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!
I was extremely nervous to try this beautiful dessert. I kept putting it off until finally it was the last day of summer before I had to return to work and I knew it had to be made. The pate a choux came together much easier then I thought it would. I didn’t have any problems piping the swans and body onto the parchment paper. It’s important to keep a close watch on the pate a choux while it is baking. It can go from golden to crispy in a minute.
After taking them out of the oven I used a small serrated knife to cut the bodies into pieces. I ended up breaking a few of them but for the most part they were simple to cut. I then started making the cream filling. Initially I wanted to make vanilla and chocolate pastry cream but while I was looking in the refrigerator I noticed a lonely jar of lemon curd that was begging to be used so I made a lemon cream as well.
The swans were beautiful when they were put together. My favorites were the lemon ones. The lemon cream was sweet, tart, and fluffy which tasted great with the delicate swans. I ended up adding whipped cream to the coffee cream because the flavor was too overwhelming without it.
I took these into school for the first day of work and the teachers raved about them. They couldn’t agree on a favorite flavor but several teachers told me how cute they would be as dessert at a baby shower. Since these were easier to make then I first thought, though still very time consuming, I can’t wait to try and make them into different shapes. I’d also like to try a few different fillings as well.
Pate a Choux Swans (recipe from Good Housekeeping Illustrated Guide to Cooking, 1980 edition.)
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
1 c. water
1/2 t. salt
1 c. flour
1. Line two baking pans with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine the butter, water, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter is melted. Remove from stove.
3. Add the flour to the saucepan and beat the mixture until the dough pulls away from the side of the pan.
4. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture should be glossy, smooth, and thick.
5. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/4 inch tip. Spoon in the pate a choux mixture. Pipe out 36 swan heads. They should look like a cross between a number 2 and a question mark. I then took a toothpick and gently pulled at the tip of the swan head to make a beak.
6. Bake the heads for 6-12 minutes, checking to see when they have puffed up and have turned golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately cool on a wire rack.
7. Next pipe 36 swan bodies. The bodies will be narrower at one end and should measure around 1 1/2 inches in length.
8. Bake the bodies for 10-20 minutes, removing them from the oven when they are golden brown and puffy. Cool on a wire rack.
Pastry Cream (recipe from Good Housekeeping Illustrated Guide to Cooking, 1980 edition.)
1 c. whole milk
2 T. cornstarch
6 T. sugar
2 egg yolks
2 T. butter
1 T. vanilla
1 t. espresso powder
2 oz. milk chocolate melts
3 T. lemon curd
1/2 c. whipped cream
1. In a medium bowl dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup of the milk. Mix well and set aside.
2. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring the milk to a boil and then remove from heat.
3. Add the egg and egg yolks to the cornstarch mixture and beat well. Pour 1/3 of the boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not cook.
4. Return the remaining milk to a boil on the stove. Slowly pour in the hot egg mixture, whisking constantly.
5. Continue whisking until the cream has thickened (it took mine about 6 minutes). Remove from heat and beat in the butter.
6. Divide the cream into 4 bowls. Add the vanilla to the first bowl and mix well.
7. Add the chocolate to the second bowl and mix until the chocolate has melted and is incorporated into the pastry cream.
8. Dissolve the espresso powder in 2 teaspoons of boiling water then add to a third bowl of pastry cream. Mix well and then add in a few tablespoons of whipped cream and mix until it is light and fluffy.
9. Add the lemon curd to the remaining bowl. Whisk in whipped cream.
10. Cover all four bowls with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic wrap is touching the surface of the pastry cream. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until you are ready to fill the swans.
To Assemble the Swans
1. Using a small serrated knife, cut the swan bodies in half length wise.
2. Cut the top portion of the body in half to make 2 wings.
3. Spoon a dollop of pastry filling into the body and then insert the head. Top with the wings.
4. Serve the day you make the swans. If you need to make the swans a day in advance, store in an air tight container. Before filling them the next day, stick them in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for 2-3 minutes to crisp them back up. Fill as per instructions.