Americans have sweetie pie and honey. Italians have tesoro. The French have mon chou.
Chou, masculine noun: 1. cabbage 2. small, rounded, hollow pastry.
Chou is commonly employed to express the cute factor of something. "C'est chou" means that something is cute, "t'es chou" means that you're adorable, and so on. Couples refer to each other as mon chou. Yes, my cabbage. But more likely the cute, diminutive pastry that shines in its versatility.
Fill a bunch of choux (oh, the wonderful specificity of French spelling) with cream, make them into a pyramid using hardened caramel, and you've got a classic of French receptions, the pièce montée. Use your choux dough to make elongated pastries and you've got the éclair. Fill little choux with ice cream and top with hot chocolate sauce and here come the profiteroles. By means of a totally non-scientific demonstration, I have just proved that pâte à choux is basically everywhere and you can run but you can't hide. It'll get to you at some point.
A little chou is like the Beanie Baby of the pastry world (flashback to 1993!), except there's no risk of it being out of stock, so you won't have to go to all the Toys R Us of the country to find one. You can make a load of petits choux right here in your kitchen.
Even better, be seasonal about it. Create a limited-edition chou! In this case, rhubarb and vanilla crème pâtissière come together for a fun time. You wouldn't necessarily think they would end up together, but some times these things happen and you don't see them coming.
Slight bitterness of rhubarb + happy creaminess of vanilla pastry cream = a bite-sized dessert that's on just the right side of the sweet spectrum.
You don't have to wait around for your chou to come into your life--you can just create it at home. Better than Edward Scissorhands.
Rhubarb Petits Choux
makes approximately 20 small choux
1/2 recipe pâte à choux (below)
1 recipe vanilla pastry cream (below)
1 c. cooked rhubarb, whirled in blender
Mix pastry cream and cooked rhubarb in a medium bowl. Place in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.
Pierce a small hole on the side of each chou and pipe filling inside. Refrigerate until a half hour before serving.
Eat the day of, or the next day at the latest.
Pâte à choux
120g (1 c. + 3 TB) all-purpose flour
10cl (1/3 c. + 1.5 TB) whole milk
10g (1 scant TB) granulated sugar
1 pinch salt
80g (5.5) butter
4 whole eggs
Bring milk + water to a boil in a saucepan.
Add butter and salt.
Sprinkle flour into saucepan, beating vigorously. On low heat, "dry" the dough out by beating it until it stops sticking to the pan. Remove from heat and add eggs one by one, mixing until well incorporated before adding the next one.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
15g (1 TB) cornstarch
40g (3 scant TB) granulated sugar
18cl (3/4 cups) whole milk
2 egg yolks
18g unsalted butter (1 1/4 TB), room temperature
1 vanilla pod, scraped (or use what you have left from the crust recipe)
Bring milk and vanilla to a boil in a medium saucepan, and remove from heat. Add cornstarch and half of the sugar.
In a small bowl, beat yolks and remaining sugar until lightened in color, about 3 minutes. Add a little of the milk beat to combine.
Place egg mixture in saucepan; beat regularly on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
Keep beating until pastry cream achieves a thick but silky consistency. When the cream reaches 50°C / 120°F , add butter and keep beating until incorporated.