I make choux pastry for eclairs and/or profiteroles several times a year. When we were planning our European vacation with a stop in France I had the opportunity to include an afternoon, small group class on making choux pastry (and it was taught in English!)
There were six of us in the class, myself, three young(ish) people from Utah and a mother/daughter from London. It was a good mix of friendly, fun people. I was the only student with experience making choux or cream patisserie, but that wasn’t an issue for any of us.
Our instructor was James who was a head pastry chef in England and France for 20 years before retiring and taking this position as a teacher. While not a trained teacher he did develop apprentices for his kitchens throughout his entire career.
The process of making choux is quite easy, but there are always tips and tricks that experience can teach you.
James set up three stations and we worked in teams of two. I worked with Mary, sister of Russ, both of Utah. You will occasionally see Mary’s hands and arms. You can tell us apart as I only wear one ring. We were both too busy to take pictures while we were filling the piping bags, also our hands were covered in raw choux.
Pipe eclairs in straight(ish) lines just less than half the width of the paper and about 3/4” wide.
Each team made a different variety of filling. Mary and I made coffee, the others made chocolate and vanilla. Cream patisserie is fairly easy to make. I use Martha Stewarts’ method of mixing everything together before heating, then sieving the thickened mixture. We did the traditional egg tempering method in class.
Two great tips for filling the eclairs, neither of which I knew. Use the tip of a knife to bore three holes in the bottom of each eclair. Let gravity be the force, do not push the knife down or you will break the eclair. Also, fill each end hole first. When you fill the center last the creampat will push up through the two end holes assuring the entire eclair is full. Believe me, this works great.
James made the topping in advance. I usually just use a simple chocolate ganache, but learning this technique was fascinating. It was so messy neither Mary or I were able to photograph the procedure.
Don’t tell QC, but I could imagine a week of baking courses in Paris, learning so many new techniques. It was a blast.