“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.
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.