Updated: May 23, 2020
Brownie bake? CHEH. TOO BASIC, CHALLENGE ME PLZ. UP MY LEVEL PLZ. OK. VERY GOOD. I PRESENT TO YOU THIS!
Okay this is going to be a longgg post. Mostly because I'm very naggy with my instructions. But my being naggy SAVES you and the entire human race from potential failures that I went through. I am selfless. Anyway I spent my entire holiday perfecting the Pate-a-Choux recipe with Craquelin (the crackly thingy on top). Most of it was spent tweaking the temperature of the oven and some steps. Disclaimer: I attempted the experiment during my holiday and not during work time, in case people (like colleagues read this) and think I don't do work. I am an extremely serious and hard worker. Hehehe.
Three components to this rock creature but each component is easy to make. AND the good thing is that you can split these steps over a few days. I did it over two days, the day before I made the Matcha Custard and the Craquelin. On the day itself, I just made the choux and baked it. I highly recommend you make the custard the day before so that it has time to chill. Make the craquelin too if you can, so you can chill more the next day and focus your energy on your oven.
OKAY! Let's talk about the choux. I've made cream puffs plenty of times back at home they were always successful because they were made without craquelin. A good choux is one that's crispy, airy and light that doesn't collapse in itself. You know how it is! If you're a first time baker, you can just try with baking the choux without the craquelin to get a feel of how it is like. But if you like to GO BIG OR GO HOME, then please proceed to next step.
Now, craquelin changes the bake quite a bit because the entire choux becomes even more sensitive and temperamental (like me during my period). You have to now appease both the choux and the craq, a consistent high heat in the oven will discolour/char the top leaving the choux underbaked...and it will collapse.
Don't be fooled by how tall it has risen and how pretty it looks in the oven...LIES! DECEIT! The true test is when you remove your tray of choux from the oven and let it rest for a few minutes.
If it holds past the few minutes and did not deflate, good job!! But anyway, the idea is to bake it on a high heat at first to give the dough a boost to rise in the oven, then bake at a lower temperature to cook the choux entirely and brown it.
LEARN FROM MY DOWNFALL
During my experiments, I had to make 3 batches of choux in a day because of the following reasons;
1. I was too arrogant, thinking I can bake a one-hit-wonder. You know the story about putting all your eggs in a basket? Yup, I piped and baked the entire batch all at once, and it all failed together. I baked it at a consistent heat which resulted in a charred craquelin and undercooked pastry which deflated as it came out of the oven
My loss, your gain #1: Pipe one/two choux on your tray and test it out in the oven first. See how it turns out and make the necessary adjustments.
2. I couldn't wait to get it over and done with, thinking that I've cooked choux PLENTY of times, I've got this shit. So I hurriedly and complacently remade the pastry and ended up with a very runny batter. I tried to save it by recooking over the stove and stirring constantly but it was useless. It was runny because I didn't cook the flour/water mixture enough before adding the eggs. I dumped this batch without even baking because a runny dough is a no-no.
My loss, your gain #2 : Cook your flour-mixture well enough, that it comes together in a smooth ball and not too wet.
Anyway whichever form you're making, with or without the craq, I cannot stress this enough...ALWAYS ALWAYS just bake one or two on a tray first to test it out. LEST YOUR ENTIRE BATCH GOES TO WASTE. That's what I've learnt because I confidently piped 10 choux onto a tray and dumped it in the oven and it all came out DEFLATED AF. I was a sad moment but also very quickly turned to anger.
OKAY END OF STORY. TIME FOR YOU TO TRY IT OUT!
VIEW SOME OF THE STEPS IN MY IGPROFILE HIGHLIGHTS @thebakerslust
MATCHA CREAM PUFF
Makes 15 palm-sized puffs
THE DAY BEFORE
Matcha Custard Cream
500 ml milk
1 tbsp matcha powder
3 egg yolks
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
150g heavy cream
In a big bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar till colour is a light-yellow.
In a small pot, simmer milk (do not boil) and remove from heat.
Slowly stream hot milk into egg yolk mixture, while constantly stirring to prevent the egg yolk from cooking and forming lumps.
Add in cornstarch, matcha powder and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.
Pour milk mixture back into the now-empty pot and continue to cook over medium-high heat until thickened, stirring consistently (to prevent the base from getting burnt) until thick.
Remove from heat and place a cling wrap immediately over the custard. Be sure to stick the cling wrap literally on the custard itself so that a skin won't form over it. Chill in fridge overnight.
The next day or when the custard is chilled thoroughly,
In a standing mixer, whip the heavy cream till soft peaks
Fold the whipped cream into the chilled matcha custard, put it in a piping bag and fridge till ready to use.
100g butter, softened
50g brown sugar
50g white sugar
1 tbsp matcha powder
110g plain flour
In a standmixer, cream butter and sugar until light.
