Cream puff swan lake
I’m not quite sure why the winter makes me think of swans. But here they are, lined up on a tray lake and dusted in powdered sugar snow.
Choux pastry (French: Pâte à Choux) is a versatile, easy to make pastry dough. Apparently it’s called “cabbage dough” (choux is French for cabbage) because it resembles little cabbage heads when baked into little buns.
Pastry cream is not difficult to make, but it does require some care and attention. A quick and easy alternative when there is no vanilla bean in the house, is a packet of (non-instant) vanilla pudding powder in the pantry.
Pâte à Choux (Choux Pastry)
250g all-purpose (or pastry) flour
vanilla extract (if desired)
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
Heat milk and melt butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Bring to a boil. Add flour and whisk in vigorously. You’re roasting the dough, but be careful not to burn it. Let cool off for 15-20 minutes.
Put the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer, add eggs and mix in, one at a time. The dough should not become too liquid (omit last egg if necessary). Add salt and vanilla to taste.
Using a pastry bag with a big star tip, pipe mounds (about 1.5 inch in diameter) on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving about 1-2 inches of space in between (these will be the bodies and wings). With a small round tip, pipe out thin stripes in the shape of the number 2 (this will be the neck and head) on another parchment-lined baking sheet. Make at least enough necks as bodies and maybe a couple more in reserve.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes, until puffed up. Turn temperature down to 375ºF (open door to let hot air escape and cool down oven quickly) and bake until lightly brown all around (another 10-20 minutes).
Crème Pâtissière (Pastry Cream)
50g cook’n’serve vanilla pudding powder
Stir the pudding powder into 50g milk, whisk until smooth, then whisk in eggs. Bring the rest of the milk with the sugar to a boil in a sauce pan over low to medium heat. Add the vanilla-powder-milk-mixture and whisk vigorously into a smooth, thick consistency. Add salt to taste (a pinch might be enough).
Cream Puff Swans
To assemble the swans, cut the choux pastry mounds in half, parallel to their bottoms. Then take the top and cut it in half lengthwise. Line up all the bottoms with the corresponding halved tops nearby. If desired, add a dab of cherry preserves on the bottom halves before piping pastry cream on them with a big star tip. Put the halved tops (cut side facing outward) into the cream as wings. Push a “2” neck into the front gap between the wings. Arrange on a plate or tray, dust with powdered sugar.