Easy Choux Pastry and Cream Puffs
Choux pastry, or pate à choux (pronounced pawt ah shoe), was the very first pastry I learned to make. I must say, it is rather easy compared to all the other types of pastry, mostly because it is the only pastry made on the stovetop. I still remember making my first choux, it was an interesting experience. I love how versatile choux is! You can make savoury hors d’œuvres, traditional French savoury gougères, classic profiteroles (cream puffs), and éclairs - there is absolutely no difference to the recipe, just the filling. There is no limit with choux! This surprisingly simple pastry will elevate any dinner party you throw. Add the optional craquelin, or cracker, on top for sweet applications, or forgo it with the savoury options. Your guests will be oo-ing and ahh-ing all night long!
Choux Pastry Ingredients
The base of choux pastry is surprisingly simple. Water and milk form the base, making it very easy to put together. The right mix of water and milk adds richness to the pastry while making the outer layer a bit fluffier crumb. Butter adds a decent amount of fat, allowing the pastry to rise in the oven. The bulk of the pastry is the eggs that we add at the end. The eggs are what make the rise happen. With no leaveners like baking soda, the eggs are integral to ensure a rise. It is important not to add too little or too much egg, as it can easily throw off the ratio causing rock-hard profiteroles, or profiteroles that rise and then deflate after being taken out of the oven. When making choux pastry, I prefer to use unbleached flour. This ensures that we are adding as much flavour as possible through the flour while also ensuring to use high-quality ingredients. The sugar in this recipe doesn’t play much of a role in sweetness. The use of sugar is just to allow for even browning in the oven.
Choux Pastry Method
Making the craquelin is super easy. In a bowl, combine all ingredients, including the food colouring, and mix them until it forms a paste. On a sheet of parchment, drop all of the paste for the craquelin on it, and place another sheet of parchment on top. Using a rolling pin, roll the paste to a uniform thickness of 2-3 mm (1/8”). Place this on a baking sheet and into a fridge until it becomes solid. This is the part of choux pastry that I enjoy the most. It is so incredibly easy to make. In a large sauce pot over medium heat, bring the water, milk, and butter to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to medium and add the flour. Mix the sifted flour until it forms a homogenous dough with no flour lumps. You’ll want to keep mixing the dough over the heat until it starts to smell like the wheat is cooking. This is the only chance we get to cook out the wheat. Once the dough is cooked, take the pot off the heat and keep mixing the dough until it cools. You can also use a stand mixer to cool down the dough. You’ll want to cool down the dough to at least 50ºC/120ºF to ensure you don’t make scrambled eggs, the cooler, the better. Next, you’ll slowly mix the beaten eggs into the dough to form a paste. Mix this well until it is completely homogenous. You might not need to use all of the eggs, you’ll want to make sure that its not too liquidy and holds a ribbon, but not too stiff as it will explode in the oven if its too stiff.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag. If you are not using the craquelin, fit the piping bag with a French tip or another open star tip. Using the piping bag, you’ll pipe the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, 1-2 inches apart from each other, about 2 inches in diameter. If you are using the craquelin, this is the time that you’ll place the circles on top of the choux pastry. Make these circles by taking the craquelin out of the fridge and remove the top sheet of parchment. Using a circle cutter, the same size as your piped choux, cut out circles of the craquelin and place them over top of the choux before baking. Place the sheet in a preheated 180°C/350°F conventional oven or 160°C/325°F convection oven. While baking, for the proper vapour to form, it is important not to open the oven until a solid crust has formed. Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. The bottom should be generously golden brown Remove from the oven. While still hot from the oven, poke a hole in the bottom of each profiterole to allow the steam to escape and transfer to a cooling rack. As the baked choux pastry cools, whip up the filling of your choice. In the case of profiteroles, chipped cream would be the choice! Once the choux is cooled completely, you can fill them with your filling. There are a couple of different ways to fill the choux. You can cut them open ‘hamburger-style’ or use a filling tube to fill them from the bottom. My choice is a filling tube, which gives it a uniform and clean look. Once filled, they are ready to be served!
Easiest Choux Pastry
60 ml water
60 ml whole milk
50 g unsalted butter (softened)
½ tsp salt
75 g all-purpose flour (sifted)
50 g sugar
40 g unsalted butter (softened)
50 g all-purpose flour
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all ingredients until it forms a homogenous paste.
Between two sheets of parchment, roll the craquelin to be about 2 mom thick. Set this aside on a baking sheet in the fridge or freezer to harden.
In a saucepan, combine the water, milk, butter, and salt. Heat to melt the butter and then bring to a slight boil.
Once boiling, take the saucepan off the heat and mix in the flour. I find it easiest to mix in one direction only.
Once the flour is well combined, put the saucepan over the heat again and continue mixing the dough to dry it out. You want to see a skin on the bottom of the pan before removing from the heat.
Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and turn on the stand mixer to cool the dough. At the same time, heat the oven to 350ºF convection or 375ºF without a fan.
Once the bowl of the stand mixer is warm to the touch, not hot, slowly add the eggs, one at a time. Be sure to mix well between additions, scraping down the bowl to ensure you have a very homogenous paste.
Transfer the paste to a piping bag and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Using the piping bag, pipe the choux into 2”/4 cm diameter circles that are about 1”/2 cm tall, 2”/4 cm apart from each other on the pan. Set this aside.
You can also pipe the choux into eclairs or rings for Paris-Brest, just be sure to adjust the craquelin (if using) to the correct size as well.
Take the craquelin out and using a 2”/4 cm circle cookie cutter, cut circles in the craquelin and place the circles on top of the piped choux. You will need to work fast, as the craquelin can only be cut and transferred when cold.
Once all the choux has the craquelin on top, transfer to the oven for about 12-15 minutes, until the choux holds its shape and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Be sure to not open the oven until after the shape has formed, as it can cause the choux to deflate.
Transfer to a cooling rack before using. Once cool, fill with your preferred filling.