Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gluten-Free Choux Pastry

Ever-ambitious and endlessly confident in the gluten-free flour mix I've come to rely on, I decided to see what happened if I made a gluten-free version of choux pastry. It's family dinner time again and I decided that profiteroles were the way to go. Of course, I don't mess around with little mini choux. What a pain, especially since I'll only ever make one type of ice cream with which to fill them. I make cream puff-sized pastry and go from there. I used the vanilla toffee version of ice cream four ways as my filling and chocolate sauce for topping.

Now, I don't make choux pastry very often, despite my love for it. The last time was years ago. What I remember from previous batches is that it always seems to come together much faster than the recipe suggests. This was definitely the case with the GF version, as well. I had been worried that the GF version would be messed up because there is so much starch in the flour mix, but it didn't seem to be a problem. However, the butter continued to separate from the mixture a little even after I took it out of the pan to cool before adding the eggs, so my guess is that I didn't cook it long enough. The Joy of Cooking had me all paranoid because it said that overbeating and overcooking will cause puff failure. A cook can't win!

One thing to note is that I don't expect my choux pastry to be shatteringly crisp. In fact, I don't like it that way because I feel the flavor is lost. I like the taste of the pastry itself--otherwise why bother with it? For some, texture alone might make it worthwhile, but I delight in the egginess and always eat the innards when it comes time to clean out the puffs. If you're looking for super-crisp choux, it may be that GF isn't going to satisfy you, or that you need to do a better job than I of gauging how long to cook. If, however, you don't mind a softer texture (at its worst you could call it leathery, but I don't think it comes to that), this substitution should suit. After all, if you're going to fill the pastry with ice cream, it's not likely to retain its crispness for long anyway.

If you want to make regular choux pastry, simply use wheat flour in place of the GF mix and omit the xanthan gum (which I accidentally do in my GF stuff half the time with no terrible results).

I used my large, drop biscuit portion scoop for these puffs because I'm not the gal who is going to use a pastry bag. I sprayed it with cooking spray first; you could also just use neutral-flavored oil. I got 7 full-sized puffs (which is all I needed), and enough leftover to make 6 mini-puffs, that I plan to fill with chocolate pudding as a special Valentine's treat for the two Es and me. If you wanted all full-sized puffs, my guess is that you wouldn't get more than 8.

The butter separation aspect and the stickiness of the final paste made me very worried about the ability for my poor choux to puff, but I was thrilled to see that it puffed as much as my choux ever does and it tastes delicious (I know, as I ate every bit of scooped-out filling that my daughter would spare).

RICE FLOUR MIX: 2 c. brown rice flour, 2/3 c. potato starch, 1/3 c. tapioca
Some day I will also figure this out by weight!

INGREDIENTS
1 c. rice flour mix or wheat flour
Scant 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 c. milk (or half milk/half water)
1/2 c. (4 oz./113 grams) unsalted butter
1 TBSP sugar if using for sweet things, omit if savory
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs at room temperature

DIRECTIONS
  1. Place rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Have a baking tray ready. I put Silpat on mine, but the Joy calls for ungreased, so if you don't have Silpat, you might not need to butter or use parchment
  3. Mix the flour and xanthan gum and have at the ready
  4. In a medium saucepan, heat the milk, butter, salt and sugar if using over medium heat until it comes to a full boil
  5. Dump in the flour all at once and stir constantly with a wooden spoon
  6. The mixture will be messy at first, but as you stir it will come together and leave the sides of the pan. At this stage, oozing butter isn't supposed to be an issue, but my guess is that the butter should be absorbed before you remove from heat
  7. Keep stirring. You're looking for a solid, smooth lump that shows the impression of a finger when you press it in
  8. Remove mixture from heat and put in bowl to cool for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice
  9. Put mixture in a food processor and beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure the egg is well incorporated before adding the next. My food processor did balk a bit at this but I had read online that it worked much better than a hand mixer or stand mixer (and is certainly easier than beating it with a wooden spoon!)
  10. Mixture should be firm enough to stand up when spooned onto a baking tray
  11. Scoop the mixture into the shape and size you like onto the baking tray. Make sure to leave lots of room for them to spread
  12. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and continue cooking another 20-25 minutes until deeply golden and firm to the touch
  13. Cool completely and then cut off the tops and scoop out any uncooked paste
  14. Fill with ice cream or pudding and top with chocolate sauce

Chocolate Sauce

This recipe is very similar to Chocolate Ganache, just a bit runnier. I also used whizzed up 70% Theo chocolate instead of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Surprisingly, I think I might prefer the chocolate chips, but this sauce is quite respectable.

I followed the Joy of Cooking method of using the food processor and it certainly all came together very easily!

I made the sauce in the first place for some profiteroles filled with the Vanilla Toffee version of Ice Cream Four Ways. I experimented with gluten-free choux pastry and was most pleased with the result.

INGREDIENTS
4 oz. (around 113 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% cocoa, up to 75%). Chocolate chips are a fine substitute
1/2 c. half-and-half or a mix of whole milk and heavy cream
1-2 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1 TBSP dark rum or Cognac

DIRECTIONS
  1. Break the chocolate into smaller pieces if using blocks. Put into the bowl of the food processor with the chopping blade and whiz until it's crumbs
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the remaining ingredients (except vanilla/liquor) until boiling
  3. With the food processor running, pour the steaming liquid into the chocolate crumbs. By the time all the liquid is added, the chocolate will have melted and a sauce formed
  4. Pour sauce into a small bowl and stir in the vanilla or liquor

Serve warm or cold. Will keep refrigerated for 2 weeks. Thin with hot water as needed for serving.