Some eclairs, a birthday and choux!

Our new article is celebratory. We mixed two desserts, eclairs and charlotte and we made a “choux charlotte”!

So, in our new festive article we will research choux and charlotte, find desserts made with choux pastry (pâte à choux) and make our own “choux charlotte” with eclairs filled with chocolate whipped cream, caramel Bavarian cream and caramelised nuts for Giorgos’ birthday!

Choux pastry (pâte à choux) is one of the main doughs of French pastry. As we read in our professional book Pâtisserie & Baking Foundations (2012) by the chefs of the Le Cordon Bleu school, choux pastry is a dough with a light, airy texture. This texture is due to the high level of humidity which creates steam during baking. The steam is trapped, thanks to its high fat content (butter). This creates the puffs, with a hard, crispy shell on the outside and a void inside, ideal for filling.

We filled our puffs with chocolate whipped cream!

Charlotte is a cake that has ladyfingers on the perimeter and cream in the center. Charlotte is made in a special bucket-shaped form. Bread or cakes can be used instead of ladyfingers. We in our “choux charlotte” will use eclairs made with choux pastry!

Our own festive “choux charlotte”!

As we have learned, the name charlotte comes from the old English word charlyt which means «a dish of custard». Also, in the 15th century there were meat dishes named  charlets which were quite populae.

Charlotte -or charlotte russe as the full name is- is said to have been created by the great French confectioner of the 18th-19th centuries Marie-Antoine Carême, in honor of the Russian Tsar Alexander I for whom he worked (russe means Russian in French). Some historians claim that the name refers to the sister-in-law of the Tsar, Queen Charlotte, who was the wife of George III, King of England and Scotland.

The great French pasty chef Marie-Antoine Carême. (source)
The Russian Tsar Alexander I. (source)

In our recipe we chose to substitute the ladyfingers for eclairs, to experiment a bit! Various desserts are made with choux pastry, which we will see through short descriptions and photos, to get a taste of France, before preparing our own hybrid “choux charlotte”!

Cream puff

The simplest form of choux pastry dessert is an individual puff with a filling. It can be covered with craquelin, a crunchy coating of dough made with sugar, flour and butter.

Cream puffs

Cream puffs with a caramel coating and a vanilla filling are a typical and beloved treat in Greece…

Eclairsclairs in their classic version are filled with chocolate cream and glazed with chocolate on top. What sets them apart is their elongated shape.

Homemade eclairs with chocolate whipped cream by Eat Dessert First Greece!

Salambos

Salambos are oval pastries filled with cream, with caramel coating. In traditional salambos, according to Jacquy Pfeiffer, the cream is flavored with kirch or rum.

Profiteroles

In Greece, we really like profiteroles, ie puffs filled with cream with plenty of chocolate sauce on top. One will find them in a wide variety of delicious combinations, as well as filled with ice cream!

Paris-Brest

Paris-Brest is a ring-shaped dessert made of choux pastry, usually filled with a hazelnut-flavored mousseline cream. Paris-Brest was a cycling race created in 1891. Participants had to make the journey from Paris to Brest and back to the British coast, as we read in Jacquy Pfeiffer’s The Art of French Pastry (2013). The distance was 1200 km and the winner made it in 71 hours and 22 minutes without sleeping at all! Paris-Brest dessert was made in 1910 by chef Louis Durand in the shape of a bicycle wheel, as for the race.

Religieuses

Religieuses are puffs filled with pastry cream and glazed, that have an extra cream puff on top!

Coffee flavored religieuses by Jacquy Pfeiffer

Swans

Swans are a very impressive treat made with choux pastry. To make a swan one must form its delicate parts with a small piping nozzle.

Saint Honoré

Saint Honoré is a dessert dedicated to the patron saint of bakers and confectioners, the Catholic Saint Honorius bishop of Amiens who lived in the 4th century. We have read that when it became known in his hometown that he had been ordained a bishop, his old nursemaid did not want to believe it and said that it was just as likely as for the wooden baker’s peel she was holding in order to bake bread to become a tree. When she put it on the , it miraculously turned into a blackberry tree. That is why the Saint is often depicted holding the baker’s peel.

Saint Honorius bishop of Amiens, patron of bakers and confectioners (source)

Saint Honoré dessert is made with a puff pastry base, pastry cream and whipped cream on top, together with caramelized cream puffs.

