Who could fill my choux?
July 26, 2020 3:31 AM   Subscribe

As an anniversary gift for a dear couple, I’m attempting to replicate the choux à la crème that you’d find at Parisian patisseries such as Popelini and Odette. I’ve been fortunate to have had choux from both places, so naturally I thought I’d be qualified to handle this. While I think I’ve got the choux pastry part down (I’d gladly accept any recipes you’d recommend, however), I’m much less confident about the crème filling.

The stuff I’ve made so far seems more ‘custardy’ than what I recall, though I know a custard-like crème pâtissière is basically the classic filling. In my memory the filling was creamier, lighter, and less eggy than custard, but definitely more dense than whipped cream (which is what some people misguidedly recommend). Is my memory wrong?

Replicating the various flavors for the crème is also a big question. I’ve only done vanilla so far and it was kind of dull. Fruits des bois is a particular favorite of this couple, and I’m really not sure how best to make that or other fruit flavors. Salted butter caramel is another one I know they’d like.

So please recommend me your best choux à la crème recipes — with emphasis on an authentic crème — and please give me your advice for replicating some of the flavors that one might find at a Parisian patisserie. I look forward to eating more of my mistakes.
posted by theory to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Some versions that I've eaten have whipped cream folded into custard as the filling, which apparently is called Diplomat cream.
posted by Sar at 3:56 AM on July 26, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I was about to say what Sar said. That's what I do. But here is a recipe that looks good.
In this recipe for blackberry eclairs, the blackberry puree is mixed into cream with a little sugar, which I think is the way one does it with fruit fillings. No eggs in those.
The first recipe quotes David Lebovitz, and he is definitely the person to go to for a recipe, his Salted-Caramel Cream Puffs with Warm Chocolate Sauce look delicious. I don't have his books here, and don't remember which one(s) have recipes for the crème, but I recommend them all.
posted by mumimor at 4:17 AM on July 26, 2020

Best answer: Crème légère is what my mother puts into choux pastries. It's crème pat, but mixed with whipped cream.
posted by gaspode at 6:06 AM on July 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Another option is "pastry cream," if you google smittenkitchen.com or doriegreenspan.com

The key to intense vanilla flavor is using vanilla bean pods, and scraping out those insanely aromatic vanilla beans.

It's berry season now, and making an easy berry coulis (combine fresh berries, water, and sugar in a food processor) and drizzling that on top is tres francais.
posted by honey badger at 7:22 AM on July 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A dash of orange flower water brings up pleasant memories for me.

Paula Wolfert records this flavoring mixture from the southwest of France (converted to US equivalents):

3 oz orange flower water
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tbsp Armagnac
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp anise extract
1 tsp lemon extract

This makes more than what you'd need for one recipe, typically, so store the rest for use later.

I've tried this, and as a flavoring for pastry creme/crème pâtissière, it's outstanding. It also replicates some of those difficult-to-copy flavor profiles that you might remember from from France.
posted by gimonca at 8:25 PM on July 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the answers! This video from chef Francisco Migoya made crème pâtissière very easy and his unique approach was like a magic trick when it suddenly came together (note: you don't need a fancy infrared thermometer; a regular one will do). I've learned a lot about pastry cream since asking this question. For anyone who might be curious, crème diplomat seemed to be closest to what I was looking for. Though naming conventions vary, it works out like this:
crème pâtissière + crème chantilly (sweetened whipped cream) = crème légère
crème légère + gelatin for stabilization = crème diplomat
Aside from the base vanilla flavor, I tried a few others by mixing in various fruit coulis, purées, and other flavorings as the last step, taking care not to introduce too much liquid. They all turned out pretty great, though in some cases the coulis alone wasn't enough so a little additional extract was needed.
posted by theory at 2:48 PM on August 9, 2020

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