Basics: Choux pastry

Choux pastry is what is used to make cream puffs, profiteroles, and eclairs. It is also used to make such delights such as the Paris-Brest, a giant cream puff ring filled with flavored cream.

Choux pastry isn’t just for sweet things though: add cheese to it to make gougeres, which are cheesy puffs; poach it to make Parisian gnocci; and, it also makes great snacks or appetizers. Fill big choux buns with tuna or chicken salad, or make tiny little puffs and fill with some sort of intensely flavored filling. Sprügli, a famous and impeccable Zürich patisserie, makes these tiny puffs filled with a mixture of Gorgonzola cheese and butter, as part of their “apero” (appetizer) selection which one can buy by weight.

I was going to include the choux pastry recipe in my cream puff entry, but since it is such a versatile basic, here it is on its own.

The key to successful baking of puffs is to use a silicon baking sheet (sold under brands such as Bake-O-Glide). You can grease the pan or use parchment, but the silicon sheet ensures that the bottoms won't stick.

Choux pastry

This recipe yields about 2 1/2 cups of pastry. This amount makes about 48 little puffs, or 24 eclairs or bigger cream puffs. Your results may vary, depending on how big or small you make them.

  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of beaten eggs (about 5 large eggs, but be rather accurate about this - it will really affect the results)
  • 100g / 3 1/2 oz. of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup of all-purpose white flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • Equipment: two baking sheets lined with silicon baking sheets; a sturdy ziplock plastic bag; a pair of scissors

Heat the oven to 210 ° C / 420°/ F. Line the pans with the silicon sheets.

Cut up the butter, and put it with the water and salt in a pan. Heat over medium heat until the butter has melted. Dump in the flour, and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon, until the flour is completely incorporated. The dough ball should slightly film the pan with a floury residue. Take off the heat and cool the bottom by putting it on a damp kitchen towel, or briefly running cold water over it.

Add the eggs, little by little, to the pan, mixing vigorously between additions. It may look like someone threw up at first, but it will all get incorporated.

Scoop the warm dough into the plastic bag. Cut the end off one corner with scissors, to make an opening about .5 cm / 1/4 inch or so. Now you will squeeze the mixture onto the pans - the shape dictates what you'll call it eventually. You can make long blobs, which would make them eclairs, tiny blobs, or bigger blobs. To smooth out any parts that stick up when you squeeze out the dough, just wet your finger in water or milk and smooth out. You can also glaze the puffs with a beaten egg wash, to give a shine to it. In this case use a pastry brush, and smooth out the top with it as you glaze.

Baking time also varies, depending on how big your blobs are. For about 5 cm diameter / 2 inch puffs, bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. (Rotating means to switch the pans so that the top one is on the bottom, and vice versa. You may also want to turn the pans at this point too.) Watch the puffs and when they are a medium brown color, take them out.

When the puffs are done, immediately slash into each of them with a serrated knife. This lets out the steam and prevents the inside from getting soggy. You can then return the puffs to the oven for a few minutes. To ensure there will be no sogginess whatsoever, some people cut open the puffs and let them dry out a bit in the oven, but I sort of like some softness inside so omit this step.

You can also poach the dough in boiling water, to make light gnocchi. Squeeze blobs of the dough into the salted boiling water and cook until the bits float to the surface. Serve with butter, cheese, fresh parsley and so on.

Filed under:  basics dessert baking pastry

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Hi Maki
I've seen some commercial cream puffs here in Australia similar to Beard Papa but they have a cookie crumbly coat on top. Do you have any idea how to include them in the recipe? I've tried to search online but haven't found anything? Thank you
PS: your kasutera recipe is fabulous!

I'm not really sure since I haven't seen them, but maybe they just sprinkle some cookie crumbs on top before baking? I've never seen anything like that I'm afraid.

It could be, from what I heard about Beard Papa's choux pastry, that the dough is lightly wrapped around with pie dough. I'm not sure but you can try that.

Its called a cookie sable, there might be some video tutorials or recipes online, its a common topping instead of maybe a chocolate glaze. Try adriano zumbo? he uses for his eclairs

ive always attempted to make cream puffs when i get the beard papa craving but my choux pastry always goes wrong. not so much the pastry itself but when i finish baking my pastries they always deflate! even if i slash them immediately after they are cooked and return them to a switched off oven they still sink and end up like pancakes. any suggestions?

About the pastries that always flop...
Make sure you don't open the oven at ALL during th process, until the end - I know it can be tempting.
Also, if you want to get them to rise higher, incorporating more steam helps so; after you've greased your pan, wet your hands lightly with water and 'flick' and sprinkle the water lightly onto the pan before placing your pastry on.
The extra water creates more steam, helping them to rise further.

Dear Maki, I tried making choux pastry, but after I added the ingredients, the consistency of the mix was more like pancake batter than dough. I forgot to beat the eggs if that makes a difference.

From my experiences, eggs'd be gradually added until the dough gets smooth and sticky then stop adding egg. Running dough will turn to flat choux crust.

Can these pastry shells be frozen and refreshed at a later stage? Please give details. :)

can you please tell some classic desserts made with choux pastry???