What is pâte á choux?
Pâte á choux (pronounced ‘pat a shoe’) is a relatively wet pastry dough made of eggs, water, butter and flour. There is no rising agent and relies on steam from cooking this pastry at a high temperature to allow it to rise. This pastry dough has been around for 500 years and is the basis for many European pastries including profiteroles, eclairs, cream puffs, gongères, chouquettes, beignets and crullers.
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What can you make from pâte á choux?
Profiteroles are made by piping the choux pastry into dollops the size of a half dollar, or about 1.5 inches. It bakes at high temperature and a hollow core is developed where you can pipe in a filling and make a cream puff.
Eclairs are piped and baked in the same manner as profiteroles but longer.
Gougères are savory profiteroles that are made from choux pastry that has cheese added to the dough, commonly Gruyere, Comtè or Emmentaler.
Chouquettes are profiteroles topped with pearl sugar.
Beignets are deep fried choux pastry and dusted with powdered sugar.
Crullers are French donuts.
Below is a step by step approach to making choux pastry and profiteroles. These skills build on each other and will allow you to make many types of French pastries so dive right in folks!
Bring water, sugar, butter and vanilla to a simmer over medium heat.
Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon, continue stirring for 1 minute on heat to cook the ‘rawness’ out of the flour then remove from heat. It should come together into one cohesive dough that is smooth.
Now it’s time to add the beaten eggs 1/3 at a time, stirring in between iterations until the egg is well incorporated. You want the dough to either form a ‘V’ with the spoon (see pic below) or when pressed between two fingers and lifted, forms a wimpy, soft peak (see pic below). Once you achieve this characteristic, stop adding the eggs, you are done. If you add too much egg, it will be too wimpy and you actually have to start over, sorry. But have heart, this hasn’t happened to me yet, just follow these instructions. I did use all of my 2-egg mixture but eggs do come in different sizes. That is why I like to beat my eggs and add 1/3 at a time instead of one whole egg at a time.
A nice ‘V’, PERFECT!
A wimpy soft peak, also PERFECT!
If you are going to make Beignets, you are done. Click here for the Beignet instructions.
If you are going to make profiteroles or cream puffs, please continue:)
If you don’t have pastry bags, use plastic bags, fold down the sides and fill with pastry dough.
Twist at top and squeeze dough to one corner.
Snip a corner, about 1/4 inch-1/2 inch.
Squeeze pastry in one space until it reaches the desired diameter, about a half dollar size, then lift and swirl to cut off the pastry.
With a wet finger, tamp down the peaks so they won’t burn. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 475F on a middle rack for 5 minutes then turn down to 400F and cook 10-20 minutes. This part requires diligence. Different size pastries require different cooking times and each oven is different by as much as 75 degrees! Your pastries are done when they are golden, puffed up and crispy on the outside. I actually cut one open to make sure it was cooked inside, it was.
Remove to a cooling rack a let cool.
With the back of a chop stick or something similar, poke a hole the size of our pastry piping bag. Your pastry cream will go in here. There are many pastry creams to choose from. I like a simple whipped cream with Nutella.
This recipe is adapted from my latest favorite French cookbook and guide, French Classics Made Easy by Richard Grausman.
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