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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Recipe: Swans (Cygnes)



Pate a Choux Swan

Recipe: Swans (Cygnes)



Think of Swans (or "Cygnes") as a sort of Pate a Choux pastry on steroids. Where simple, bite-sized Chouquettes were an exercise in delicious simplicity, Swans are an exercise in edible excess. 

Swans may be little more than puffs of pastry filled with whipped cream, but the delicate form puts them in a dessert realm all their own. Like many of the more decorative projects covered in Culinary School, when I first made these baked birds, I kept asking myself, "Does anyone really need a cream puff shaped like a Swan?"

No... but then again, when was pastry about "needs"?


Piping Bag Filled with Pate a Choux
Begin by making half a recipe of Pate a Choux. This is enough dough to make about 18 Swans (with some extra dough for piping practice).

Fit a pastry bag with a #5 round tip and fill the pastry bag with some of the dough. Do not overfill the pastry bag. You will find it is always easier to work with a partially filled pastry bag, refilling when necessary, rather than struggling with one that is overflowing.

Using Pate a Choux to Glue Parchment to a Sheet TrayLine a sheet tray with parchment and use some Pate a Choux to "glue" the corners. This will keep the parchment in place when you are piping the Swans.

Piped Pate a Choux Swan BodiesSwans are made from two separate pieces: necks and bodies (which are cut after baking to form a base and the wings).

Start by forming the Swan bodies. Pipe large teardrop shaped dollops of Pate a Choux (about 1.5" wide and 4" long from tip to tail). Leave a couple of inches between each body piece, remembering that Pate a Choux doubles in size when baked.

Piping Pate a Choux Swan Bodies
Piping a teardrop may take some practice.

Start by holding the pastry bag at a 45 degree angle to the sheet tray. With the pastry tip about 1/2" above the sheet tray, begin forming the base of the teardrop by squeezing firmly. Once the base takes shape (it should be about 1.5" wide), slowly pull back while continuing to squeeze with less and less pressure. The dollop of Pate a Choux should become narrower as you move, like a teardrop.

When the body is fully piped, stop squeezing and then pull back to break off the piped dough from the pastry bag. This motion will form the thin tip of the teardrop.

Bake Pate a Choux Swan Body
Lightly egg wash the bodies and bake them at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-35 minutes (given the larger size, Swans take longer to bake than little Chouquettes).

As with all Pate a Choux, the Swan bodies may deflate if you keep opening the closing the oven, particularly early on in the baking. However, after about 15 minutes, the structure should be sufficiently set so that you can quickly open the oven to rotate the sheet trays to ensure even baking.

Pate a Choux Swan Body and Neck
To make the necks, start by fitting a pastry bag with a #0 pastry tip. On a separate sheet tray, pipe large "S" shapes with distinct heads. You can also pipe distinct beaks on each head. I like to make somewhat cartoonish swans with over-exaggerated, Disneyesque heads.

Make sure that the necks remain proportional to the bodies. A 3" tall neck piece will look appropriate on a 4" long body. Do not make the necks too thin or they will be too delicate and break. To mitigate the risk of broken necks, pipe some extras.

Bake the necks at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10-15 minutes until lightly brown.

Cutting the Swan Bodies Horizontally into Top and Bottom Portions
The next step is transforming the Swan bodies into base pieces and wings.

Cut each Swan body in half horizontally. The bottom piece will be used as the base of the body. The top piece will be used to make the wings. If the inside of the Pate a Choux is moist, pick out some of the dough. Removing the moist dough will keep the Swans fresher and will also create more room for Whipped Cream.

Cutting the Top Swan Body Piece Vertically into Wings
Set the bottom pieces aside. Take each top piece and slice it vertically into wings.

Filling the Swan Base with Whipped Cream
Now that you have all of the the pieces, it's time to construct the Swans.

Whip some Heavy Cream and Powdered Sugar to stiff peaks. Fit a pastry bag with a #3 star tip and fill it with the Whipped Cream. Pipe each base piece full with a generous amount of Whipped Cream. There needs to be enough Whipped Cream to support the wings.

Attaching Wings to the Bodies of Pate a Choux Swans
Attach the wings to the Whipped Cream filled bodies. Make sure that you place the wings so that the thinner ends are pointing back towards the tail (nothing looks goofier than backwards wings). Add another strip of Whipped Cream between the wings to support the neck.

Completed Swan
Place the neck in the center of the Whipped Cream. Make sure that you firmly seat the neck into the Whipped Cream so that it does not fall over.

Serve immediately.

As with any baked Pate a Choux, the Swan pieces can be kept unassembled for 2-3 days. However, once the Swans are filled with Whipped Cream, they should not be kept for more than a day.




- The Recipe -



Swans (Cygnes):


Yield:  About 18 Swans 

Ingredients:
  • Pate a Choux: 500g / Half Recipe
  • Heavy Cream: 473g (1 Pint)
  • Powdered Sugar: 100g (0.5 Cup)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. 

2. Prepare the Pate a Choux. Fit a pastry bag with a #5 round tip and fill the pastry bag with some of the Pate a Choux. Line a sheet tray with parchment. Use a dollop of Pate a Choux at each corner to hold the parchment to the sheet tray.

Chef's Note: Do not over-fill the pastry bag. It is easier to refill a pastry bag when necessary rather than struggle with an overfilled pastry bag.

3. Start making the bodies by piping large teardrop shape dollops of Pate a Choux about 1.5" wide and 4" long from tip to tail. Leave sufficient room between the bodies as they will double in size when baked.

4. Lightly egg wash the bodies and bake them for 30-35 minutes, rotating the sheet trays half way through the bake time. The bodies are done when they are completely golden brown and feel light and hollow.

5. Next make the necks. Fit a pastry bag with a #0 round tip. Pipe large "S" shape necks with distinct heads. Make sure the necks are proportional to the size of the bodies. A 3" tall neck will look appropriate on a 4" long body.

6. Bake the necks at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10-15 minutes until lightly brown.


Assembling the Swans:

1. Allow all of the pieces to cool. As the pieces cool, whip the Heavy Cream and Powdered Sugar to stiff peaks. Set the Whipped Cream aside in the refrigerator.

2. Once the pieces are completely cool, cut each Swan body in half horizontally. Each bottom piece will be used as the base of a body. The top pieces will be used to make the wings.

Chef's Note: If the inside of the Pate a Choux is still moist, pick out pieces of the dough. Removing the moist dough will keep the Swans fresher and will also create more room for Whipped Cream.

3. Slice each top piece vertically into two wings.

4. Fit a pastry bag with a #3 star tip and fill the bag with Whipped Cream. Pipe each base full with a generous amount of Whipped Cream. Attach the wings to the Whipped Cream filled bodies with the thinner ends of the wings pointing back towards the tail. Pipe an additional strip of Whipped Cream between the wings. Firmly seat the neck piece into the Whipped Cream.

5. Serve the Swans immediately or store them in the refrigerator. As with any baked Pate a Choux, the Swan pieces can be kept unassembled for 2-3 days. However, once the Swans are filled with Whipped Cream, they should not be kept for more than a day.

Group of Pate a Choux Swans



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