When the holidays roll around, we often turn to our staple sweets like cookies, candy, and seasonal pies. While these tried and true favorites are always appreciated, have you ever thought about expanding your holiday baking repertoire? Why not try Christmas pastries?
Many home bakers cringe when they think of pastry. Many folks believe that pastry doughs are complicated projects riddled with pitfalls at every turn. While some pastries can be finicky—making puff pastry at home is certainly not at the top of my list of fun things to do—other treats, such as eclairs and cream puffs, are surprisingly simple to pull off.
Pâte à choux, the French term for the dough used to make eclairs and cream puffs, is a simple, versatile pastry dough. It consists of only four ingredients: butter, flour, eggs, and water. When piped onto a cookie sheet and baked, the little mounds puff up to create a light, crisp pastry that can be filled with almost any filling you can think of. Really, there are no limits when it comes to devising creative desserts with pâte à choux. They also make perfect savory treats when stuffed with cheese or meat-based fillings.
One of my favorite uses for pâte à choux is éclairs. For the holidays, I've topped the classic pastry with a delectably wintery mint ganache, making for a festive treat that maintains the bulk of its traditional roots. For decoration, you can sprinkle the still-wet ganache with whatever fun toppings you have on hand. Try crushed candy canes, colored sugars, or good old-fashioned Christmas sprinkles.
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About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in San Francisco. Stephanie's cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, celebrates America's favorite dish by recreating it with small production, specialty cheeses. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts.