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Choux Pastry Swan

DSC00580.JPG“What’s that thing you’re holding in your picture?” Someone I love dearly, but who shall remain nameless, is referring to my blog profile photo. I tell her it’s dessert — a swan made of choux pastry.

“Shoe pastry? What’s that?”

“It’s puff pasty.”

“A swan?” She studies the photo again. When she sees the bird, she looks at me and says, “Why?”

While I can explain how I made a dessert shaped like water fowl, I will never be able to explain why. You either get a kick out of making cream-filled puff pasty shaped like oversized geese, or you don’t. Sure, a simple round would taste just as good, but there’s something about crafting a specific shape that presents a challenge some cooks enjoy.

Chef Terri Milligan2.jpg My current profile shot was snapped after a cooking lesson at The Inn at Kristofer’s, in Wisconsin. The chef, Terri Milligan (pictured right), talked us through the steps and we made the swans with varying degrees of success. I will share this cooking lesson below with those who enjoy a bit of artsy-fartsy fun. If you’d rather make a straight forward chilled soup, check out today’s post on Accidental Hedonist. Same chef. Same day, different approach.

But if you’re looking for an excuse to use our pastry bag, haul it out of storage and roll up your sleeves. This decadent dessert beats the hell out of animal crackers any day.

Terri Milligan’s Choux Pastry Swans
Printable text only version
Makes 10 – 12 swans

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream plus 1 egg yolk (for glazing)
  • 12 to 20 almond slivers, for beaks
  • whipped cream
  • sauce of choice (chocolate, raspberry, creme angalise)

Make the choux dough:

1. Heat the butter, sugar, salt, milk and water in heavy sauce pan until the butter is melted and the mixture begins to boil.
2. Reduce heat to low and dump all of the flour into the pot. With a wooden spoon or heat resistant spatula, stir until dough forms a ball. 3. Place the pastry dough in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse once or twice.
4. With the food processor running continually, add the 4 eggs, one at a time, until combined.
5. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip with the majority of the dough. Put the remaining dough into a disposable pastry bag with the end snipped off.

Pipe the swan bodies and necks:

1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Line two baking pans with parchment paper.
3. Using the larger bag with the star tip, pipe dough in 2 1/2 inch long teardrops until you have used all the dough. (Note: the photo shows the varying skill level of the students. The teardrop on the lower left is what you’re aiming for.)
4. Brush with egg wash.


5. With the smaller bag, pipe the head and neck by making a reverse “S” shape. Let the dough puddle a bit when you start to make the head a bit bigger. Place a slivered almond on the head to form a beak. Do not brush with egg wash.


Bake the swans:

1. Place the swans and bodies in a preheated 375F oven.
2. Bake the heads for 5 to 8 minutes, depending on thickness. Remove and let cool.
3. Bake the bodies for 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to cool.

Assemble the swans:

1. When the teardrops have cooled, use a serrated knife to cut them in half. Remove the top half of the teardrop and cut in half again to form the wings.


2. Fill a pastry bag with whipped cream and pipe the cream onto the bottom of the teardrop.


3. Fit the wings onto the body with the wings tipped upward.


4. Place a head between wings and transfer swans to individual serving plates.


5. Add a pool of sauce — chocolate, raspberry or creme anglaise — and enjoy.


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9 Responses to Choux Pastry Swan

  1. Dana McCauley August 19, 2008 at 9:24 am #

    Nice Swan! It’s the kind of thing you make once to prove that you can, right? The next time you make choux pastry you just make eclair, gougeres or cream puffs.
    BTW, technically, although choux pastry does indeed puff in the oven, it isn’t a puff pastry. It has it’s own category entirely.

  2. Christie's Corner August 19, 2008 at 9:42 am #

    Dana, you’re right about choux pastry not being the same as puff pastry, but I didn’t know how else to describe it.

    I MIGHT make these again for a very special occasion, but it was a lot of fun — a grown up version of decorating sugar cookies. And let’s face it. This made for a VERY memorable cooking lesson.

  3. Cheryl August 19, 2008 at 11:21 am #

    You must have feathers all over your kitchen.

  4. Julie August 21, 2008 at 11:17 am #

    I love making choux pastry (for gougeres mostly); makes me feel like a domestic goddess. I’ve never make swans, though!

  5. Shelby December 15, 2008 at 11:27 pm #

    You’re supposed to hallow the body out and put the cream inside, not on top.

    The neck also shouldn’t be that long.

    Oh, and the wings should be on the oppsite sides so the flick outwards not inwards.

  6. Min March 8, 2009 at 9:05 pm #

    thank you for the tutorial.. will try it soon. Great blog :)


  7. OMB October 7, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    Thanks for the tutorial. I’m adapting the concept to make tarantulas for halloween. Two circular mounds, connected, for the body and 10 bent twigs of different sizes for the legs and mouth-feelers. Instead of slicing the body, I hope to just peirce it to inject custard or cream and to make holes for the legs and feelers around the smaller mound. The injection hole on the larger mound for the custard/cream will simulate the silk glands. As long as I don’t move things too much the legs should stay attached and upright till service; using custard instead of cream might proove more reinforcement because of its viscosity. Then paint on chocolate at strategic places to mimic the darker hair areas. At least that’s my hope…

    • Charmian Christie October 9, 2009 at 9:11 am #

      OMB, choux pastry tarantulas? Spiders freak me out, but even I would want to see this. This is the most creative use of pastry I’ve ever heard of. I would love to see what the results are. Seriously! When you’re done, please take photos!!

  8. Katie Hartle July 22, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    Love your sense of humour! “You either get a kick out of making cream-filled puff pasty shaped like oversized geese, or you don’t”. LOL

    I remember eating these at the Grand Floridian resort at Disney World, where they have a really fun and fancy tea house. I took a picture of it at the time- because you either get a kick out of eating puff pastry shaped like swans or you don’t!

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