Perfecting Scones – Introduction

SconesI can’t resist a project… and despite being quite fatigued post-Choux, it’s time for a new one. This time, scones. Scones are complicated and yet also simple. Simple in terms of how you eat them, how you bake them. Bake fast, eat with jam and cream. Feel free to debate what to call them (‘skon’ or ‘skone’ – I’m beastly careless) or whether to put jam or cream on first (again, beastly careless here… it all goes down the same, although if I had to choose, jam first because it melds better with the scone, but then jam on top of the cream does look prettier… stop!).

They are complicated in the sense that there are so many views on what makes them perfect. Google ‘best scone recipe’ and you’ll see. Felicity Cloake offered a superb exploration of this in The Guardian, and I don’t intend to just rehash what she did. My goal is not to determine some ideal scone – that can’t exist, because it’s a matter of opinion. Rather, I want to offer advice on how to achieve the scone of your dreams (and also mine). To do this, I’m going to set a few criteria for what I consider a good scone, and also some that are more a matter of opinion. I’ll explore how to achieve both. You can choose what you want to create. In doing this, I’ll identify the variables I want to test.

A good scone is light, soft and flavoursome. It should rise in the oven. It should be a supportive base for conveying jam and cream into your mouth. It should not be a biscuit, a cake, a shortcake, an English muffin, a standard muffin, a bun, a danish or a bread roll. That’s it. It’s defined by what it is not as much as by what it is.

What are the variables in achieving this? First, eggs – to include or not to include, that is a real question. Flour – cake, bread or plain? Most recipes opt for plain, but Paul Hollywood goes out on a limb with bread flour and Dan Lepard suggests Italian Type 00 is a winner. We’ll see. How much butter? Sugar? Should you use lard (I just don’t want to. Sorry, Felicity). Should you, as I’ve been told, use lemonade? I confess the thought of that makes me throw up in my mouth a bit, but I’m game to give it a try in the interests of unbiased research. Which raising agent or combination thereof? Baking powder? Bicarb? And what about Cream of Tartar? How much milk? Then there’s the method. Chaffing? Hmm, I’ll try. How much kneading is too much? Rolling pin or no? Plain cutter or scalloped? Rest the dough in the fridge, as Azelia’s Kitchen suggests? Quite a lot to think about.

Let me just make a quick spreadsheet and I’ll get back to you.

Perfecting Choux Pastry – The Conclusion

Choux Infiniment Citron

It has been an epic journey through choux pastry and to be honest, I’m a bit over eating profiteroles. I need a break and a new project. But before I do, here’s my conclusions for perfect choux including what I think is the perfect recipe.

Choux Pastry recipe
  • 125g cake flour
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 240g eggs
  • 125g water
  • 125g milk
  • 2.5g salt
  • 2.5g sugar

Cut butter into cubes and put in saucepan with the milk, water, salt and sugar. Heat until butter has melted and liquid is boiling. While waiting for that to happen, sift flour and have it ready to dump in. Take pan off the heat, get a whisk ready in one hand and dump in flour with other then whisk like mad. Back on the heat when combined, change to a wooden spoon and stir constantly over the heat for 3-5 minutes. This is the panade A crusty film should form on the bottom of the pan and the mixture will have come together. Dump it into your mixer bowl and let it cool until it’s a little under 60C. Using the paddle attachment, start on medium. Lightly beat all the eggs together in a jug. Add a splash – about half an egg – while beating. Beat until incoporated. Add another splash and repeat. Keep your eye on it – the more you add, the slower you need to go. Once it starts to look smooth and shiny, go very slowly with the eggs. You can add more but once you go over, the mixture will be irredeemably sloppy and won’t work as well. Periodically stop, dip your finger in and pull it out so a little pointed blob forms on the end (like a beak). Hold your finger out parallel to the ground. If the tip of the beak starts to droop it’s ready. The mixture will be really golden and smooth and shiny. Have a look at the pictures at The Flavour Bender, which offer a really good visual guide.

Pipe on a greased tray. Bake at 180C for 20 minutes (although check at 15 mins if they are small so that they don’t brown to quickly. Crack the oven door and jam a wooden spoon in to keep it ajar. Bake for another 10-20 minutes. You can then turn off the oven and leave them to dry out more. You can cut a vent although I don’t bother and it’s fine. Cool completely before filling.

