When I was a kid, I was enthralled by an animated version of the ballet Swan Lake. The story of a princess turned into a swan by day as a result of a curse, who regains her human form only at night, was as haunting as the music.
My first ever Daring Bakers challenge- the Joconde that I over baked so it cracked and leaked was definitely the ugly duckling. This time the challenge was to create an edible container for some wonderful Maple mousse, and I decided that it had to be a swan!
A cream puff swan to be more exact, filled with dreamy maple mousse and topped with whipped maple cream!I loved the sensation of the cold creamy mousse oozing out of the warm crisp shell when you bit into it!
I also made two variations -Bailey's Maple mousse and also some swans or (rather swan parts) were filled with Cardamom Maple mousse ( because I cannot resist adding cardamom into everything!)
Both the mousse and the cream puffs were really easy to make and I'm so happy that something so simple could look and taste so great, and make me look like some sort of pastry genius! I think I might have gone a little overboard though when I decided to have my puff swan swim in a lake of Maple Syrup with bacon crumbles on the side!
The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container.
Recipe source: from the Daring Kitchen here
- 1 cup (240 ml/ 8 fluid oz.) pure maple syrup ( I found a ginormous bottle of Maple syrup at costco, and have also seen some very reasonably priced bottles at stores like Marshalls)
- 4 large egg yolks ( you can reserve the whites to make meringues, or freeze it for a future use)
- 1 package (7g/1 tbsp.) unflavoured gelatine
- 1 1/2 cups (360 ml. g/12 fluid oz) whipping cream (35% fat content)
- 3-4 pods of cardamom ( optional- if you want to make cardamom mousse)
- 2 tablespoons Baileys (optional- if you want to make Baileys Maple Mousse)
- Bring maple syrup to a boil then remove from heat. ( If you want to try the cardamom mousse, you should add the cardamom pods lightly beaten, or powdered cardamom at this stage)
- In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and pour a little bit of the maple syrup in while whisking (this is to temper your egg yolks so they don’t curdle).
- Add warmed egg yolks to hot maple syrup until well mixed.
- Measure 1/4 cup of whipping cream in a bowl and sprinkle it with the gelatine. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Place the bowl in a microwave for 45 seconds (microwave for 10 seconds at a time and check it in between) or place the bowl in a pan of barely simmering water, stir to ensure the gelatine has completely dissolved.
- Whisk the gelatine/whipping cream mixture into the maple syrup mixture and set aside.
- Whisk occasionally for approximately an hour or until the mixture has the consistency of an unbeaten raw egg white.
- Whip the remaining cream. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the maple syrup mixture. Fold in the remaining cream and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Remove from the fridge and divide equally among your edible containers.
I tried the following two variations to the basic maple mousse which is fantastic in itself. Sweet and creamy with a wonderful maple flavour that we loved
I added 2 table spoons of Baileys Irish cream to part ( 1 cup) of the maple mousse at the end to make
Bailey's Maple Mousse
I also made Cardamom Maple Mousse: I took about 3-4 pods of cardamom with the skin removed and seeds lightly pounded, after which I microwaved them at 50% power for about 5 seconds to heat and bring out the oils and added to about 1 cup of maple mousse. The flavour would have been stronger if I had added it to the maple syrup while I was boiling it.
The mousse stays good in the fridge for a couple of days, so you can make it ahead.
The body of the Swan
To make the body of the swan I initially thought of meringue to make with the egg whites left over from making the mousse, but then thought it might be too sweet to go with the sweet mousse. Then I remembered that I had been meaning to try to make cream puffs for the husband who has been craving them for a while. I googled to see if anyone else had come up with cream puff swans and of course there were many, and even videos too. I loosely followed this
Cream puffs also called profiteroles or choux pastry are surprisingly easy to make and quick to bake and you can either pipe the dough into the shape like my swans or just drop tablespoons of the dough for a more rustic free form shape.
In the oven it puffs up and bakes into a golden crisp ball with a convenient hollow inside to fill!
You can fill the puffs with lemon curd, pastry cream, butter creams, ice cream, sweet whipped cream that is flavoured with liqueurs, extracts or lemonized like I did to frost this lemony layer cake etc. Check out my macaron fillings to use here as well. You can even make savory, cheesy fillings, something I plan on doing soon!
- ½ Cup Whole Milk
- ½ Cup Water
- 8 Tbsp (1 Stick) Unsalted Butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1 Tbsp Sugar
- ½ tsp Sea Salt or 1/4 tsp regular salt
- 1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
- 4 Large Eggs
- Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 425˚F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
- Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt to a rapid boil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat.
- Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to medium-low, and immediately start stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon or heavy whisk.
- The dough will come together, and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan.
- Keep stirring-with full energy-for another minute or two to dry the dough. The dough should be very smooth.
- Turn the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or into a bowl you can use to mix with a hand mixer or a wooden spoon.
- Let the dough sit for a minute, then add the eggs one by one and beat until the dough is thick and shiny ( I used the stand mixer set on med-low).
- Make sure that each egg is completely incorporated before you add the next, and don’t be concerned if the dough falls apart-by the time the last egg goes in, the dough will come together again.
- Once the dough is made, it should be used immediately or it can be frozen for up to 2 months
- To bake the puffs: Using about 1 Tbsp dough for each puff, drop the dough from a spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of puff space between the mounds of dough.
- You can also pipe the dough into shapes like circles, hearts, swan parts etc. Just make sure each batch is roughly the same size so they bake evenly
- Slide the baking sheets into the oven and immediately turn the oven temperature down to 375˚F.
- Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom.
- Continue baking until the puffs are golden, firm, and, of course, puffed, another 12 to 15 minutes or so.
- Allow the puffs to cool on the baking sheet. The unfilled puffs can also be frozen, so they are a perfect make ahead party dessert. Simply thaw in the fridge the night before, warm in the oven and fill before serving.
To fill the puffs: Using a serrated knife and gentle sawing motion, you can simply cut off the top quarter or third of each puff, fill the puffs, and top them with the little caps.
Or, if you’re using a very creamy filling, you can fill a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip with the filling, then use the tip to poke a hole in the side of each puff and squeeze in the filling.
To make the swan shape, check out this with step by step instructions. However this is what I did:
1.I used a round tip to pipe a dot or circle for the head followed by the 'S' shape for the neck, (running over the 'S' shape several times until it was thick enough and not too spindly) and then used my fingers (slightly wet with some water to make sure the dough wouldn't stick to them) to pinch a little dough next to the head to make the "beak"
I also pushed in a tiny mustard seed for the eye :)
The neck shapes of course took much less time to bake ( around 10 mins or less) so keep an eye on them to make sure they don't burn.
2. I used a small star tip to pipe the wing shape going over a couple of times until it was thick enough since I was using a pretty small tip (you could use a large shell tip to pipe the wings) I placed a circle template under my silpat or pastry mat as a rough guide to ensure all the wings were around the same size so they would bake evenly
3.Rounds for the base or body of the swan- Pipe circles or Just drop tablespoonfuls of the dough onto the baking sheet and it bakes up into a round ball or spherical shape. I cut the top of the sphere and filled the hollow inside with the maple mousse
- Pipe or spoon some whipped cream ( I whipped about 11/2 cup of heavy whipping cream with about 1/4 cup of maple syrup to make some wonderful maple whipped cream) on to the top of the round body which has been filled with maple mousse ( or other filling)
- Stick the neck shape into the hollow using the whipped cream to adhere it into place.
- Place the wing shapes either on both sides, or you can just lay one of the wing shapes over the hollow to make it look like the swan has folded her wing, and this makes a little "lid' for the edible container too!
I placed the swan in a "lake" of maple mousse with some bacon crumbles on the side to mimic rocks and reeds at the edge of the water. The Maple syrup was a bit much since the mousse is plenty sweet on it's own. A drizzle would have sufficed!
Verdict: Simple and delicious, I loved the play of textures and the cold sweet mousse against the crisp melt in the mouth puff, warm from the oven. Since the mousse was so sweet, I was glad that the cream puffs were not too sweet and so it was very balanced and quite a perfect pairing. I was a little apprehensive about how the bacon would pair with the mousse, but it's smoky saltiness was awesome against the sweetness of the mousse and maple syrup. I loved the addition of Baileys, though next time I would add the cardamom with the maple syrup to bring out the flavour more, or just stick with the original awesome maple mousse, which is also delicious on it's own.
This challenge has been a lot of fun, and it was wonderful to see the incredible creative containers and fillings that the other Daring cooks and Daring bakers came up with, including bacon, fruit and vegetable containers, nut tarts, tuile cookie shells, chocolate and caramel shells and more. Go check them out and vote for your favourite at http://thedaringkitchen.com
I am so happy to have discovered how easy it is to make cream puffs. I plan on making many more soon, with all kinds of fillings!
For some more inspiration, here are some wonderful cream puffs from Dorie's trip to Paris that she recently posted on her blog. Apparently they are the next "big thing" (for good reason!) too, so I'm sure we will be seeing some awesome fillings and flavourings everywhere, and I couldn't be happier!