This is a nutty, creamy dessert, combining the flavours of pistachio with spelt. Chocolate eclairs are a firm favourite of mine, and I like to think of these spelt and pistachio puffs as a slightly more sophisticated variation. Despite being rich, this dessert can still be quite light if you make the puffs small and bite-sized. The spelt flavour is subtle, and while the texture is ever so slightly different from conventional wheat choux, it is more than capable of providing the structure required. The puffs don’t need to be perfect in shape and size – they look great when you can tell that they are hand-made. A key aspect of the success of choux pastry is its high water content. During baking, the water in the dough turns into steam, which helps to give the pastry its shape and puffed up structure. The oven heat then sets this shape, which the puffs should retain when cooled. You will need a piping bag and small nozzle for the custard. If you want to pipe the choux pastry, you will also need a medium nozzle for this.
Preheat your oven to 200°C/gas 6.
Start by preparing your pistachio custard filling, which will need to chill. Heat the cream in a medium pan over a low heat. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a large bowl using a hand whisk. When the cream is warm and not quite boiling, pour it over the yolks, stirring constantly. Return to the pan, whisk in the cornflour, and place over a medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture has thickened significantly, then remove from the heat. Allow the custard to cool slightly before gently but thoroughly combining it with the pistachio paste. Allow it to cool completely, transfer to a bowl and cover with cling film. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour, or until cold.
Move on to your spelt puffs while the filling is cooling. Line a baking tray with baking parchment, or simply grease it.
Melt the butter and salt into the water in a pan slowly over a low heat. Once melted, turn the heat up to bring the water to a rolling boil. Then turn off the heat. Tip the flour into the pan and use a wooden spoon to beat the dough vigorously, until it comes away from the sides of the pan.
Once the flour and water mixture has cooled to a tepid temperature, vigorously incorporate the eggs bit by bit, until they are combined. You may not need to use all the egg, so add it gradually – getting the consistency right is most important. The mixture should be of a dropping consistency of about 5-6 seconds (the time it takes to fall off the spoon). If it is too tight, add a dash more water. It should have a satiny finish.
Depending on how neat you like your choux puffs, pipe (using a piping bag fitted with a medium nozzle) or use a teaspoon to place a teaspoon-sized ball of choux pastry on to the baking tray. Allow 7-8cm of space between each puff, as they will expand. I sometimes use my fingers to quickly neaten the shapes a bit. Wet your hands with cold water before handling to make sure the dough doesn’t stick to you.
Place your choux puffs in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes. When they are done, they should be golden brown with a firm outer shell. If they aren’t browned, they may be a bit soggy inside when they have cooled. Remove from the oven and insert a skewer in the side of each puff to help the steam escape. Turn your oven off, and place them back in the oven for 5 minutes to dry in the heat. Remove, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Once the puffs are cold, pipe your custard using a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle into the hole made by the skewer. Keep them in the fridge to ensure the custard stays firm until ready to dip in chocolate. You can serve any leftover custard alongside.
To melt your chocolate, place it in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, and stir occasionally until the chocolate has melted. Remove from the heat and dip the tops of your puffs into the chocolate. Use the chocolate to seal the hole made to insert the custard. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top for decoration. Either serve immediately, or keep in the fridge until ready to eat. These should be enjoyed on the day of making.
Picture copyright of Jonathan Gregson
You can buy pistachio paste, but it’s not that easy to find and is usually quite expensive so as an alternative option you can make your own. It’s still not cheap, but it’s worth it for a special occasion. I actually prefer doing this because you can keep the ingredients pure and control the flavours.
You can use this recipe for pistachio paste in a wide variety of other dishes, including ice cream, cakes, biscuits, macarons and icing.
Use a food processor suitable for grinding nuts, or a spice grinder, and pulse the nuts until they form a coarse flour-like texture. You can also do this with a pestle and mortar and a bit of muscle power. If using a processor, watch it to make sure the nuts do not pass the ‘floury’ stage, or you risk releasing too much of their oil. Add the sugar, then the water. If you need to add a tiny bit more water do so sparingly. The paste can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.