Pretty, golden cream puff 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
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon water
- 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. Place templates on baking sheets; line with parchment paper. Measure flour and set aside.
- 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 dough to the bowl of an electric mixer, and let cool 5 minutes.
- 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.
- Spoon dough into a pastry bag fitted with a coupler. Attach a #10 tip (1/2-inch tip) to coupler. Pipe dough to make 12 swan necks on a baking sheet, using template as a guide. Smooth out peaks and round tops with a moistened finger; remove template. (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 on a second baking sheet, using template as a guide. These will be about 3” long, and about 2” wide. One end should be a bit narrower than the other. Smooth out peaks and round tops with a moistened finger; remove template.
- Egg wash: Whisk together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon water. Brush tops of dough with egg mixture. Place swan necks on baking sheet in the freezer.
- Bake swan bodies at 425° for 5 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 375°, and bake 30 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack, and cool completely.
- Bake swan necks at 375° for 15 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack, and cool completely.
- 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 into pudding. Keep covered and chilled until ready to use.
- Cut swan bodies in half horizontally. Cut the top halves in half to create two wings.
- Dollop or pipe a small amount pastry cream onto the widest part of the bottom halves. Place swan necks in cream. After you've put the neck in place, fill the bottom halves with additional pastry cream. Place wings on each side.
- Chill until ready to serve. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving if desired.