Choux Buns Filled with Cinnamon-baked Damsons and Vanilla Cream
The mornings are becoming crisp and are verging on actually being fairly cold, as autumn is settling in and my damson trees are starting to lose their leaves. There are still a few damsons on the trees to be harvested, but most of them are high up and out of reach, which means I’m leaving those for the wildlife to enjoy. I had a good crop of damsons this year, a couple of wheelbarrow loads, and it soon gets to a point where my fingers are discoloured and stained a yellowy brown colour and no amount of scrubbing and soap can remove the stains. I suppose it’s a small price to pay for something so enjoyable and amazing.
Our damson crop has been divided between a few recipes. I turned a good amount into a purée, which is used for making damson parfait, damson bellinis for the bar and even damson martinis, which have been a hot favourite with our regulars. The rest made their way into crumbles and chutneys, but my favourite recipe this season is this cinnamon-baked damson recipe. I use them for various dishes from pavlovas filled with chantilly cream and cinnamon-baked damsons to a damson meringue mess. My latest yummy creation is this choux bun recipe.
I enjoy eating choux pastry made into various shapes and used in different recipes, from savoury to sweet, but I used to find making choux pastry really hard work, mainly because of the amount of elbow grease required and also the amount of equipment it needed. Hard work means no fun until the Thermomix made its way into my life. This recipe for choux pastry made in the Thermomix is a dream and, yes, it’s guaranteed to work every time, providing you follow the instructions correctly. I speak from experience on this as last week I tried to make this recipe, but as I am fairly lazy I did not read the instructions, and while trying to answer the phone, cook, manage the business and watch what the junior staff were getting up to, I made a few fundamental errors and, yes, I made a flop! However, once I had gathered my thoughts and assessed my own mistakes, I ticked myself off, tried again (following the instructions this time!) and after that my choux pastry came out beautifully.
I bake it every day, as we are busy, and I serve this dessert on our set menu; it’s been a popular little number. Please do not fear, persevere and do give this recipe a go as it’s really satisfying and enjoyable. If you do not have a Thermomix, then follow the conventional method, even though it requires a fair amount of elbow grease. See the Cook’s Tips at the end of the recipe for the Thermomix method.
The unfilled baked choux buns will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, and the cinnamon-baked damsons can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept in an airtight container in the fridge.
Damsons freeze well. I have made the purée and frozen it in batches to ensure I have a good steady supply throughout the autumn, and then the quartered damsons without the stones I freeze on flat trays and use as I need them. For this recipe, if you are using frozen damsons, I recommend that you bake them from frozen and increase the cooking time accordingly.
Ingredients & Method
For the cinnamon-baked damsons
- 500g damsons, stoned and cut into quarters
- 250g soft dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
For the choux buns
- 160g unsalted butter
- 400ml water
- 120g caster sugar, plus 1 teaspoon caster sugar
- 240g plain flour
- 6 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons toasted flaked almonds
For the vanilla cream
- 250ml whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons icing sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, split in half lengthways and seeds scraped out
First, prepare the cinnamon-baked damsons. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 and line a deep roasting tray with non-stick baking paper. Place the damsons, brown sugar and cinnamon in the lined tray, stir to mix and then roast in the oven for 20–30 minutes or until the mixture has a jam-like consistency and is slightly thickened, stirring once. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tray for 30 minutes, then transfer to an airtight container and keep refrigerated until needed. This mixture can be made up to 1 week in advance; store in the airtight container in the fridge (see Cook’s Tips).
For the choux buns, put the butter, 300ml water and 1 teaspoon caster sugar in a saucepan and cook over a medium heat until the butter has melted, then bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. Tip in the flour and beat to mix with a wooden spoon, until the mixture is smooth and comes away from the sides of the pan to form a ball of dough. Remove from the heat, then gradually beat in the eggs, until the mixture becomes silky, shiny and smooth. The choux pastry is now ready to be transferred to a piping bag fitted with a 3–4mm star nozzle.
Preheat the oven to 220°C/Gas Mark 7. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick baking paper. Place a shallow roasting tin in the base of the oven and pour in some water (to create steam during baking). Pipe 8cm wide rounds of the choux pastry onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving gaps between each one. Place in the oven, close the door quickly and bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and continue baking for a further 25–30 minutes or until the buns are cooked, golden and crisp. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and cut a small slit in the side of each bun (to allow any steam to escape), then leave to cool completely. Once cool, cut the choux buns in half widthways.
Put the remaining 100ml water in a small saucepan with the remaining 120g caster sugar and cook gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a rapid boil over a high heat and cook until the mixture forms a golden brown caramel. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for about 2 minutes. Carefully pour some caramel over the top of each choux bun (if you dare, pull or spin the caramel on top of each bun) and then immediately sprinkle over the flaked almonds. Leave to cool completely.
Prepare the vanilla cream. Put the cream, icing sugar and vanilla seeds in a medium mixing bowl and whip together to form firm peaks. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle. Fill each bun (sandwiching 2 halves together) with vanilla cream and then spoon over the cold cinnamon-baked damsons. Serve.
Any leftover cooked damson mixture can be served with rice or semolina pudding, or serve it with crushed meringues and whipped cream for a quick and delicious dessert.
To make the choux pastry using the Thermomix method, place the butter, 300ml water and 1 teaspoon sugar in the Thermomix bowl, then set the timer for 8 minutes at 100°C on speed 1. Add the flour and blend on speed 8 for 1 minute, then remove the lid and leave to rest for 10 minutes. Secure the lid and blend the mixture on speed 3 while gradually adding the eggs, blending until all the eggs are incorporated, then increase the speed to 10 and blend for 1 minute. The choux pastry is now ready to use, so please follow the piping and baking instructions given above and complete the recipe as directed.