Choux buns

Choux buns

Bigne

By
From
Tuscany
Makes
40 choux buns
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

When Catherine de’ Medici left Florence in 1533 to marry the Duke of Orleans in France she took her entire court with her, including her chefs. Her head chef Pantarelli is said to have invented the first choux-style pastry. Later, in the 19th century, the French chef Marie-Antoine Carême tweaked the recipe and made small buns from it that looked like little cabbages, hence the use of the French name ‘choux’.

Known as bignè (pronounced ‘bin-gneh’) in Italy, these tiny little delights are hard to resist at breakfast time with a cappuccino or caffè.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the choux pastry

Quantity Ingredient
100g salted butter
240ml water
1 teaspoon caster sugar
150g strong white flour
4 eggs, beaten

For the pastry cream

Quantity Ingredient
500ml whole milk
seeds scraped from 1 vanilla pod
or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
45g cornflour
75g dark chocolate, grated

To serve

Quantity Ingredient
icing sugar, for dusting
200g white, milk or dark chocolate, chopped, (optional)

Method

  1. Preheat the over to 200°C. Line 1–2 baking trays with baking parchment. To make the choux pastry, put the butter in a medium saucepan with the water and sugar over a medium heat. As soon as the butter has melted and the mixture has come to the boil, tip in the flour in one go and beat with a wooden spoon until the flour is well incorporated. Remove the pan from the heat. Now, using a handheld or electric whisk, add the eggs a little at a time until you have a smooth, glossy dough.
  2. Put the dough into a piping bag fitted with a plain round 1 cm nozzle. Pipe out around 40 little mounds of the mixture approximately 3 cm wide and 2 cm high onto the prepared trays. They should be spaced apart by around 5 cm as they will puff up during cooking. Bake the choux buns for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 170°C and bake for a further 10–15 minutes, or until golden brown and firm inside. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
  3. To make the pastry cream, heat the milk with the vanilla in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. While it’s warming up, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl. Whisk a ladleful of the warmed milk into the bowl, then pour this mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the milk. Stir with a wooden spoon until the cream thickens – it will only take a few minutes – then remove from the heat. Divide the cream between 2 heatproof bowls and add the grated chocolate to one bowl. Stir through until melted. Cover the surface of the pastry cream in both bowls with cling film (plastic wrap) to avoid a skin forming, then set aside and allow to cool.
  4. Put one of the creams into a piping bag fitted with a 5 mm nozzle and pipe it into half of the choux buns. To do this, force the piping bag nozzle into the bun and squeeze to fill. Do the same with the other bowl of cream and the remaining buns. Lay the buns on a rack and either dust them with icing sugar before transferring them to a serving platter, or cover the tops with chocolate as follows: melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Spoon the melted chocolate over the buns.
  5. For gluten-free choux pastry, follow the recipe above but use 3 medium eggs and gluten-free flour in place of the strong flour. You may find they are a little flatter than the wheat flour choux, but they taste just as good.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Caldesi
Tuscany
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