Important tips
  • Dump all the flour in at once and whisk like anything. There may be a few tiny lumps. It’s ok but try to avoid them.
  • Cool the panade to below 60C before adding eggs of they will cook. Leith’s say get it down to about 40C as you’ll be able to incoporate more eggs, giving more rise. I didn’t test this, but I feel like it’s correct from my experience plus it’s Leith’s – I trust them.
  • Cook the panade thoroughly so that it dries out a fair bit. The drier it is, the more egg you can get in, and egg makes for a nice big rise. You can, according to Sadaharu Aoki, check the temperature rather than look for a skin. If you want to do it this way, it needs to get to 75C. The Flavour Bender suggests using the ‘upright spoon’ test – that it’s cooked when it’s stiff enough for a wooden spoon to stand upright in it. It will also have droplets of oil on the surface.
  • If you’re in the UK, make sure your cake flour doesn’t have a raising agent in it. Most of the ‘sponge flour’ at the supermarket does and this will be… bad. I’m not sure what they will look like, but not nice.
  • You can use less butter (as little as 60g) or as much as 125g. It will be fine. Butter just tastes a bit better but it’s not fatal.
  • You can bake at 160C or 200C if you like. 160C is unforgiving if your paste is imperfect and they won’t puff as much, but they might crack less. 200C will make them puff even if your paste is a bit iffy.
  • You can use just water. They will be a bit blander but fine.
  • You can use plain flour (all purpose flour) or bread flour. Bread flour will be a chewier rather than tender and crispier. I’d add more butter if I were using bread flour. Plain flour will be a little chewier too, but fine as well if that’s all you have. Don’t sweat this.
  • You can spritz with water/oil mixture before baking. I couldn’t see much difference.
  • Use the best butter and eggs you can. They give the flavour.
  • Make sure salt and sugar are dissolved in the liquid.
  • You can leave them to fully dry out overnight in the oven (turned off, door closed) once done. They won’t have the custardy centres, but they also won’t get soggy when filled. It’s a judgment call based on what you’re using them for and when.
  • Bread flour makes stronger choux. I’d use that if I were making a croquembouche.
  • Add streusel to make a rounded, more puffed puff. Chef Eddy’s recipe is the best I’ve found.
  • You can deep-fry choux and dredge in icing sugar… just saying…
Fillings

The best filling, hands down in my book, is creme leger – creme patissiere with whipped cream folded through it. You can use the creme patissiere recipe here. Once it has cooled, beat it well with a wooden spoon to loosen it (try not to whisk unless it’s lumpy. If you do whisk, do so as little as possible). Whip double cream with vanilla and sugar and fold through. Pipe in by making a tiny hole first in the base.

Creme patissiere on it’s own is also good, and you can flavour it. Grand Marnier and chocolate (together or apart) are lovely options. I also like a light chocolate ganache, and flavouring it with Monin syrups is gorgeous. Cutting apart eclairs and puffs allows you to add fruit. Take some inspiration from Paris Patisseries.

Toppings

Dipping in caramel is classic, a bit of a faff, but delicious. Chocolate also wonderful. And dipping either in an extra layer of nuts or praline is a superb option. Icing is fine too, if you like that sort of thing. If that’s all too much, just dust with icing sugar!

The End

That’s the end of this epic exploration of choux. The main thing is, don’t be nervous. It’s not that hard, just a bit tricky in places but give it a go. It’s tremendously satisfying if it goes well, and if it doesn’t, just fill them whipped cream and cover with chocolate and they will still taste great.

Choux Swans 2

 

Perfecting Choux Pastry – The Temperature Variable

Choux - Temperature variable - 2 of 3I have been testing this variable as I went along, comparing 180C and 200C with each batch. Every time, it seemed that 200C made the choux puff up more dramatically, resulting in bigger puffs but also ones that looked a bit messier precisely because they’d expanded to rapidly. Now it was time to just test temperature and to brave an attempt at baking at 160C, which had always ended in disaster. This test would be the ultimate answer … or so I thought.

I made one large batch of what is now my standard recipe – Buttery Cake Flour. I used a star nozzle because, well, it seemed like fun. And I made three trays to bake at 200C, 180C and 160C. The results are surprising. First, 160C was not a disaster. Colour me shocked. It was fine. Not such big puffs, but fine. Second, 180C and 200C this time resulted in nearly the same outcome. As you can see above, 200C led to only a little more puffing up than both, and 180C more puffed than 160C.

Choux - Temperature variable - 1 of 3When cut, you can see they are all pretty hollow. The main difference is that the walls of the 200C ones are thinner than 180C and then 160C are perhaps a little thicker than both. It’s not completely obvious from the photo, but they were a bit ‘clumsier’.

