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A New Culinary Adversary? If The Choux Fits

I have a new culinary nemesis. As you might have gathered, it’s Choux pastry.

On the last visit to my family home in Warrnambool, my mother (a cook) offered to demonstrate Choux. I was pretty pleased. It’s ended the “food dream” of many a fresh-faced Masterchef Australia contestant. It’s fiddly and requires some serious elbow grease, but useful for so many things in pastry-making.

It’s essentially a matter of melting together butter, water and milk, then adding flour to make a roux. When the mix is cooleds somewhat, you add eggs and stir like a woman possessed. When baked, the moisture in the mixture expands as it evaporates, thus creating the hollow inside which is used to create a whole family of pastries, including eclairs, croquembouche and gougères. The process sounds simple. My mother made it look simple. With her supervision it was simple. At home on my own… not so god-damn simple.

Two batches and a minor melt-down later, I am licking my wounds and swearing vengeance. I do not like to be beaten by a recipe. I take it personally. How dare this uppity piece of puff!

I used a recipe for Gougères in The Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo. It’s a good book. A joy to cook from. I obviously just missed something. The first batch rose somewhat, but not enough to create a hollow. The second batch didn’t even get as far as the oven. Once the flour was added, the mixture looked like something Spiderman would shoot out his wrist. No roux was formed, just white glue. I can’t figure it out. I measured. I cooked-out. I stirred like a whirling dervish. Darn it to hell! Let it be known – this ain’t over. Not till I’m eating sweet, sweet pastry.

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