Baking gluten free means time, patience, as well as the occasional failure, in order to learn which flour goes best for the recipe you are creating. Cassava flour is special for various reasons. First of all, it is expensive, very expensive, dear neighbors : more so than teff flour, and often more than twice the price of sorghum flour ! Needless to say, I only use it where it makes a difference, which is the case here. To make gluten-free choux pastry dough (or cream puff pastry dough) I have successively used a combination of flours and starch (rice, millet, cornstarch), then only 2 types of flour (rice and teff, still my favorite for a savory filling, recipe in French here). Using only cassava flour, the recipe gets simpler and the result much, much tastier . The cream puffs are very fluffy inside, just like those you buy in a regular French pastry shop – and you can trust me on that : being French, I know what I am talking about!
This is perfect : one of my objectives for 2019 was to simplify my recipes whenever possible. Also, as making this typically French treat can still feel a little daunting for some people, I am including a video – and here again, this is all in keeping with new year’s resolutions 😇 !
Ingredients (makes 10 to 12 choux)
– 70g cassava flour (Otto’s Naturals guarantees it to be sulfite free)
– 125 ml milk (non dairy for us, and we also like to stay away from maltodextrin, cellulose gum, and sugar; other than that it doesn’t really matter if if is soy, oat, or almond based)
– 60 ml neutral vegetable oil (grapeseed oil works very well here)
– pinch unrefined sea salt, no additives
– 2 large eggs
How to :
(Pre-heat your oven to 170°C / 340 °F, fan forced)
1. Weigh flour inside a bowl. Line baking tray with lightly oiled parchment paper .
2. In a stainless steel saucepan, pour liquids (oil + milk) and salt. Bring to a boil. Do not expect the liquids to mix, they won’t.
3. Add cassava flour IN ONE GO and stir quickly with a wooden spoon. Cook on low heat for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring, until dough moves away from the edges and forms a ball.
4. Turn off the heat, remove saucepan and beat (using electric beater) to slightly cool the dough. Please note that if you are handling larger quantities, it is best to move the dough to a food processor, which will be sturdier than an electric hand beater for the next step.
5. Beat the eggs inside a measuring cup and pre-heat the oven to 170°C / 340 °F , fan-forced. My experience has been that this is the best kind of heat for the choux to puff up nicely. Otherwise, you will need to set the temperature significantly higher, to 190°C / 375°F. Slowly beat in the beaten eggs (the measuring cup makes it easier). Beat for about two minutes. At first the mixture will resemble scrambled eggs but eventually turn smooth.
6. Shape small choux on the baking tray, using a piping bag or two oiled spoons as I do in the video.
7. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes. You may peek, as long as it doesn’t require you opening the oven door. Turn off the oven BUT KEEP THE CHOUX IN THE OVEN, STILL NOT OPENING THE DOOR. After 30 minutes to an hour they can come out without deflating. They are now ready to be either filled, or frozen!
You will only need to place them for a minute in a heated oven (200°C / 395°F) just before filling to bring them back to life.
Similarly, if somehow you leave your freshly baked choux for too long in the oven , they may become soft. Here again, a short stay in a sunny Caribbean island 🏝 one minute in a heated oven is all it takes to fix the problem.
There is one minor issue with cassava flour : it is made from a tuber, not a grain, which means there is a cooking step involved prior to the « milling » (grinding ? I have no idea) process… ensuing notable differences depending on the manufacturer. In the U.S., I have had the opportunity to test Otto’s Naturals cassava flour brand (read more about it here). I had read it was the best, and indeed I was able to make incredibly tasty wraps just adding water and baking soda, a process I have not been able to replicate in France when using flour from Benin, hence my addition of grated apple and cashew butter to bind the wraps dough. In addition, Ottos Naturals has guaranteed the total absence of sulfites, so I can only recommend it to people with gluten and sulfite sensitivity.
You can fill the puffs as you like, with a « crème pâtissière » for instance . Mine is dairy free (recipe here). I still am no expert on piping, and because of my non existent practical sense I had to write down instructions so I would remember how assemble the bag and tip correctly ! However, I make sure I fill the choux generously by squirting the cream into every corner, until they feel heavy and look ready to burst ! I have given up on caramel topping (tired of getting first degree burns 😣) but luckily for me it is easy to make a fondant with a little egg white and icing sugar (= sugar pulverized with the help of a good coffee grinder), or with some margarine / ghee butter, icing sugar and a little non dairy milk added to melted chocolate. I do not take photos every time ; the ones here are from the time I added some raspberry juice for a little color – it just so happened to be Valentine’s Day !