Choux - Temperature variable - 3 of 3Conclusion

180C seems fine. 200C is safe and will produce nicely, easily puffed choux. 160C will probably yield less scruffy looking choux, but they probably won’t puff as much and will be thicker (and therefore less fragile). So it depends on what you want to achieve. Also, I think higher temperatures are more forgiving of imperfect paste, so it’s also about how confident you are that your paste is well-made.

Perfecting Choux Pastry – The Butter and Streusel Variables

Choux - Butter variable 11I like butter. I like it a lot. So the question of how much butter is best in choux is one close to my heart. I also like brown sugar, so if I can get some in via streusel, then I will. So those were the next two variables to try.

I made two batches using my now favoured cake flour but only used water. I felt that would make the impact of the butter more apparent (rather than having the milk fat in the mix, so to speak). The recipe was:

  • 125g cake flour
  • 240g eggs
  • 125g water
  • 125g milk
  • 2.5g salt
  • 2.5g sugar

I used the highest and lowest amounts of butter in my spreadsheet, namely 125g (Aoki) and 60g (Bertinet). I’ll call them ‘Buttery’ and ‘Not Buttery’.

In terms of making the paste, the main difference was at the panade stage. The Buttery batch looked very oily, like scrambled eggs, and didn’t make much of a crust on the bottom of the saucepan. By contrast, the Not Buttery mix wasn’t oily at all, but instead was almost paste-like, quite stretchy and came together very quickly. Made a crust easily and quickly, and was quite hard to stir. They absorbed similar amounts of egg (about 95-100g each). I decided to pipe these in rounds rather than éclair shapes as I thought it would be easier to see the impact of the streusel.

Which brings me to… making the streusel. I followed Chef Eddy’s recipe, which you can find here. I rolled it out very thinly and put little discs on top of some of each batch. I baked both at 190C for simplicity. Here they are post-bake:

Choux - Butter variable - 1 of 10Once baked, I enlisted a new tasting companion, my 5 year old son Ollie. He made some very insightful comments as you’ll see. First, though, here’s some comparison images.

Not that different. However, streusel really does make a difference…

Choux - Butter variable - 7 of 10

Comparing streusel

Choux - Butter variable - 8 of 10

What emerged was:

  • Streusel definitely helped them to expand more (which is in line with what the excellent Chef Eddy says here).
  • Streusel also meant they rose and expanded more evenly. You can see the ‘exploded’ look of the non-streusel ones next to the streusel ones very clearly
  • Buttery and Not Buttery choux expanded pretty much the same amount. Both were very hollow. The Buttery ones were perhaps a touch less hollow, but it did differ across buns so this wasn’t a clear distinction between them.

Then the tasting… To be honest, they weren’t actually hugely different. The Buttery ones were slightly more crisp and biscuity, while the Not Buttery ones were crunchy. Ollie’s conclusion was that the Not Buttery were ‘just below the right flavour level’ while the Buttery ones were ‘at the level of good flavour’. I agree. Buttery ones had better ‘mouthfeel’, as they say. They melted more nicely in the mouth, and the taste was a little better.

The streusel ones had a glorious sweet, brown-sugary crust that I loved, as did Ol. I think if you can make streusel ones, do. You could even put chocolate over the streusel (hmm… that gives me some good ideas) but I’m not sure if you could dip them in caramel successfully. I suspect you could make them using caster sugar instead to reduce the flavour impact if you wanted to.

Verdict

More butter is better but not crucial. Streusel will make your choux puff up a treat and produce lovely, neat little buns but might restrict what else you do, and will give them a distinct flavour.

 

 

Kouign Amann

Kouign Amann - 22 of 23Being a bit tired of profiteroles and eclairs (hard to believe but it’s possible), I’ve decided to make some Kouign Amann today. They are a bit like a croissant, and a bit like puff pastry and they are all kinds delicious. You get the soft crumb from the croissant, but the flaky, crisp, buttery layers from the puff. Best of both worlds, you might think but actually when combined they join, synergistically, to form buttery, yeasty bites of heaven.

If you saw Mel and Sue on Bake Off, you’ll recall their attempts at pronunciation. Wikipedia tells me it’s something like “kween aman” so that’s how I pronounce it. They are originally from Brittany, and apparently (by which I mean again ‘according to Wikipedia’),

The name derives from the Breton words for cake (“kouign”) and butter (“amann”). Kouign-amann is a speciality of the town of Douarnenez in Finistère, Brittany, where it originated around 1860.

