Choux Adventures

by Jenn on July 26, 2013

in Desserts,Gluten Free,Tastes

Rochers de Naye

Often when I think of adventure, I think of a trip up to the mountains – feeling on top of the world with the entire landscape below, sun and wind in your face, and if you close your eyes and clear your mind you can convince yourself you might even be floating up there.  Watching the world we know look so small as we climb higher and higher, it’s such a glorious thing to try to comprehend the enormity of it all.

But not every adventure has to be quite so glamorous.  In fact, at home in my kitchen, I’ve been taking myself on a bit of an adventure as well – a choux adventure.

GF Profiteroles

But let’s not talk about cooking for a little bit, shall we? The heat has been nuts here (obligatory statement about the weather in my blog post? check!) and so traveling up some 2000m brought not only much anticipated stunning vistas, but also a nice reprieve from the summer that finally decided to show itself.  Rochers de Naye sits atop Montreux overlooking Lake Geneva, along with a handful of Mongolian yurts – it’s a popular hiking destination, and from the train stop are some wonderful fairly flat paths walking along the ridgeline.

Rochers de Naye

Rochers de Naye

Rochers de Naye

And the flowers, I love how the entire mountainside is covered with such little hardy flowers, stretching up out of the rock to bathe in the sunshine.  There’s even an entire garden up here just for celebrating the floral alpine diversity.

Rochers de Naye Rochers de Naye

Rochers de Naye

Rochers de Naye

Rochers de Naye

 

But as I said earlier, not all adventures mean setting foot off to explore a new location.  Sometimes, an adventure is just from the excitement of *finally* getting a recipe right.  As you may probably know, two years ago, the Gluten Free Ratio Rally challenged its members to make choux pastry - yep, the kind of pastry used for cream puffs, éclairs, gougères, and the like.  I gave it a valiant effort, but in the end really failed miserably unless I had some pre-packaged mix that contained modified starch in it.  When I made them with my own mix, they just fell flat.  I assumed it was because being in Europe and not really understanding how to navigate the allergy/sensitivity diet ingredient scene too well, that I just did not have the right flours to do the job.  And partly, that was definitely it.  But it was also my method.

Oftentimes when it comes to baking desserts gluten free, it’s a simple straightforward conversion – because many desserts don’t care about gluten in the slightest.  Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, and barley that allows dough to stretch and trap air – which things like brownies, cookies, and cakes certainly don’t need.  But choux is different.  Because it’s essentially a giant air pocket of dough, the gluten actually plays a very important role in making conventional choux pastries – the high egg content causes them to rise when baked, but it’s the activated gluten and starches in the dough that trap the air inside creating these beautiful fluffy pastries full of air, making them perfect for filling with all manner of creams and such.  This certainly poses a challenge for the gluten free baker!

So now that I’ve gone through over 15 iterations of trials and errors, I thought I would share a few of my tips to successful choux:

1. First, one needs to come up with a method that helps trap air.  In this case, my weapon is a finely tuned flour mix that is heavier on the starches, and guar gum.  Starches like tapioca are activated in the presence of heat, and so by cooking the ball of dough on the stove, it helps to start up the gelling process of the starches.  Since we dont’ have gluten helping to do the work, I find increasing the starch content and adding a binding agent seems to help.  What else was finely tuned? All the other flours I used.  Substituting millet for sorghum in my mix resulted in flat puffs.  There is something in millet that really helps these suckers rise, maybe the protein content.

2. Make sure to cook the dough long enough on the stove before adding the eggs.  This is what activates the starches – if you don’t cook the dough for a couple minutes on the stove and rush to adding in the eggs right away, you will have flat runny batter that doesn’t rise.  I’ve learned my lesson the hard way here too many times to count.

3.Don’t let the dough cool too long before adding the eggs – the dough still needs to be hot – not piping steaming hot where the eggs will cook themselves before they get into the batter, but still hot.  If you forget about the dough for 10 minutes and then try to add the eggs, you could also end up with flat un-puffed cream puffs.  I saw this mistake happen to a contestant on the American Baking Competition, proof that timing is important.

4. Add the eggs one at a time, but not immediately all in a row.  After adding each egg, it’s important to make sure that it is fully incorporated into the dough before adding the next one.  If you just turn the mixer on and go 1 – 2 – 3 -4 all the eggs are now in, it’s likely not going to come together in the right way and is likely to turn into soup.

5. Let them cool in the oven.  When they are finished, I poke a little hole in the bottom and turn them over to let the steam out, and then let them cool in the (now turned-off) oven – the idea here is to let the steam escape and let them dry out, but not to create so much condensed air too quickly that will collapse the puffs.  I saw many many puffs rise beautifully in the oven only to collapse a few minutes later on the cooling rack, and this solved that pretty well.

6. Baking by weight/ratios helps a ton! This I already knew, but it’s exciting to see it confirmed.  I ended up tweaking several of the basic ratios to get just the right kind of dough.  That and the only way to guarantee my consistency was to measure the ingredients by weight.  Else I’d have some batches do great, and then mystery ones that don’t do as well…

And when you persevere, you get beautiful choux puffs that rise, and subsequently fill with cream quite nicely.  Ah bliss!

