These delicate choux swans are filled with light Chantilly cream and served swimming in a lake of raspberry coulis. They make a gorgeous centrepiece at a festive party.
Heat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/Gas 5. Put the butter in a medium pan with 125ml of water. Heat slowly to melt the butter, then increase the heat and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Remove from the heat and tip in the salt and flour in one swift action.
Working quickly, beat the mixture hard with a wooden spoon, until smooth and thick and it leaves the sides of the pan. Spread the paste on a plate and leave to cool to room temperature.
When the mixture has cooled, return it to the pan and beat in the eggs, a little at a time, until the mixture is soft, shiny, smooth and of a dropping consistency – you may not need to use all of the eggs. (Dropping consistency means it will reluctantly fall off the spoon in a blob; it won’t run off, nor need you to shake the spoon.)
Spoon one quarter of the mixture into the piping bag fitted with the writing nozzle. Spoon the remaining mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
Using the mixture with the writing nozzle, pipe 9 number ‘2’ shapes (you’ll need 6, but it’s good to have spares), each measuring 6cm tall, on one of the baking sheets. These will form the swans’ necks.
Using the mixture with the star nozzle, pipe 6 teardrop shapes, each measuring 7cm long, on the other baking sheet. These will form the swans’ bodies.
Bake the swans’ necks for 10–12 minutes and the bodies for 20–25 minutes, until firm and golden. Remove the bodies from the oven and, using a skewer, make a hole in the base of each to allow the steam to escape. Return the bodies to the oven for 5 minutes to dry out the insides. Leave everything to cool completely on a wire rack.
For the raspberry coulis, tip the raspberries and the icing sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blitz to a purée. Pass the purée through a sieve to remove the pips, then pour the coulis into the serving dish.
Once the swans’ bodies are cool, carefully slice off the top one third of each one, then cut each top in half to form the wings.
For the filling, whip the cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract to soft peaks and spoon the mixture into the remaining piping bag fitted with the star nozzle.
Pipe the cream to fill the swans’ bodies, piping up and out, to resemble swan feathers. Place the wings on each side of the body sticking up out of the cream, and place the necks through the cream into the base of each swan. Dust the swans with icing sugar, then sit them in the raspberry coulis.