That fount of all knowledge also tells me ‘The strict recipe of Douarnenez requires a ratio of 40 percent dough, 30 percent butter, and 30 percent sugar’. That may well be true, but today I’m just going with Mr Hollywood’s recipe because I know it to be delicious. Possibly I should have gone with Mr Bertinet’s seeing as he’s actually from Brittany, but I’ve only just thought of that and the dough is already partly made, so hey ho.

Traditionally, they are made as one large cake, but I like them as little cupcake-sized buns, mostly because the layers come up over the edges and become golden and crispy. They also look like little flowers, which is rather sweet. Now here’s how to make them, step-by-step.

First, flour, water, yeast, salt and 25g of butter into the bowl for kneading. Paul says 2 mins slow then 6 mins medium. While that’s happening, bash the butter into a flat square 15cm x 15cm. There are many ways to do this. You can hit the pat of butter (sandwiched between baking paper) with a rolling pin (satisfying but wakes the children), you can cut it into pieces and squish them together (Holly Bell’s rather cunning method which I’ve used with success before), or, if you’re me, your butter is so soft because it’s actually warm today, you can put it between two sheets of baking paper and press it out. It needs to be even in thickness and square square square. Take time over this part as it makes a real difference later. Lamination (for that is what we’re about to do) needs sharp edges and precision. If the dough is not even in thickness, or things aren’t square, you won’t get proper layers and this will lead to sad, doughy kouign amann with no lovely flaky bits.

Once your butter is the right shape, put it in the fridge to chill it down. You don’t want it frozen or too hard. It needs to be pliant because it has to roll with the dough, which will be quite soft. But if your butter is soft, they will smoosh together and… yes, no layers. Baking Matters says

The ideal working temperature of the fat should 16-18C (61-65F) If the fat is too cold it will rupture the dough layers, if it is too soft it will be be squeezed out so preventing the formation of layers.

If you think about it, your fridge is about 4C and your freezer is obviously less than 0C so if you chill everything too long, your butter will be very hard and will break as you roll. So chill, but don’t chiiiiiiilllllll. Being nervous and trying to hard will be your undoing. You can, of course, get out your Thermapen like me and check. But the best thing is to think about the ambient temperature in your kitchen and then consider how long it will take you to roll. If it’s really warm and you’re slow, then perhaps you want your butter a little cooler, but that will make it harder to roll. The best approach is to have it chilled enough and then work quickly once it’s out so that it doesn’t have time to warm up and soften. Therefore, have courage! Confidence! Roll with a sure, light stroke.

Right, but I’m getting ahead of myself. At this point, you’ve let the dough rise for an hour, it’s soft and slight. Gently inch it out of the bowl using a dough scraper. Don’t bash it or rip it.

Kouign Amann - 1 of 23Roll it out to a 20cm square. I find a tapered rolling pin helps to get a nice square as you can use it to ‘push’ thicker bits of dough to where you need them. Take time to roll evenly so the dough is the same thickness throughout.

Kouign Amann - 2 of 23Now take the square of butter and place it in the middle of the dough like so.

Kouign Amann - 3 of 23You can see that there’s a little bit of an edge but not a lot. You want it this way so that when you now fold up the corners, there is a bit of overlap to seal all the butter in. You will get a lump of dough in the middle where it all overlaps. That’s ok, it will sort itself out. What you don’t want is the dough stretched around the edges because then when you roll more later, the butter might escape, which you really don’t want.

Bash the dough a bit so that the butter reaches the edges.

If it all feels quite cool still, then roll it. If it’s starting to feel warm and too soft, chill it briefly (see above). Once done, roll the whole thing out to 15cm x 45cm. Roll firmly but not too hard. Always think about the layers. You don’t want to crush them, but you do have to actually roll it so careful but confident.

Kouign Amann - 8 of 23Once its rolled out, do what’s called a ‘single fold’ (compared to a ‘book fold’ which is described here). Fold the bottom third up, then the top third over. Wrap this up in baking paper and into the fridge to chill.

Repeat this twice more. Throughout the rolling, try to keep the thickness even and the edges square. I use the tapered rolling pin again and also push things back into shape if it all goes horribly wrong. Taking it slowly helps, so small strokes rather than one or two huge rolls.When that’s done, roll out one more time and sprinkle two thirds with the caster sugar. Fold up in thirds once more and gently roll the whole thing out to 30cm x 40cm.