GF Profiteroles

Rochers de Naye

{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Rosa July 26, 2013 at 8:32 am

Beautiful shots and divine looking choux! Mountains are so peaceful, majestuous and soul-uplifting.

Cheers,

Rosa

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Jenn July 27, 2013 at 2:09 am

Thanks so much, Rosa!

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Jessica @ Sunny Side Up July 26, 2013 at 4:21 pm

These photos are just breath taking!! And congratulations on successfully completing your choux adventure. :)

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Jenn July 27, 2013 at 2:10 am

Thanks Jessica!

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Kate H July 26, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Gorgeous views and gorgeous food!

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Jenn July 27, 2013 at 2:10 am

Aww thanks Kate!

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Erica Colvin Photography July 26, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I’m not sure what I want more, to eat that food or stand where those pictures are taken. Breathtaking

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Jenn July 27, 2013 at 2:11 am

Thanks so much Erica :)

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Samantha Sinchek Photography July 26, 2013 at 9:13 pm

These photos make me want to travel and eat!! Gorgeous!

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Jenn July 27, 2013 at 2:11 am

Oh thanks Samantha

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Heather Avrech July 26, 2013 at 9:38 pm

WOW! These are so breathtaking! Love your work!

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Jenn July 27, 2013 at 2:12 am

Thank you Heather :)

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Danielle Lemon July 27, 2013 at 2:38 am

These photos are absolutely amazing. I absolutely love the landscapes!

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:37 pm

Thanks Danielle!

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Deidra July 27, 2013 at 3:01 am

Now I want to move. Your photos are so stunning. Beautiful!

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:38 pm

ha, I want to move up into the mountains too! loved it there! at least it’s a close daytrip :)

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Chelsie July 27, 2013 at 4:59 am

These are BREATHTAKING!

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm

aww thanks!!

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Sarah Cusano July 27, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Gorgeous gorgeous! Your work is amazing!

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm

Thanks so much Sarah!

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Joey July 28, 2013 at 2:29 am

Wow! I am so jealous of your views and the awesome job you do at capturing them!

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm

thanks! it will be fun to try to go back in the Winter I think :)

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El July 28, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Your mountain photos are exquisite. Accompabied by choux…divine!

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Thank you so much El!

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El July 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm

That was supposed to say accompanied. So much for auto correct ;>)

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:42 pm

ha no worries :)

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Suzanne July 28, 2013 at 9:18 pm

What gorgeous pictures! To have such beauty in such close proximity. I miss visiting Europe.

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm

thank you so much!!

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carolyn kipper July 29, 2013 at 7:02 am

i shouldn’t have opened this. those desserts look dangerous. dangerously delicious. too bad you are on the other side of the world!! beautiful everything as usual. your life makes me drool!

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:43 pm

haha thanks! they are quite addictive :)

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Melissa Reibe Photography July 29, 2013 at 3:33 pm

It’s always a good thing when I want to jump through my screen and be where you are, or eat what you’re eating. FANTASTIC photography, great job.

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:50 pm

thank you!

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Winnie August 3, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Stunning scenery, and your choux looks wonderful, too.

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Thanks Winnie!

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Barbara | Creative Culinary August 6, 2013 at 3:44 am

The photos are spectacular Jenn and so are the choux. I want both please? Maybe I should have come to watch the baby; we would have taken off for mountains unknown! :)

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Ha sure, come anytime!

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gretchen August 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm

was thinking of you and hoping life with baby is good… almost a year now?! time flies. your photos are amazing, as always, and choux looks divine!

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Yeah time has flown by insanely fast…thanks!

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El August 16, 2013 at 3:42 am

What exquisite photos. The patechoux looks amazing too!

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Jasmine Ann August 25, 2013 at 2:33 pm

such gorgeous photographs and the notes of making our own chouz puffs are fabulous. Saves those 15 times trying them out, thanks Jenn!

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 5:07 pm

Thanks so much Jas, yes, def. worth it!

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Kim October 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Wow, your site is so informative and you do such an awesome job of blending culture, science, and life, i am happy to have stumbled on it. Help me please understand: the cream filled choux pictured here are the result of your method married with a GF flour mix which contains modified starch: is this the reason why you did not post an actual recipe to accompany those gorgeous photos? What about the cream filling and chocolate topping. Thanks in advance, kim

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Jenn October 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Thanks so much! No, I did come up with a successful GF flour mix for choux pastry, though the recipe is currently set aside for another project… but after 15+ trials I was just SO excited about finally getting choux puffs that I had to post something and just wanted to share a little wisdom of what I learned along the way…

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Kim October 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Thanks for the reply – reading your site is like a mini GF vacation – I hope that we will see your choux results soon? I checked out some of the other recipes from the ratio rally, and yours just seem to have that delicate looking exterior with plenty of room for filling…! I would LOVE to make these for my family to celebrate our upcoming family day in December – I am the proud mama to 2 boys adopted from Kazakhstan, and we are all GF, and profiteroles are something I NEVER thought would be possible being GF…before we were GF, I made profiteroles for a party, and our boys who were then 2 years old found the plate and just stuffed themselves silly and one of my favorite photos is of them covered in cream and chocolate – pure delight. Thanks again, I will keep checking back…

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