December 07, 2004

It starts with butter

The major task the day before the party was making the 12 dozen (slightly more, actually) cream puffs. These are the major ingredient in the Croqombouche.

There's only about a pound of butter in the cream puffs themselves. But here's the top shelf of the fridge, packed from the store. We ended up using around 12 pounds of the butter, two of which were in the form of clairified butter for cooking.

Butter and Cream

14 pounds of butter

It took four batches of my standard choux paste recipe -- that's 4 cups each of water and flour as a start -- to make enough of the dough or batter for all of the cream puffs. Choux paste is much easier to make if you transfer the cooked flour glob into a stand mixer for beating in the eggs.

Cooking was done two trays at a time. It's close to an hour of cooking because you start in a hot oven, bake to get the right puff, then drop the oven to continue cooking the center, then slit the puffs and return to the oven (now off but still warm) and let them dry out. This is done so that you don't get soggy cream puffs -- especially important if you are making the shells the day ahead.

Choux Paste

4 batches of Choux Paste

Here are the puffs being pipped down. William is coming along behind and using wet fingers (important to keep the paste from sticking to them) to flatten down the tops. If I were better at piping, he probably wouldn't have had to flatten as many of them. We made them somewhere around 1.5 and 2 inches across. I didn't want them to be too small, but if we had made them larger the later assembly would have been more difficult, I think.

Making Puffs

12 Trays of Cream Puffs

I used two hints from Alton Brown this time in making my cream puffs. Use bread flour rather than all purpose. And swap out one of the whole eggs with two egg whites. The bread flour gives you more gluton and thus more structure. The egg whites help the cream puffs to be more dry. I'm not really sure that these changes made much of a difference. I've never had much problem with cream puffs. However, they certainly are simple changes to do. Besides, I needed the egg yolks for the pasty cream filling I was making to go into the cream puffs.

The day before we also made the pastry cream (and bagged it into the fridge), made truffle centers, froze them, coated them (twice) in flour, egg wash, and bread crumbs, and re-froze them. This was lots of just straight production -- things that would have been impossible to try to do the morning of the party.

Posted by dowdy at December 7, 2004 06:50 AM