Trim it and cut into 12 pieces. Try to keep them as square as possible.Fold two opposite corners of a piece together, then fold up the other two between them. It’s easier if you just look at the picture.

Pop each one into a well-buttered muffin tin. Make sure you butter around the edges as that’s where the sugar runs out and can stick them to the tray. Let them rise for about 20-30 minutes. They need to puff up a bit, but don’t let them get too warm as the butter in the layers will melt and spoil all your hard work.

Puffed up after rising

Puffed up after rising

Into the oven for 30-40 minutes at 200C (fan) and here they are…

I photographed these ones while they were warm so you can also see a little melted bit of sugar and butter inside. The ones below were photographed once cooled. Here it is looking like the classic ‘flower’ shape.

Kouign Amann - 23 of 23

And here is the lamination and the bubbles from the yeast.

Kouign Amann - 22 of 23These aren’t as tricky as they might seem, and in fact the yeast aspect makes them quite forgiving if your lamination isn’t perfect (mine certainly isn’t). Plus, there’s so much butter and sugar in them that even if you make a stodgy lump, it will still be delicious.

New Orleans Cake Crawl – Days 2 to 4

Beignet NOLABeignets. They are everywhere in New Orleans, the sweet, enticing smell of them scents the air and there’s no question that you have to try them, but which ones? Are they all the same. I can’t say I’m an expert, but I can say two things. One, there are clearly differences in quality and two, don’t buy them from a stall in your hotel lobby unless you are (as I was) just really hungry and will eat anyone. So that was one of my experiences… grim, stodgy, and just very sad. The other, however, was nothing short of exquisite. The very first morning in New Orleans, up at 5.30am with jetlag, I was out walking the streets with my friend by 8.30am, map in hand. The streets were quiet, with just the sound of the revels of the night before being sluiced away by street cleaners. I was sure I knew where we were going but in fact, I led us to exactly the place we weren’t planning to go – Café du Monde. Not that I had anything against it, except that I’d read about Café Beignet being amazing and wanted to try that first.

Walking along Royal St (not realizing we were on Royal St), we passed the Café and found it already full. Perhaps a good sign, but my rule against queuing for food kicked in and we turned on our heels and headed for Bourbon St, only to walk straight past it. Café Beignet, if you’ve not been there, is set back in a little alcove off Bourbon, and that was how we missed it. Hardly anyone there, great music playing and after staving off our hunger with some hashbrowns, we dug in. They were divine. I cannot express this in strong enough terms. Heaven. Soft. Light. Sweet. Crisp. Just… perfect. Expect to see some attempts at making these here very soon.

Next up, ice cream from Sucre. I think they have a couple of branches. We went to the one on Conti st. The cakes looked great, but I went for ice cream because the array of flavours was just too good. Here you will see the glorious Peanut Butter Cup and also Lemon Cake. Peanut Butter was softly sweet, richly flavoured, while the Lemon Cake walked perfectly that line between tart and sweet and creamy.

Ice cream Sucre NOLAI’d highly recommend checking out their macarons, which looked lovely and even come in ‘flavours of NOLA’: Salted Caramel, Southern Pecan, Bananas Foster, and Chicory.

Final stop was Cochon Restaurant for lunch. After a spectacular meal of fried alligator, wood-fired oysters and twice-baked sweet potato, we each indulged in a Blueberry Skillet Pie with Cream Cheese Ice-cream. I had thought we should share but was desperately relieved after its arrival that we chose not to. I would have struggled to give away even one bite. It was staggeringly good. Filling was so filled with blueberry-ness, if you know what I mean. The ice-cream was the perfect complement, the flavours coalescing into something beyond description. The pastry was crisp, buttery and sweet and the bottom not remotely soggy. Eat it. Just eat it.

New Orleans Cake Crawl – Day One

Red VelvetToday only managed one stop – Petite Amelie – but it was enough. This is the Red Velvet Cake, and it is superb. The cake was tender, light and flavoursome. The icing soft, creamy and just sweet enough. Multiple layers were a great idea – perfect way to balance the two elements of what can otherwise be a cake of extremes.

Next was the Creole Cheesecake, and this ws definitely one of the best cheesecakes I’ve ever had. Sometimes they can be claggy or sickly. Othertimes they’re just a bland pile of cream. This, however, walked the line between cheesy and creamy beautifully.Creole CheesecakeTomorrow – the search for beignets!

 

Exceptional Breads by Dan Lepard and Richard Whittington

Exceptional 6

Dan Lepard’s books are universally excellent, and this is possibly my favourite. With Richard Whittington, he has produced a short but immensely useful guide to baking bread that is packed with information, tips, guidance and excellent recipes. The writing style is engaging and easy to follow, sufficiently technical that it tells you what you need to know, but not off-puttingly detailed. They begin with explaining the basics, working through the essential ingredients for baking bread (flour, salt, yeast). I particularly like the section on flour types, which guides the reader through Canadian strong to French T55 to the wholemeal end of the spectrum. They explain the features of each and their impact on a recipe in such a way that the new baker will be informed but not overwhelmed.

Then comes the most useful, and for some revelatory, section of the book. Many of us would have begun baking bread having been told simply to knead it then put it in a tin, but as any experienced baker of bread knows there is far more to these steps that this advice suggests. How does one knead a wet dough? A drier dough? When is it done? Lepard and Whittington explain, accompanied by simple, informative pictures.

Answers to these questions are vital, but for me reading this book for the first time the most valuable thing I learned was the importance of shaping loaves before the second prove. Without proper shaping, the loaf will not rise properly. Anyone who has placed a hand-shaped loaf on a tray, only to find it a flat pancake an hour later will understand. Lepard and Whittington offer clear, step-by-step guidance on how to shape different types of loaves which is worth the purchase price alone.

The section on starters removes the mystery from this daunting aspect of baking, and the recipes that follow offer a fantastic range of breads to practice your new-found skills on, ranging from simple sourdoughs through the flavoured breads and some using commercial yeast.

There is something for everyone, from the new baker to the more experienced. Highly recommended for anyone interested in baking their own bread.

Lepard maintains a website which is well worth a visit. He’s also a regular columnist for The Guardian and he tweets, if that’s your thing.

New Orleans!

New OrleansI’m off to New Orleans for a few days so no more choux baking for a while. But I’m planning to sample some local baking, so hopefully I’ll have some lovely photos of my delicious finds!

Perfecting Choux Pastry – The Liquid Variable (part 2)

Choux loveliness

Another three batches of choux baked and ready to evaluate. You might wonder where they all go. Well, a great many are eaten while my husband is ‘forced’ to taste them and ask endless questions. Then rest became tonight’s pudding (above), filled with creme leger (creme patissiere and whipped cream folded togther). It was heaven.

I made the three recipes – 1. Cake-Milk/Water, 2. Plain-Milk/Water and 3. Plain/Water – and used this as another chance to test baking temperature (180C v 200C) and spritzing. Here they all are before baking and after. Top tray is 200C. Top row is the spritzed row.

Like last time, spritzing didn’t make a noticeable difference, but baking temperature did. The 200C again blew up rapidly but looked much messier. They are also more golden brown, and hence looked quite a bit more tasty.

Here’s the 200C batch:

As you can see, the spritzing really didn’t make a noticeable difference. I think I might not bother in the future, but I might try some other things. The Cake ones are much more golden, and they did open up pretty well. The Plain-milk/water mix opened up the most, and was the least ‘membraned’. The Plain-water ones did open up pretty well, but did tend to be more membraney (let’s just say that’s a word). And now let’s look at the 180C batch before talking about the taste and texture:

Similar results in term of openess and membrane, but all are less open. I think this is the trade-off – more even surface, but less open inside. Given how streusel helps with this, you could offset it that way. But to get them really open at lower temperatures I think is quite difficult. I’ll keep thinking about it.

Overall conclusions on how they baked, they all expanded well enough. None were a terrible flop, but the Plain flour ones of both kinds opened up the most, and Plain-milk/water the most of all. So if that’s the case, why would anyone ever use Cake flour? Well, when it can to taste and texture, like last time… they taste nicer… and the texture is nicer, more tender but also still crisp. As for milk/water versus water, again the milk added a bit of flavour that was nice, but most importantly they were crisp rather than chewy. The Plain-water ones were quite bland, and almost bready in flavour, and definitely chewier.

Conclusions

Milk adds flavour and improves the texture. Combined with cake flour, you’ll get the most tender choux, but if you’re baking at lower temperatures, it seems more difficult to get a really hollow pastry with that combination. If you’re baking at 200C, I think Cake-milk/water will produce the best balance between hollowness, flavour and texture, but it might look a bit scruffier. The Plain-milk/water is a good compromise on all fronts. If I wanted to make an industrial-sized croquembouche, I’d go for the Plain-water… but I’d put a lot of lovely filling in to counteract the drawbacks.

 

 

 

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