Last night I did a test run with the religieuses. It was a pretty basic test run, mostly to make sure I have a good solid recipe for pâte à choux. I had some trouble mixing the eggs into the paste, but a little help from an electric mixer and I was good to go. Instead of using a pastry bag (all of mine are in California) I used parchment paper. It worked pretty well, but the downside to using parchment is it's hard to refill it, so you end up using more than one bag. Piping the dough out resulted in slightly odd shaped puffs, so I think when it comes time to make the actual religieuses, I'm going to forego the piping and just spoon the dough onto some parchment. I think that will help them maintain a better shape for filling them.
I had all the intentions of making pastry cream for this test run, but I ended up making whipped cream instead. The cream puffs turned out delicious and relatively easy. They weren't as filled as I would have liked them to be, as a result of the odd shape, but that's what test runs are for. Ideally, I'd like to use manufacturers cream for the filling since it's heavier than the cream you can get at the grocery store, but I haven't the slightest idea of where to get that out here.
Sometime I think my roommates and I are going to make a ton of cream puffs together and freeze them. Then we can have those delightful treats all throughout the winter without the process of making them (which is a relatively easy process, but we're lazy college students.)
Overall, the test run was a success. I realized that for the larger portions I'll have to have a longer baking time; the ones I made last night fell as they were cooling due to being undercooked. The taste of the dough is light, but eggy, just like I hoped. I like the taste of pretty sweet cream in the center to offset the savory flavor of the dough.
I think sometime soon I'll try my hand at some swans.