Cream rolls, profiteroles – call them what you will – are one of my favourite pastries. When I was little it was one of the ultimate treats on an outing, I loved biting into one with the pastry cream (sometimes it was whipped cream) oozing out, relishing the creamy coolness encased. It was magical how these little balls of pastry could be filled with cream – even explained to me, it was mystifying how they were filled.
In the words of Bertie Wooster, the mind boggled.
When I chose Carol as my adoptee it was with high expectations, of myself: making gluten-free and dairy-free cream puffs. Carol’s cream puffs have been on the very top of my list of must-tries forever; I have made her dairy-free pastry cream before but didn’t, until now, make the pastry that makes the puff. Heh.
I’m sure you know Carol, whether personally or through her blog, or maybe you’ve heard of her. She’s recently published a cookbook, Simply Gluten-Free Desserts; a cookbook that I have not yet had the pleasure of giving a proper, thorough read but when I saw it in a local bookstore I didn’t hesitate to take a peek and it was anything but short of delightful. I’m keen to try the Balsamic Strawberry Ice Cream, which sounds like a grown-up version of the classic strawberry.
My decision was timely, as she’s since posted a step by step tutorial for how to make cream puffs. That and the dairy-free recipe were my guides.
Over the course of four days, I have tackled pate a choux and I’ve yet to completely master it, but it has been – at best – a lot of fun so far. These are some things I’ve learned about tackling pastry and tackling any new culinary projects in general:
- Before you set out on your new culinary project, don’t listen to stories of other people’s kitchen or recipe disasters for entertainment purposes or relive your own previous disasters. Even if you did avert that disaster or if that other person’s disaster isn’t related to your current project at hand, you’re only helping to pave the way for your own possible disappointment.
- Don’t refrigerate batter that’s supposed to be choux dough in the hopes that it will thicken. It won’t work and it won’t puff at all.
- Listening to songs like “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” and singing along to them helps boost your morale. Anything positive goes.
- Don’t curse what you’re working on, even something as mild as “darn” – unless you want it to not work out, that is. If so, this post isn’t for you. We do have a happy ending.
Clearing the counter and singing my heart out to Queen (what a perfect band of choice, listening to perfectionists) and David Bowie, I thought I’d do the easy part first: make the pastry cream. I used coconut flour instead of cornstarch, as I had done in the past, and…it failed miserably. It lumped and seized – in short, it just wasn’t salvageable.
(I told my family that I hadn’t made the pastry cream when I presented the puffs. Now they’re going to read this and find out otherwise…hi! Well, technically I didn’t make it…)
After that sorry episode, I hoped that the pate a choux would make up for it. By the photo above (see collage, #1), my first attempt was fairly successful although I was filled with initial anxiety when the cooked dough lumped into what could only be mochi. Trying to soothe my qualms, I added the first egg and stirred and stirred, hoping. Eventually it evened out into a smooth and shiny, thick batter.
Spooning the batter on to the prepared pan, I popped it in the oven and crossed my fingers. They puffed, despite the pate a choux being batter than actual dough, which leads to my second attempt and my lesson…
I made the pate a choux again a day later, hoping it would be better the second time round as far as dough was concerned. This time round was thinner, weirdly enough and I made the error of sticking it in the fridge, believing it would thicken up into dough. I think by refrigerating, any puffing potential promptly deflated. They didn’t rise at all, remaining little discs (see collage, #2).
Something in me fired up, just as the first chords of “Changes” went into overture. Determination to get it right. So far, I’d followed Carol’s instructions and now I started to wonder if because I was making a half recipe that the chemistry could have changed slightly, just like how some recipes shouldn’t be doubled.
I reduced the oil to only two tablespoons and when it was time to dump the flour in, I took the pot off the heat. It didn’t quite look the way it did in Carol’s picture but it was dough at least, no sign of mochi. Transferring it to the bowl, I added the eggs a little at a time: beginning with one egg, then the rest of the white – leaving only two yolks. It was thick, smooth, and shiny. Could it be?
The headphones playing “Don’t Stop Me Now” into my ears, I broke up the yolks, adding them a teaspoon at a time. I’d become stringent. It had thickened as much as it could: not yet dough, still batter, but better than the previous two. It was good enough.
They puffed. (Cue “We Are the Champions.”)
I made more pastry cream, using cornstarch this time.
I filled the puffs with cream, leaving some hollow because my brother likes them that way.
But wait, there’s more! I also decided to make Carol’s gluten-free pate a choux as she recently demonstrated in her step by step post. It has butter.
When I dumped in the flour, the melted butter didn’t fully mix. Maybe I didn’t stir quickly enough? I added the eggs, again a little at a time, starting with the egg whites, until it became thick and shiny.
Although still batter, albeit thick, we’re getting closer to making a proper dough. (Hover cursor over images to read captions.)
With this fourth attempt I made the full recipe, which made 39 cream puffs in total. You might think that’s a lot but it’s nothing. They were gone before the day was out – most of them eaten by my brother.
So, all in all, my experience with making gluten-free and dairy-free (and not dairy-free) pate a choux was a great success. Thank you, Carol, for coming up with the recipes!
Because cream puffs are such the perfect little treat as I earlier described, I’m also contributing this to this month’s Go Ahead Honey, It’s Gluten Free. This month’s theme was a garden party (deadline’s tomorrow), hosted by Raj and Sonia of Flip Cookbook.
Get the recipe for Carol’s cream puffs here and her gluten-free pate a choux tutorial here. Despite my trial and error, the recipe does work. I think that some things just take a bit longer to get a grasp of.