Add in matcha powder and plain flour, mix till well-incorporated. It will look crumbly, but that's okay.
In between 2 parchment paper, flatten the dough into a disc (using your palms) and then roll out to about 3mm in height (you don't have to really measure, just not too thick).
THE DAY ITSELF
110g salted butter
140g plain flour
4 large egg yolks
1. In a small pot, bring water and butter to a roiling boil. Reduce heat to low.
2. Tip the flour into the pot. With a wooden spatula, stir vigorously until mixture comes together into a smooth ball, for about 1 minute.
3. Remove from heat and add in eggs one at a time. Making sure each egg is well-mixed in before adding the other. Continue mixing the dough until it is smooth; resembling a thick and smooth consistency; kinda like a creamy mash potato.
4. Fill it into a piping bag and cut a medium-sized hole, I used a round piping tip for this.
YOU'RE SET! BAKE TIME!!
Preheat oven to 200'c.
Remove your craquelin from the freezer so that it warms up just a teeny weeny (so that you can cut it later with ease and without breaking the craq).
Pipe the choux onto your baking tray lined with parchment paper. When piping, make sure your piping bag is held straight, then squeeze the bag such that the choux batter comes out smoothly and pools as it gets squeezed out. I like to stick my nozzle into a bit of the dough and as I squeeze the bag, the batter will force the base of the rounds to expand. These were about 6cm when piped and about 10cm when baked.
4. Now onto your craquelin, take a cookie cutter or whatever round bowls to cut the circles out. Rule of thumb is that the craquelin round should be equivalent or slightly bigger than the base of your choux. A bigger craquelin will better cover your choux entirely when baked. So ransack your kitchen for a bowl/ramekin that allows you to cut a base like that.
5. Press each craquelin lightly onto the centre of the rounds.
OKAY NOW THE EXCITING AND GOOD LUCK PART!! Each oven is different, this worked well for my oven. So please, bake ONE to test out the temperature I've stipulated below first and watch it! Once that batch is successful, only then can you bake in bulk now!
WE'RE GOING TO BE DOING INTERVALS NOW. HAHAHA. AGAIN I'M NOT ALLOWING YOU TO USE THE BATHROOM DURING (UNLESS IT CAN BE SETTLED IN 5 MINS). SET YOUR TIMER BABIES!
Interval 1: Bake 10 minutes at 200'c without fan
[Initial heat to give the choux its boost to rise]
Interval 2: As it continues baking, open the oven door slightly and jam a wooden spoon to keep the door slightly ajar. Turn down the oven to 160'c WITH FAN, bake for 10 mins
[It releases some moisture from the oven and continues to cook the choux]
Interval 3: Then still with door ajar, turn up the oven to 175'c WITH FAN and bake for the last 10 mins
[I dont know for what scientific reason but in my own scientific imagination, I feel it browns the choux slightly after the imaginary stablisation phase at 160'c]
5. Remove from oven and let cool before piping the cream into the base of the choux. Poke/dig a hole in the base of the choux with a chopstick so that your pastry bag nozzle can fit in. Pipe cream into it and you're done!
Best eaten fresh!
If you for SOME reason, you can't eat 15 cream puffs in one sitting, you may fridge the choux unpiped. If you piped the cream into the choux, it might just become slightly soggy but still gooood!
PANIC MODE TIME!!!
Some FAQ for possible scenarios I can think of
If it comes out deflated even though it looks perfect in the oven, it means the choux still has too much moisture in it and was underbaked. Maybe increase the baketime for the first interval a while longer, for a few more minutes.
If it comes out with a charred top but deflated and a light coloured choux, the temperature is too hot. Maybe don't increase the temperature at the third interval
If it comes out not looking like anything humanely possible, this is not for you bro. Kidding. Just dump it into the dustbin and pretend you never made this. Take a breather and try the recipe again.
What if I don't have piping bags?
For the pastry: Use a ziploc bag and cut one of the corners of the ziploc bag. You should cut a relatively bigger hole. Alternatively, use your tablespoons to scoop the pastry and dollop it on the tray (the shape may not turn out as nice)
For the custard cream: Also use a ziploc bag and cut a smaller hole. Alternatively, you can always slice the top of the baked choux, fill the inside with cream and close with with the top.
What if my oven doesn't have a fan?
Erm, you can try to just open the oven door and lower the temperature as in Interval 2 and 3, but I'm not sure if it will work the same. Try and lemme know. Heh heh. Cos I haven't tried those 2 intervals without the fan except for the first attempt to bake all 3 intervals at 200'c without fan and it was charred at the top and deflated.
Side-note, I'm not gonna ask that you to send nudes for my efforts here. But if you are sharing the recipe or "inspired" by the recipe, it'll be nice if you credit me! But if you fail, then don't credit me. HAHAHAHAHAHAAHHA. Kidding, I'll try my best to answer your qns. I'll let you slide into my DMs.