Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Baking & Pastry Arts program at New York City's Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences!
I was 16 the first time I ever made pate a choux, the dough used to make cream puffs and eclairs. I remember so vividly standing over the stove, boiling milk, butter and sugar, adding flour and vigorously stirring the pot until a cohesive dough formed, and then ruining all of my hard work by cracking eggs directly into the hot pot and scrambling them into the dough. My mom compared the consistency to that of matzoh balls, gave me her typical "I told you so" spiel about impatiently ignoring the directions and told me to start over.
When I found out we were going to make pate a choux in class, I was excited to have another chance to work on my technique. The procedure we were taught was exactly the same--except for one crucial detail, a word that gets used almost every day in the pastry kitchen: tempering. To temper something means to either increase or decrease the temperature of it, which is quite easy given the proper ingredients and instruction. T0 temper choux dough, slowly pour beaten eggs into the pot where your butter-milk-flour mixture has cooked and stir it continuously until the mixture is cool enough (it feels warm to the touch but not scalding) to dump the remaining eggs in. Scrambling the eggs in my dough could have been easily avoided had I just tempered it first. Lesson learned.
In class I wound up with a beautifully soft and smooth choux dough, ready to be piped, baked, filled and eaten. I couldn't wait to share photos of my successful desserts with my mom: cream puffs stuffed with homemade ice cream, also known as profiteroles (pictured above), and one of my proudest accomplishments, croquembouche, a tower of cream puffs filled with pastry cream and held together by caramel sauce (pictured below).
You can see I've come a long way from my matzoh ball-like choux days-- this was one sweet feat!
Check back next Friday for another delicious adventure!