Everything revolves around Choux Paste. It's so versatile that almost all of your wedding/garden party/outdoor/indoor/warm weather party canapés can be made with it. All the others can be vol-au-vents. Perfect. Easy. Tasty. Fanny suggests 'basic' choux made with water, also a 'basic' sweet choux made with milk, a 'basic' orange choux and a 'basic' coffee choux paste. They are all essentially the same 'basic' recipe using different liquids, but are sure to impress your 'basic' guests. And that's even before they are decorated and filled. I've made choux before with Fanny, so my eyes are drawn immediately to her 'basic' savoury option, made basically with Cheese.
Fanny starts by melting butter gently in milk, only allowing it to come up to the boil once the butter has completely dissolved. She quickly tosses in some flour and lets the mixture 'seethe up as usual' around the flour. Remove immediately from the heat, season, add cheese and beat, beat, beat like your life depends upon it. Stretch yourself, Fanny says, over the beating until you are 'practically fed-up' for airy puffy choux. The mixture should be entirely smooth and come clear of the pan. Sally is on hand with a pic-strip guide to show you what it should look like, which of course I have followed and recreated. Fanny then beats in three eggs, one at time. The first one will turn the mixture into globules which will look throughly depressing, but carry on. If you pay no heed and go on beating the mixture will become perfectly smooth again. Once it is, beat in the next egg, and so on. She is right.
Then comes the most important part. Fanny absolutely and without any discussion or debate, insists that this is followed to the letter. Cover the mixture with a plate and leave it at ordinary room temperature until it is absolutely cold. Do NOT pop it into the fridge, you will be sorry. And, if you use it while it is hot, not only are you completely off your rocker, but you will 'descend to the depths of culinary shame', because, when the mixture is baked, no matter what shape you choose, it will have horrible goo in the centre which you will need to scrape out with a teaspoon. Say no to goo, say no to shame and do as Fanny says, ok?
When it is stone cold, piping can begin. In a variety of shapes, naturally. Sally has a glass of cold water to hand to dip a knife into it to 'snip' the end of the piping off neatly. For eclairs, long strips. For buns, pipe vertically and push down before lobbing off the end. For weddings, Fanny says horseshoe shapes. She makes no shoe/choux jokes. This is serious business. Whatever you choose, (I'm fighting the desire to say 'choux-se') a hot oven is required until golden brown. Mine emerge a little dark, but smelling great. And no goo. Yippee! Fanny whips up some blue cheese and piping it on for decoration. Mix it with a little splash of port for easy piping. She insists on using the best possible port which you can 'steal from your husband'. This doesn't seem like the best start to married life to me, but who am I to argue with Fanny? Especially when these are so good. After all, there is no wedding here. No party of any kind - just me a a table full of very quickly disappearing savoury delicious choux.