Paris Brest, Chocolate Éclair, and Citrus Cream puff
All three of these desserts are made with the same pâte à choux, so you can see how important it is to perfect the foundation of dough for a variety of pastries. These are available as part of the mini Parisian desserts ($12) that Omilinsky serves at Café des Architectes.
Pâte à Choux Ingredients
The ingredients for pâte à choux are familiar and pretty simple—eggs, butter, flour, sugar, salt, and milk. While Omilinsky uses pâte à choux for several different French pastries, she also makes the restaurant's gougères, a savory application with a similar dough. For gougères the recipe includes more salt, mustard powder, garlic powder, and herbs.
Milk, Not Water
While many pâte à choux recipes call for water, Omilinsky uses whole milk instead. The sugar and fat in the milk caramelizes for a richer flavor. "I've tried a lot of variations of recipes and I've landed on this one as the best," she says. The first step is bringing the milk and butter to a boil.
Incorporating Flour, Salt, and Sugar
Once the milk and butter are boiling, Omilinsky adds the flour, salt, and sugar. The trick to perfect pâte à choux is to cook the dough long enough, a minimum of five minutes, while constantly stirring. Turn the heat down or the dough will scald on the bottom.
"It gets lumpy and looks like instant mashed potatoes," she says. "You want to cook some of the starch out of the flour and get rid of some of the water because I want all the puffy texture to come from the protein in my eggs."
Adding Eggs, One by One
Once the dough is shiny and smooth, it's time to paddle the dough in a KitchenAid blender before adding eggs. "Remember to paddle the dough on low until it's cool," she says.
Omilinsky uses whole eggs as opposed to pasteurized liquid eggs and she adds them one by one so the dough will emulsify properly. "The dough looks almost broken, but don't worry, the eggs will bring it together," she says. This method ensures the dough will have crispier edges.
Testing the Dough
Once the eggs are incorporated and the dough is smooth, Omilinsky tests the dough out to see if it's ready. "You want to be able to pull it two inches apart with your finger," she says. "Then you know it's done." Humidity and other environmental factors can make a big difference, so it's always important to test the dough instead of blindly following a recipe.
Piping the Dough
Omilinsky used to pipe her dough, freeze it, then bake it. After returning from Paris though, she tries to bake it fresh after piping, or at least brings the dough to room temperature before baking if she needs to freeze it. "This keeps it crunchy on the outside," she says. She's started using a star tip instead of a round tip for piping too, as an aesthetic preference.
The great thing about pâte à choux is that it's fairly easy to work with. "If you mess up, just scrape it off and try again," Omilinsky says.
Paris Brest and Cream Puff Shells
Before baking, Omilinsky egg washes the dough and dusts it in powdered sugar to get a beautiful golden brown crunch. With the Paris brest, she'll add pearl sugar for texture and added sweetness.
The pâte à choux here has been baked and is ready to be sliced and filled. The Paris brest are filled with a sweet and salty praline cream while the cream puffs currently have an orange creamsicle filling.
Chocolate Éclair Filling
The filling for Omilinsky's chocolate éclairs is a simple chocolate cremeux, or pudding. You can interchange fillings for éclairs and cream puffs depending on personal preference.
Here, Omilinsky pours crème anglaise over Valrhona's Manjari chocolate to melt it. She likes Manjari for its fruitier flavor profile and color. It's not too dark, so it contrasts nicely with the deep brown chocolate glaze she adds on top.
Piping a Chocolate Éclair
Omilinsky fills a chocolate éclair through the bottom after poking a small hole in the dough. "No one sees the bottom," Omilinsky says with a grin. "I want the top to be smooth for the glissage." Some bakeries cut the éclair in half but this can result in a drier filling if it's not piped to order.
The trick to a shiny glaze is pectin. Omilinsky has both pectin powder and pectin jelly in her kitchen and has found that both work equally well. This jelly looks like a little like sloshy Vaseline and has a neutral flavor when it's added. Regardless of whether you use a powder or jelly, remember activate the pectin by bringing the cream to a boil before adding it.
Let Them Eat Éclairs
See how the glazed éclair is nice and shiny? Without pectin, it might be shiny when first glazed, but will soon wear off to a less appetizing matte brown.