone needs it, even a unicorn. So let’s learn together, my friend?