Pretty, golden puff pastry swans filled with rich, creamy pastry cream frolicking in a drizzle of hot fudge.
Kat of The Bobwhites was our August 2012 Daring Baker hostess who inspired us to have fun in creating pate a choux shapes, filled with crème patisserie or Chantilly cream. We were encouraged to create swans or any shape we wanted and to go crazy with filling flavors allowing our creativity to go wild!
Chocolate eclairs are one of my favorite desserts, so when pâte à choux swans were chosen as this month’s Daring Bakers challenge I was thrilled. I’ve never done pâte à choux in any shape but round or oblong before, so this was a much needed chance to work on my piping skills.
I made my swans bigger than the Daring Bakers hostess, 12 instead of 36. I wasn’t great at piping little beaks, but overall I was really please with my first attempt at swans.
If you haven’t made choux pastry before, give it a try. It isn’t difficult and homemade tastes better than from a bakery because the pastry shells lose their crisp exterior the longer they sit.
You can fill the shells with your favorite filling, sweet or savory. Instead of the challenge recipes, I used my favorite choux pastry and my favorite pastry cream recipes.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 425º. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
In a large saucepan, bring butter, water, salt and sugar to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove pan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir quickly until all the flour is incorporated, about a minute. Return to the heat and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute or two.
Transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat at medium speed for 1 minute to cool the dough down a little.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition; beat until the dough loses its “slimy” look, and each egg is incorporated. (You may only need 3 eggs, depending on your climate.) The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl.
Using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2" tip, pipe out 12 swan heads. (You’re aiming for something between a numeral 2 and a question mark, with a little beak if you’re skilled and/or lucky.)
Remove the tip from the bag and pipe out 12 swan bodies. These will be about 3” long, and about 2” wide. One end should be a bit narrower than the other.
Use your fingers to smooth out any bumps of points of dough that remain on the surface. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375º and bake until puffed up and light golden brown, about 25 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking.
Let cool on the baking sheet.
In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, flour and salt. Gradually whisk in milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture starts to boil. Cook for 2 minutes until thickened.
Remove from stove. Slowly whisk 1/4 cup of the hot mixture into the beaten egg yolks, and immediately add egg yolk mixture to the hot mixture in the saucepan. Cook for 2 more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and add butter and vanilla. Transfer pudding mixture to a medium bowl. Cover with plastic; refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour or overnight.
When pudding is chilled, whip cream to form soft peaks and gently fold in to pudding. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
Take a swan body and use a very sharp knife to cut off the top 1/3rd to 1/2. Cut the removed top down the center to make two wings.
Dollop or pipe pastry cream into the body, insert head, and then add wings. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.
Visit the Daring Kitchen to see all the beautiful pâte à choux swans and other critters the Daring Bakers baked up this month.