My last term in Culinary School was challenging with adapting my Professional Baking class and lab to be gluten free. Kudos to my Pastry Chef Instructor for being so patient and a good about it. (Go visit her at the Cincinnati Hilton Orchids. Chef Kat Kessler is the best!) To me, it was important to get objective feedback for how it compares to the standard (gluten-filled). She was always happy to provide constructive feedback. Even provided benchmark qualities such as texture and flavor for the target finished product. For example, describing the difference between a cake and muffin texture, crumb, and flavor. Every week I did trial runs for every single recipe, adapting it gluten free before class/lab. Sometimes it induced a bit of anxiety, especially scaling with others carelessly throwing around flour in the lab. But in the end, the payoff was worth the anxiety and extra work upfront. And thankfully, I never got sick.
One of the items we were to make made me both scared and at the chomping at the bit to try. Pate a choux. Also know as eclair dough. This dough is amazing in how it is made. It works by gelatinizing the starches before baking. This was an experiment that I have been meaning to do. Now I had to. The procedure for making pate a choux calls for boiling liquid, fat, and salt. Throwing flour into the mixture and cooking it until it forms a ball. Immediately put dough into a mixer with a paddle attachment and mix until cools. Add in eggs until elastic and doughy. I figured it was just crazy enough to work well for a gluten free adaptation. What type of gluten free flour would gelatinize the most? Easy - sweet rice flour. I thought why not go for it, and just substitute out the bread flour (high gluten content) for sweet rice flour at a 1-for-1 swap? It worked so well, maybe even better. Amazing. The dough had a sweet reminiscent flavor and aroma of Cream of Rice cereal. My Pastry Chef instructor was amazed, too. Yes! The dough gave plenty of loft to fill with the pastry cream mousseline, had the strength to withstand the needed manipulation of filling and dipping in chocolate ganache. And the feedback I received from my fellow classmates was outstanding. Some of them actually preferred mine to their regular, gluten-filled eclairs/cream puffs.
So what's the difference between cream puffs and eclairs? Shape. That is all. A cream puff is round and an eclair is elongated. I decided not to post this recipe for the process of making, and it's really long. It is very involved and time intensive, about five hours to make finished product. My recipes are all based on Gisslen's Professional Baking. First step is to make the pastry cream, and chill. Second, make the pate a choux dough. Bake. Completely cool. Third lighten the pastry cream with whipped cream for a mousseline. Lastly, make the chocolate ganache and dip. Maybe, if enough of you request the recipe, I can post a holiday special entry with a seasonal twist on the filling. I am open for suggestions. Yum. It is possible to bake even more delicious gluten free. And I am on the path to unlocking the secrets. Without xanthan gum.
The Sensitive Epicure