French chef Jean Christophe Novelli taught me two thing in Bravo’s 2009 reality cooking show I hated to love watching, Chef Academy: #1.Wearing lipstick in the kitchen throws off your tasting ability, and #2. Shoe Paste is awesome. After I watched contestants create drama-filled pastries of all kinds, I knew I’d have to try some of my own (sans the drama, hopefully).
Pâte à Chou (pronounced “pat ah shoe”), called Shoe Paste in my house, was even easier to make successfully than I thought it would be and made me feel more like a French pastry chef in a cafe in Provence rather than a first-timer in a tiny apartment kitchen.
The trick to making Shoe Paste is to add just enough eggs to make the paste the right consistency. It needs to be glossy and hold together, but not too stiffly – it should create soft peaks with your spatula. It took five eggs, total, for me to get the dough to this consistency – you’ll just need to add your eggs slowly, one at a time, and check the batter after each addition.
After it’s made, grab a piping bag and a large circle tip and go to town piping the Shoe Paste onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet! I wanted mini-eclairs, so I piped the dough into 1 1/2 inch lines. The awesome thing about this paste is as it bakes it rises up, not out, so you can pipe close together and fit lots onto one baking sheet.
In about 20 minutes, each unimpressive little globby line of Shoe Paste transforms into tall, flaky, lighter-than-air pastries before your eyes in the oven!
- Don’t open the oven door or touch your baking Shoe Paste if at all possible, no matter how much you might want to – these pastries are really delicate and just need to be left alone to bake properly
- Let ’em get a little browner than you think they should be – doing the toothpick doneness test won’t work with these, so color is the only thing you have to go on. If they’re too light when you pull the out, they’ll be too wet and eggy in the middle
- Don’t bake them on a non-stick mat – stick with a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. A nonstick mat will keep the bottoms of the eclairs from getting done enough and they’ll be a little mooshey.
For these eclairs, I melted a 60% cocoa bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler then dipped the very tops of each baked eclair and let cool on the baking pan until the chocolate hardened.
Then comes the lemon curd filling….
Lemon curd filling was the most time-consuming part of this recipe but was an amazing tart, refreshing surprise in this desert – definitely worth the time. The recipe also made some additional lemon curd that I could put in my fridge to eat later with scones, so that was a bonus.
Once you’ve made the lemon curd filling, simply put it in a piping back with a small circle tip and fill each eclair – dust with powdered sugar and viola!
Such a perfect dessert – If I had to choose between these eclairs and Jimmy Choos, Shoe Paste would win every time (but I wouldn’t mind having a pair of each…!)
Here’s the Recipe:
Pâte à Chou
Transfer dough to bowl of a standing electric mixer and beat in 4 eggs, 1 at a time, on high speed, beating well after each addition. Batter should be stiff enough to just hold soft peaks and fall softly from a spoon. If batter is too stiff, in a small bowl beat remaining 2 eggs lightly, 1 at a time, and add to batter, a little at a time, beating on high speed, until batter is desired consistency.
Lemon Curd Filling
- 3 large eggs
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 3-4 lemons (do not use bottled lemon juice))
- 1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest
- 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate for up to a week. Carefully stir in 1/2 cup homemade whipped cream to 1 cup lemon curd to make a lighter filling, if desired.
Is there anything more joy-producing than the taste of a perfectly ripe, perfectly delicious strawberry?! It’s like Mother Nature’s promise to your tastebuds that summer is almost here. Although in the buff is my favorite way of enjoying home-grown strawberries (the strawberries in the buff – not me…although….), I bought so many at the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning that I had to try out a recipe that I had seen on one of my very favorite food blogs. The ingredients this recipe calls for are ones I had already, which was great for outbursts of spontaneous cooking! I made some little adjustments to a couple of the directions to make up for some possible probable mistakes on my part, so I’ll let you know what I did, just in case you are directions-challenged, like me.
Here’s the Recipe:
1 cup pureed strawberries (I pulsed 8-10 thawed frozen whole strawberries in the food processor)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/3 cup white chocolate chips
Several drops of pink gel food coloring
Place strawberry puree, sugar, and butter in a small nonstick pan over medium low heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until reduced to 1/2 cup. Mix reduced liquid with flour and salt in a small bowl. Chill truffle filling for 1 hour in the fridge or until cold.
Carefully roll chilled strawberry filling into 12 round truffles and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or until cold.
Melt semisweet chocolate chips in a shallow bowl on High 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds; stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth, microwaving an additional 10 seconds as needed. Mix in 1 tablespoon oil. Using 2 forks, dip strawberry centers into melted chocolate and cover evenly. Place on waxed paper and smooth tops with the back of a spoon, if needed. Cool in the fridge until chocolate is set, about an hour.
Melt white chocolate chips in a shallow bowl on High 1 minute, stirring after 30 seconds; stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth Mix in remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and pink gel food coloring and place chocolate in a pastry bag with a number 4 tip. Drizzle chocolate over truffles. Makes 12 truffles.
Nutrition: 106 calories, 4.1g fat, 0.8g fiber, 0.9g protein per truffle
Cost: $0.34 per truffle
The recipe calls for ten to twelve strawberries, but if you are using locally grown berries, you’ll probably have to set aside about eighteen to twenty to make one cup of puree, since the home-grown variety are usually quite a bit smaller than the kind you’ll find in a grocery store plastic clamshell container. (They taste so much better, too!)
I think that my first mistake was not reducing the strawberry puree enough – the recipe instructs a 15-20 minute simmer over low to medium heat, but mine did not reduce enough in that time period. I cranked up the heat to a higher medium, but I think I would have produced a thicker reduction if I had left it on the heat for at least 30 minutes. As it was, my puree did not set as firmly as it should have….it was still beautiful and delicious, though! (You’ll see the result of a runnier puree here in a minute.)
There are two things I changed about the chocolate ganache: 1. The recipe calls for semi-sweet, but I enjoy a richer cocoa taste to balance out the sweetness of the filling and chose to use a 60% bittersweet, and 2. Instead of the oil, I used unsalted butter. I actually had two goes at melting the chocolate because I messed the first batch up pretty badly…I melted the chocolate with the cold tablespoon of butter and the chocolate immediately seized up as it melted. Oh, well – lesson learned! Redo: I melted the chocolate first and then added a tablespoon of melted butter and it worked beautifully (and tasted better in the chocolate than oil).
Because my puree didn’t set as firmly as it should have, this is what my first three, chilled truffles did after dipping them in hot, melty chocolate (not pretty!):
So I let the chocolate cool a little and put the truffle insides into the freezer for a bit and then they worked beautifully!
I’m definitely going to have to remember this recipe for a made-with-love Valentine’s or Hostess Gift in the future – thanks, Kerstin from Cake, Batter and Bowl!