Never heard of Pâte à choux? Well, you will now!
What is “pâte à choux“? ‘Pâte à choux‘ (Pronounced: pat ah shoe) is a French pastry used to make many things, such as Profiteroles, Croquembuche, Eclairs, St. Honores or even Beignets! There are many ways that you can dress these, such as: ganache, spun caramel, craquelin, pearled sugar, or even powdered sugar. For simplicity’s sake, we shall do the latter.
To get started, Preheat your oven to 425° and set aside the following:
4oz Pre-Sifted All Purpose Flour (Weighted)
1 Cup Eggs (about 4 eggs + 2 eggwhites)
1 Cup water
4oz Unsalted butter (Weighted)
1 T Granulated Sugar (Optional)
A large pinch of salt
On medium heat, whisk together the water, sugar, salt and butter until the butter has melted, and the sugar/salt has dissolved. While you should let the water mixture reach a simmer, you do not want to let it sit for too long (you would lose moisture).
Add your pre-sifted flour all at once, and incorporate it into the water-mixture with a wooden spoon. Once you have created a ball shape out of the dough, smear it outwards from the center of the pot, bringing the outer edges back in to center and forming a ball once again. Do this repeatedly. The goal here is to dry out the dough without burning it, so you will want to be constantly stirring. Through this process, you will see a film forming on the bottom and sides of your pan. Don’t pay this any mind, and do not try to scrape it up. This step should take about 5 minutes, and should not be hurried.
After the five minutes is up, remove your dough from the heat and transfer it into a Stand Mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Let this cool for about 4-6 minutes.
Then, on the lowest speed, add your eggs one at a time. Make sure that before each egg is added, that the previous egg is fully incorporated. Using a wooden spoon to scrape the bottoms and sides will speed the process, in addition to making the batter more consistent.
The reason it is important to only add one egg at a time is because the amount of egg that you may need could differ each time. What you are going for is a certain consistency in the batter, rather than using all the eggs. You will know you have reached the ideal viscosity once you lift the paddle attachment out of the bowl and the batter drapes off of the paddle in a “V” shape, like so:
Once you have made your batter, fill a pastry bag fitted with a large straight tip. For the love of all that is holy, do not try to portion out your profiteroles with an ice cream scooper, or try the ‘drop method’ with a spoon. If you do not have a pastry bag, instead use parchment paper or a Quart Sized Freezer Ziplock bag and cut a small edge off after filling. I say this type and size specifically, because 1: the thickness of the plastic is better suited to handle the pressure of piping. And 2: the size of the bag is perfect for most batters and icings, in addition to be great storage when you’ve made to many of this or that.
Have your sheet trays ready with parchment paper or my favorite– silicone sheets (seriously, they are WORTH the investment). Feel free to play around here, as you can make many things from this batter. Profiteroles, Eclairs, Swans.. So on, so forth. If making Cream Puffs, try to aim for about the size of a golf ball. You will want to put the same amount of pressure on the batter throughout, and you will want to come at the sheet tray from a 90 degree angle, finishing off each pipe with “c” as you release pressure.
Now, put them in the oven! It is VERY important that you do not move these or open the door again until they are done. You will not rotate these, unless you want them to deflate. Which.. Im pretty sure you don’t.
Set a timer for 10 minutes. You can use this time to either clean up, or prep your filling (though you can also do this a day in advance). Once the ten minutes are up, drop the temperature to 350°, and set the timer for another 10-15 minutes. Again, do NOT open the oven to check on them, you will be sad.
After the second timer is up, turn off the oven heat and crack the oven so that it is slightly ajar. The puffs should be evenly golden brown, with slightly cracked tops. You may check them by taking a skewer and poking the sides or top of each puff (this will also release steam). If on the first puff the skewer comes out gooey, close the oven door for a few more minutes as they are not yet done. This step is a bit tricky, and may require some practice. After you get a clean skewer, with the door ajar let these cool down slowly.
Once they have cooled and show signs of not deflating, transfer them to a cooling rack to cool down further. Once completely cool, take a bread knife and slice them in half horizontally. The insides should be dry and hollow (a slight bit of moisture is fine, you just don’t want soggy egg-mess).
This next step is optional, but I like to powder sugar both the tops and bottoms of the shells before piping my pastry cream inside. I think it’s a nice touch, in addition to making them look look a bit prettier. After that, fill them and you are done! Good job!
Note: If your puffs do deflate, don’t fret! You can still enjoy them just fine. In fact, make a sandwich out of them! Most people will be stoked that you are even offering them a home made treat and won’t question it #GettingRidOfTheEvidence.
You may have:
- Pierced the puffs as too soon: There’s still needed steam inside, and when you let it all escape before the pastry has cooled your dough might deflate.
- Boiled the water, butter, and sugar for too long. If there’s too little water in your choux, there won’t be enough steam to help the puffs inflate.
- Opened the oven during the baking process, or set the temperature too low. Again, steam is crucial to the rising process and letting it out or losing heat in the baking process can have a negative effect on the puff of your final pastry.
- Removing the pastry from the oven too soon. If the choux pastry isn’t firm when you remove it from the oven, it will cave in on itself. You want your puffs to look golden brown before you even open your oven.
If you had some other problem or question not listed, or just wanted to share your results, feel free to share them in the comments below!