Cream Puffs can be so Fickle
Have you ever made Pate a Choux? Pate a Choux is a light pastry dough with a high moisture content that steams when baking which creates the puff. The ingredients for Pate a Choux include flour, fat, salt and eggs. Light, airy and puffy they are just delicious. Products can be sweet or savory.
Having their origins in France, Netherlands or the US. If you work in a bakery you know the time constraints for mass baking. Baked goods (cookies, breads, pies) go into the oven on a schedule. Some bake longer than others, some can be baked with others without the fear of "falling" and some just require a long period of time to cook at different temperatures. So is the case with these Cream Puffs - they start at one temp and end at another. Today, was just like any other day except the cream puffs did not turn out puffy. They were flat disks. My heart sank but I picked up the pace and accepted that sometimes things go wrong. What I don't accept is that a customer is waiting and they have just flopped instead of puffing. No chance of recovery and we must start from the beginning. Another 50 minutes until the puffs would be complete. My customer was not happy. Today, I could see through the oven window that things looked different so I quickly started another batch. Why are Cream puffs are so fickle? A slight change in the recipe and you can be doomed to failure. Look at this photo. The cream puff on the left is what I see 9 out of 10 times. The one on the right was from the first round of puffs. My gut said there might be problems when I put the puffs in this morning. For those of you that work with pastry on a regular basis know you must follow the recipe to the "T". Puffs are pretty easy and I have the recipe committed to memory. The first thing I did was pull the recipe and go step by step. What I noticed, the eggs we had received from our local egg supplier seemed to be larger than normal. Could this be the problem? I recall the pate a choux being a little "runny". It's supposed to be wet but not runny. Everything else was normal from the measurement of flour to the number of eggs. I inspected the eggs and this batch appeared to be larger than normal. Is it possible that the eggs made the mixture to wet? I always use large eggs. These bordered on JUMBO. Solution - hold out egg whites on the next batch of puffs and see if they are normal. Second batch of cream puffs was in the oven within 5 minutes and after the 1st 15 minutes at the higher temperature I noticed everything was as it should be. Woo Hoo! I could smell victory in the air... Thank goodness. We would have cream puffs for our customers today unfortunately, the customer who was picking up the cream puffs for an event that day had decided she couldn't wait and ended up going to a donut shop. I was so sad that our customer chose to go elsewhere but it was a lesson that needed to be reinforced. "Your product is only as good as your ingredients."