Croquembouche

Perhaps the most striking dessert made with choux pastry is croquembouche! It is a tall, conical tower made of cream puffs that are held in place and decorated with caramel. In France it is the ultimate festive dessert, according to Jacquy Pfeiffer, and is common at weddings, engagements, christenings and other formal occasions.

Whichever dessert you chose to make, first of all you must prepare a choux pastry, or pâte à choux as the French call it!

Our recipe

Choux pastry (pâte à choux)

Ingredients for the choux pastry

Water240 ml
Butter100 gr
Bread flour150 gr
Eggs4-5
Salta pinch
Sugar2 tsp
The ingredients for the choux pastry

How to make choux pastry

Place the water, butter, salt and sugar into a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring to dissolve the butter. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the flour. Return to the heat and stir quickly with a spatula or wooden spoon. The mixture will be ready when it leaves a thin layer at the bottom of the saucepan and comes off the sides.

Add the flour and mix until the dough comes off the walls of the pot.

Transfer the dough to the mixer bucket and beat for a while on medium to reduce the temperature of the dough. Then add the eggs one by one, waiting for the egg to be incorporated before adding the next one. The goal is to make a soft dough that will gather around the whisk attachments. We needed four eggs, but you may need to add a little more if the eggs are small.

Transfer the dough to the mixer bucket and beat until the temperature drops slightly.
Our dough is ready when after dipping the spatula it forms a V shape.

Fill a pastry bag (or a simple food bag) and form eclair shapes in a pan lined with parchment paper. For the paper to not move, you can “stick” it with a little dough on the baking tray.

To fill the bag we use a tall container and turn its edges outwards so that they do not get dirty!
We made eclairs and puffs for our “choux charlotte”!
We have to leave distances between the puffs and eclairs because they will rise during baking!

Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for 15 minutes and at 180°C for another 10 minutes. Then open the oven door to let the steam out and let your puffs and eclairs inside to dry, having the oven door slightly open.

Chocolate whipped cream filling

To fill our eclairs and puffs we will make a filling of whipped cream with a light chocolate flavor, without sugar to keep our dessert as healthy as possible.

Ingredients for the chocolate whipped cream

Chocolate couverture200 gr
Heavy cream400 gr

How to make the chocolate whipped cream

Cut the couverture into small pieces and melt it in a saucepan. At the same time, beat the heavy cream with the mixer. Incorporate the melted chocolate into the whipped cream, beating for a while with the mixer until the ingredients are combined.

Melt the couverture for the chocolate whipped cream and incorporate it into the whipped heavy cream.
You can fill the eclairs by making two holes in their bottom and using a small piping nozzle…
…or in the simplest way, open them and fill them like sandwiches!

Bavarian cream

Now, in order to make a “choux charlotte” with our eclairs we have to make a Bavarian cream to fill our mould. This cream can be used in any charlotte or layer cake you wish to make.

Ingredients for the Bavarian cream

Milk200 ml
Heavy cream 200 ml
Sugar90 gr
Eggs2
Gelatine8 gr
Vanilla or caramel or other extract1 tsp
Whipped cream500 ml
The ingredients for the Bavarian cream.

How to make the Bavarian cream

To make the Bavarian cream, first of all beat 500 ml of whipped cream and set it aside. If you are using gelatin powder, add a little water to soak. If you are using gelatin sheets, put them into cold water with ice cubes to soften them.

Then, add the milk, sour cream and 1/3 of the sugar (30 gr) into a saucepan. Beat the remaining sugar with the eggs with a hand whisk. Once the liquids have come to a boil, add a teaspoon to the eggs and stir to heat them. Then return the egg mixture to the saucepan and stir with a spatula. The mixture will be ready as soon as it reaches 85°C. If you don’t have a thermometer, one way to control it is to drag your finger on the spatula. If the mixture leaves a trace, then it is ready!

Remove from the heat and add the gelatin. Stir well to dissolve, pour the cream into a pan and place it into the freezer for the temperature of the cream to quickly drop. Once it reaches room temperature, mix with the whipped cream that you had prepared and pour the Bavarian cream into your mould. Refrigerate the dessert for several hours to stabilize the cream.

We prepared some caramelised nuts to adorn our “choux charlotte”.

Happy birthday Giorgos and happy creations everyone!

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