Do you like éclairs? What about profiteroles, cream puffs, and cheesy gougères? Aside from making us drool just thinking about them, the one thing all these pastries have in common is that they're made from pâte à choux. Think you can't make them at home? We beg to differ!
What is Pâte à Choux?
Pâte à choux, or choux paste, is a paste of flour, water, butter, and eggs. After the paste has been prepared, it gets piped out into various shapes and baked. The liquid in the dough puffs up the pastry as it evaporates in the oven, creating a hard outer shell and a moist interior with large air pockets.
You never really serve pâte à choux by itself. Other ingredients get added to the dough to make it more flavorful or the baked puffs get filled with pastry cream, ice cream, or other filling.
Have you ever made pastries with pâte à choux at home? Any pointers?
How To Make Pâte à Choux
Makes about 16 puffs or éclairs
What You Need
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter
1 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 large egg yolks, mixed with a tablespoon of water
2- to 4-quart saucepan
Parchment or baking mats
- Heat the oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or baking mats.
- Cut the butter into small pieces.
- Bring the butter, water, and salt to a rolling boil: Combine the butter, water, and salt in a saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. The butter should be completely melted by the tim the water comes to a boil; if not, reduce the heat until the butter has melted to avoid too much water evaporating, then bring it to a boil.
- Add the flour: Remove the pan from heat and add the flour all at once.
- Stir vigorously to form a dough: Make sure all the flour is worked into the dough and no more dry flour remains. Once ready, the dough will resemble mashed potatoes.
- Cook the dough on the stovetop: Place the pan back over medium-low heat. Stir the dough, mashing it against the sides and bottom of the pan and then gathering it up into a ball again — this dries out the dough and cooks the flour. Some starchy build-up on the bottom of the pan is normal. Continue cooking the dough for 3 to 5 minutes. The dough is ready when it pulls away from the sides of the pan to form a ball, it's thick enough that you can stand a spoon upright in the middle, and the surface looks shiny and glossy.
- Cool the dough: Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium-low speed until the dough is just warm to the touch. Alternatively, you can cool the dough by hand with a stiff spatula.
- Add the eggs: Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl. With the mixer on medium-low, add the eggs to the dough in four separate additions. (This can also be done by hand with a stiff spatula.) As each addition is worked in, the dough will at first become stringy and goopy, then will form back together into a soft dough. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed between each addition. When all the eggs have been added, the dough should be soft, creamy-colored, and very smooth, and it should hold its shape when scooped.
- Portion the dough onto the baking sheet: Scoop the dough out onto the baking sheet, or transfer the dough to a piping bag to pipe specific shapes. The dough can be made into nearly any size or shape. Space the puffs slightly apart on the baking sheet.
- Brush the tops of the puffs with egg wash: This makes the puffs golden.
- Lower the heat to 350°F: Place the puffs in the oven and immediately lower the heat to 350°F.
- Bake for 20 to 30 minutes: Exact baking time will depend on the size and shape of your puffs. Bake until the puffs are slightly puffed, golden-brown in color, and dry to the touch. They will also feel hollow and light when you pick them up.
- Dry out the puffs: Lower the heat to 300°F and continue baking the puffs to dry them out another 15 minutes or so. If you break one of the puffs open, it should not be wet or eggy on the inside; bake a few more minutes as needed.
- Poke the puffs with a toothpick: Transfer the puffs to a cooling rack and poke each one with a toothpick or the point of a paring knife. This releases steam from the inside and prevents the puffs from getting soggy.
- Cool the puffs completely: Once cool, the puffs can be filled or used for any recipe. Unfilled puffs can be kept in an airtight container for several days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
- Make-Ahead Pâte à Choux: The choux dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 3 months before baking; thaw the dough overnight in the fridge before using. The shaped or piped pastries can also be frozen for up to 3 months and baked straight from the freezer.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)