Sunday, 15 June 2014

Choo-Choo Train Choux Pastry with Pastry Cream & Apple Pie Filling

"Mama, let's make a surprise for Papa for Father's Day. Can you make apple pie for Papa?"

This bake started with a request by my elder kid and I have been wanting to attempt baking Choux (pronounced as "shoo") pastry for the longest time ever since my neighbor offered me some homemade ones. Hubby loves apple pies and apple pie filling on its own too so I thought this bake would be perfect. A light and airy pastry to compliment the rich pastry cream and sweet but tart apple pie filling.

It's my first attempt at making Choux pastry so there's room for improvement. Presenting my Choo-choo train choux pastry with carriages full of pastry cream and apple pie filling!

You may never look at a cream puff the same way again :p. There are endless possibilities for shaping Choux pastry and the most common one (other than spooning or piping a lump of pastry onto baking sheet) is the swan. It's easy to find tutorials from the internet for making Choux pastry swans but there are hardly any other fancy forms. I have seen pastry baskets, donuts, a turtle and even a dragonfly but that's about as fancy as it gets. And so I wonder why didn't somebody make a Choux pastry train :p.

I apologise for not taking more photos as I made this in a hurry. It would be easier to explain how the shaping and assembly of the train was done in pictures.

I adapted the recipe for Choux pastry from Deliaonline, the recipe for pastry cream from allrecipes and the recipe for apple pie filling from allrecipes too. I wasn't too satisfied with the pastry cream recipe I used for my fruit tart as the flour content was quite high so I decided to try another recipe and this tasted really good!

Recipe for Choux pastry
50g unsalted butter, cut to small pieces
150ml water
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt

10g bread flour (You may replace with plain flour. I substituted some plain flour with bread flour as Deliaonline suggested using strong plain flour for a crispier pastry.)
50g plain flour

2 eggs (60g each)

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line 2 baking trays with baking sheet. **(I baked the small and big train parts together,  resulting in the small parts on the verge of getting burnt and the bigger parts a little underbaked. It's better to bake big and small parts separately.)
2. Sift together the flours and set aside.
3. Combine the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once it boils, take it off the heat, pour the flour in all at once while stirring with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until a ball of soft dough is formed.
4. Gradually add in beaten eggs (about 1-2 tablespoons at a time) while you continue beating/stirring with the wooden spoon, making sure that the egg is well incorporated into the batter before adding more egg.
5. Transfer about 5-6 tbs of batter into a pastry bag fitted with a wilton #5 tip and about 6-7 tbs into another bag fitted with a 5mm round tip.
6. On one tray, pipe 16 train wheels, 4 straight lines (for the locomotive) and a chimney with the wilton #5 tip. To do so, you may find a template under the baking sheet helpful. In order to pipe a wheel, pipe circles that are about 1.5cm in diameter. Pipe another layer of pastry on top of the first circle, such that you get 2 circle stacked on top of each other. Pipe some pastry cream in the center of the circle, but not too much such that you can still get a well defined wheel and not a round blob of pastry. You may want to pipe slightly bigger back wheels for the locomotive. Leave about 2cm between the piped features. Next, pipe 4 lines that are about 2.5cm in length. Finally, pipe the chimney by piping a tapered line with the starting end about 1cm wide and finishing off with a thin line the width of the piping tip. The length should be about 3cm. The tapered end will have to be stuck into the train body, leaving the wider end sticking out.
7. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
8. In the mean time, pipe the train body on another tray. Use the 5mm tip to pipe three 3x5cm rectangles (for the carriages), one 3x6cm rectangle (base of locomotive) and a thick line that is 2cm wide and 6cm long (upper part of locomotive). Let the batter pile around the tip to create a thick line. Drop heaped teaspoonfuls of batter onto the baking sheet for the leftover batter to make ordinary Choux pastry puffs.
9. Bake for 10 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius then increase temperature to 220 degrees Celsius and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Pierce the side of the puffs to release trapped steam. Cool on cooling rack. Store in air tight container when completely cooled if not assembling on the same day. You may toast it for a few minutes to get it crispy again just before serving. It's best to fill choux pastry just before serving to prevent it from turning soggy.

Recipe for pastry cream
235ml (242g) milk
23g caster sugar
1 yolk
1/2 egg
15g cornstarch
32g sugar
15g unsalted butter
3ml (1/2 tsp) vanilla extract

1. Bring milk and 23g of sugar to boil in a saucepan.
2. Whisk egg and egg yolk together. Add remaining sugar and cornstarch and whisk together until smooth. Drizzle boiling milk in thin stream whisking constantly. Pour mixture back to saucepan and slowly bring to boil stirring constantly.
3. When mixture boils and thickens,  remove from heat and add in vanilla and butter. Mix until butter is completely blended in. Strain if necessary while still warm if there are lumps. Transfer to a container and cling wrap the pastry cream with the wrap touching the surface. Refrigerate until needed.

Recipe for apple pie filling
I made more than enough to fill the train as this recipe is supposed to freeze well. Hubby can have apple pie filling whenever he wants that way :). I used 4 green apples and a lot less sugar than the original recipe. The result is just nicely sweet and tart at the same time.

409g chopped green apple
9g lemon juice
27g cornflour
121g caster sugar
427g water
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice powder

1. Toss apples and lemon juice together. Set aside.
2. Combine the rest of the ingredients in to a pot to boil at medium heat, stirring constantly for two minutes.
3. Add apples and return to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until apples are tender. 8-10 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes. Can freeze well for up to a year when kept in air tight container/ freezer bag.

Assembling the Choo-choo train
1. Melt some compound white chocolate and use it to stick the wheels to the carriages and base of the locomotive.
2. Cut the 2x6cm pastry into half vertically and one of the halves into another half horizontally (one of which forms the "roof" of the cabin for the train driver). Fill the locomotive with some pastry cream and assemble as shown in the picture, with 4 straight rods supporting the "roof". Pierce the top of the locomotive with a wooden skewer/ toothpick and insert the chimney.
3. Fill the carriages with pastry cream and apple pie filling. Arrange the locomotive and carriages in line and you are done!

It's so refreshingly light that all of it was eaten up by hubby and kids within 5 minutes of assembly! I made the apple pie filling and pastry cream the day before I baked the pastry so my family had the privilege of eating freshly baked and assembled Choux pastry.

You may ask what did I do with the remaining Choux pastry? Stay tuned for my next blog post :).

This post is linked to the event Little Thumbs Up (June 2014 Event: Butter) organised by Zoe (Bake for Happy Kids) and Mui Mui (My Little Favourite DIY) and hosted by Jozelyn Ng (Spice Up My Kitchen)

With love,
Phay Shing


  1. Awesome...choo choo train...
    Your husband must be so happy to receive this "present" during father's day!
    Thanks for the link up!

  2. This is so cute!!! Both you and Suzanne Ng are so creative! :D

  3. Thanks Miss B! Thank God for providing us with the inspiration that comes out of the blue sometimes! You have a great blog! I have bookmarked your post on types of flour some time back :).