Monday, 16 January 2012


Hey all. We're back having taken a brief blogging holiday since Christmas, catching our breath from so much cooking and running around serving dinner.

One of the show stoppers from our holiday supper club season, which we cooked at several events was the savoury choux pastry swan filled with pommes sarladaise, confit of duck leg, slices of seared duck breast, celeriac mash and brussel sprouts accompanied with a mustard creme fraiche sauce.

A rather indulgent meal, made up of lots of components that kepts us on our toes, especially when serving it as course 7 of our epic 12 course Christmas dinner for 21 people.

As we ate the last of our confit duck legs on Thursday (preserved under fat it can lasts for months) we decided it would be a good idea to post this recipe and bit of step by step on how to create this show stopper. This will be posted in two parts, part 1 being making the choux pastry, creating and assembling the swans. This is the same sort of pastry you would use if making profiteroles for example. We made no changes to it but kept it savoury for our dish. It requires some practice and experimentation for piping and size etc, but it looks amazing once presented as a dish. 

Being the baker and pastry maker of the house I took on the choux pastry and swan making. Actually its one of the easiest pastries to prepare and there is not much to it. Piping them to look like swans wasn't too hard either, I watched a video of Michel Roux making the choux pastry then another video demonstrating how to pipe the swan heads and bodies. 

I had to make this a few times to figure out how many swans I'd get for the amount of mixture as Michel Roux Jnrs recipe wasn't specifically for swans. 

The number of swans you will get varies depending on size. I tripled this in order to make 25 swans, but it did it in single batches which is a good idea as you'll want to do a couple of practice swans first and figure out size. They will almost double in size once cooked. Traditionally these are made as a dessert and filled with cream but worked just as well for our savoury main dish.

Ingredients for choux pastry ( taken from Michel Roux recipe 
  • 125ml milk
  • 100g, butter, diced
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 1tsp sugar
  • 150g plain flour
  • 4 medium eggs
Pre heat the oven to 200c and line a baking tray or 2 with non stick greaseproof paper.
Combine, milk, butter, salt and sugar and slowly bring to boil, just as its boiling take it off the heat. 
Sieve the flour and slowly add this to the mixture, stirring vigourously with wooden spoon. It will all come together in to a nice smooth dough and pretty much clean the bowl of liquid. 

Now add the eggs one at a time, stirring each until combined. You'll notice at first as you mix in the egg the mixture seems to fall apart and starts to resemble a glutenous mess but persist with stirring for 10-15 seconds and it will come back together, repeat until all the eggs have been incorporated. Give it a final good stir and it should be smooth, glossy and able to be piped. 

I used 2 piping bags with different sized nozzles for the body and the necks. Its hard to say but around 2/3 of the mixture should be for the bodies and the rest for the neck. We wanted quite big bodies as we were filling them with lots of delicious duck. 

The best way to learn the piping method is to watch a video I found this one helpful. Its for a dessert but the piping techniques for the swan is exactly the same.

For the neck use round nozzle 2A. You will start where the head will be and pipe an S shape on the baking paper, stopping and pulling swiftly up as your finish to get a clean end. You then go back to the head and pipe a little extra and pull swiftly down to create a beak, this is clear in the video I suggested above. 

For the bodies use the large round nozzle 1A. You'll start by keeping the nozzle in one spot, pipe out a generous size, ours were around 6 cm wide and then pull the piping bag downwards to create a tear drop.  When you finish the bodies simply stop apply pressure to the bag and lift it up quickly. 
Make sure you keep a few cm space between each on the baking tray as they'll nearly double in size.
Bake the swans for around 20 minutes. Its going to vary depending on size. For ours, we baked the bodies for 20 - 25 minutes and the necks for 20 minutes as we were making large swans. It will require a little experimentation on your part. 
If you under cook them the bodies will deflate a little when you take them out of the oven. Its trial and error, we made a lot to figure out the best cooking times, consistency and size of our finished product. Try one or two different sizes first and bake a few to figure out what you prefer. 

You can store these as we did in a plastic container for a few hours and re heat them later when ready to serve. Re heating firms up the bodies a bit more which then makes it easier to cut and assemble them.

To prepare the bodies for the filling, slice across the top of the body to create a flat top. The piece you've cut should be about 1cm thick, it can then be chopped in half length ways and used as wings  (we chose not too, but for a dessert this is usual) 
Pipe a dollop of mash, be that potato or as in our case celeriac on to the top of the body where you will affix the swans neck and voilà you have your swan ready to add the pomme sarladase, confit and duck. 

Come back soon for Part 2 of this recipe by Nick where he explains the remaining components of the dish so you end up with something like this.....


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