I had in my mind an amazing patisserie bake for Valentine’s Day, I bought all of the ingredients and prepared my templates, I’d even watched some YouTube videos in preparation for the chocolate work I was going to do.
Sadly time was not on my side this week and I just felt too tired to take on such a labour intensive bake. Also, on a side note the Spanish strawberries I’d received from Ocado were huge and they wouldn’t really have worked for the purpose I wanted them. So I’m going to wait until English strawberries are in season and I can get some delicious sweet dainty strawberries.
What to do with limited time, a punnet of strawberries and two pots of whipping cream? I thought about making meringues for Eton Mess, I always have egg whites in the freezer, I put them in ziplock bags with the date of freezing written on them. When I need to use them, I place the bag in a bowl and allow them to thaw at room temperature. Old egg whites make brilliant meringues and macarons, so remember don’t throw away those egg whites!
Then I remembered I had a batch of cooked choux buns that I had frozen in ziplock bags, left over from the Paris-Brest I made. I wanted to know how well choux froze and this seemed like the perfect time to find out.
I’ve learnt that some things don’t freeze so well, milk for example is fine, cream not so much, choux however is pretty resilient. The frozen choux still had quite a lot of structure, it’s not as crunchy as choux that hasn’t been frozen, but they still tasted wonderful.
I haven’t tried to freeze choux pastry that hasn’t been cooked, but this resource from Delia Smith has tons of information about what can and cannot be frozen. I didn’t cook the thawed choux buns in the oven for a few minutes as described in the article (I didn’t know you needed to), but they tasted fine to me, perhaps this would give them some of their crunch back.
The choux buns are filled with a strawberry compote that is so easy to make. This is where I get a bit smug, I dug out a jar of the strawberry jam I made last summer with the glut of strawberries I had in my garden.
Now don’t start getting any ideas that I’m a keen gardener, I’m on my third rosemary plant – the damn things don’t seem to grow, I’ve also killed a mint plant, pulled up my own spring onions too early, that I planted because I thought the seedlings were weeds and sowed my beetroot so close together they were the size of radishes.
Yet for some reason the strawberries just seem to get on with growing and I stay well away, just offering water and picking off the odd slug/grub/snail/slimy thing.
If you don’t have any home made strawberry jam, shop bought is fine, there’s no judgement here. The jam is heated with a little water and mixed with chopped strawberries and then left to cool, the last step is to whip the cream until it’s stiff.
The choux buns can then be filled, cut the choux buns just beneath the streusel topping and fill the bottom halves with the compote, then pipe swirls of whipped cream onto the compote and top with the streusel top and dust with icing sugar.
A more detailed recipe is below.
- ***Streusel Topping***
- 25g Plain Flour
- 25g Brown Sugar
- Pinch of Fleur de Sel (or sea salt)
- 20g Butter (at room temperature)
- ***Choux Pastry***
- 60g Unsalted Butter, diced
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- 1 Tsp Caster Sugar
- 40g Plain Flour
- 45g Strong White Bread Flour
- 2-3 Large Eggs
- 120ml Water
- ***Strawberry Compote***
- 200g Strawberry Jam
- 200g Strawberries (diced into 1cm cubes)
- 1 Tbsp Water
- ***To finish***
- 400ml Whipped Cream
- Icing Sugar
- Begin by making the compote, add the strawberry jam and tablespoon of water to a small saucepan. Heat the jam until it forms a syrup and then add the chopped strawberries. Cook the compote for a couple of minutes allowing it to bubble, then leave it to cool.
- To make the streusel combine the flour, sugar and fleur de sel in the bowl of a food mixer. Knead with the paddle attachment then add the softened butter.
- Continue on a medium speed until the butter mixes with the dry ingredients to form a dough.
- Roll out the pastry between two sheets of greaseproof paper to about 2mm thick, then place in the fridge or freezer.
- When chilled use a pastry cutter to cut out 10 rounds of pastry 3cm in diameter, return to the fridge.
- To make the choux pastry, preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) Gas 4 and line two baking trays with baking parchment.
- Put the butter, salt, sugar and 120ml water in a medium pan over a medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted and the mixture is at a rolling boil, add the flour and quickly stir together with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a dough.
- With the pan still on the heat, stir vigorously for 2 minutes, then tip the dough into a bowl and beat for a few minutes until it stops steaming. These two actions help to cook the flour and dry out the dough, which in turn helps it to absorb more egg. This helps the choux pastry to expand properly as it bakes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully absorbed before adding the next. Depending on the flour used and how much water evaporated as you made the dough, the choux pastry will need varying amounts of egg, so the above is given as a guide.
- With this recipe I usually add two eggs and then very slowly start adding the remaining egg, checking the texture of the dough after each addition. You are looking for a dough that has a shine and when it is lifted from the bowl, it should fall from the spatula in a ribbon that forms a "V" shape. If the dough doesn't contain enough egg, it won't expand properly and will be prone to cracking as it bakes; if there is too much egg, the dough won't hold its shape and will collapse as it bakes.
- To prevent the dough from drying out and forming a skin, immediately put the dough into a piping bag with a 1.5cm plain round piping tip fitted.
- Pipe balls of choux onto the prepared baking sheets, ensure they are well spaced and around 3cm in size. You may find that you have more than 10 choux buns, but just keep piping them - don't pipe on top of the existing buns as the shape will distort. If you have extra choux buns they freeze well once cooked.
- Top each choux bun with a streusel round and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Turn off the oven and leave in the oven to cool for 30 minutes before filling and decorating.
- When the choux has cooled down, gently slice the tops off the choux buns, just below the disc of streusel pastry.
- Whip the cream until stiff and spoon it into a piping bag fitted with a star shaped nozzle. Spoon the cooled compote into the bottom half of the choux buns and then pipe a double layer of cream on top of the compote and bottom half of choux, ensuring no compote can be seen.
- Top with the streusel top and dust with icing sugar.
- The filled choux buns will start to soften, so these are best eaten within 24-48 hours of filling.
- The frozen cooked choux pastry will keep for around 2 months, just thaw at room temperature before filling.
Do you have any baking short cuts? Tips or hints that save you time in the kitchen, but still yield great results? Let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading.