ASB Basics: Pâte à Choux (cream puffs)
Updated: Jun 16, 2020
Pâte à choux is a really interesting dough. The water and milk create steam in the oven that puffs up the pastry. The puffing leaves a hole in the middle for delicious fillings. It cooks first at a high temperature to create the steam and then at a moderate temperature to dry out and become crunchy. The dough itself is not very sweet (and not sweet at all for savory recipes), but can be filled with whipped cream, ice cream, pastry cream, and really whatever you want. Pâte à choux has a reputation for being difficult to make. In truth, it takes minutes to make, stores well, and makes really fancy--looking desserts. It can be made without fancy equipment and with only basic ingredients. No one expects a home baker to whip out homemade profiteroles or eclairs, which is why mastering this dough is so great. With this base recipe, you can make cream puffs, profiteroles, eclairs, gougères, and more.
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk
1/2 cup (125 ml) water
2 tbsp sugar (omit for savory recipes)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 stick/half cup (113g) Unsalted Butter
1 cup (150g) All Purpose Flour* SEE NOTE ON MEASURING
4-5 large eggs at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 400° F Convection bake. *
Measure the flour into a small bowl.
Pour the milk, water, salt, sugar, and butter into a medium saucepan.
Bring the milk, water, and butter mixture to a boil. Immediately remove from heat once it reaches a boil.
Pour in the flour all at once and mix with a wooden spoon until it looks homogeneous.
Return to medium heat and cook the dough (it should look like a thick paste) for 2 minutes while stirring constantly.
Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, crack 4 eggs into a large measuring cup or small bowl. Beat them lightly with a fork.
After 5 mins, add the beaten eggs in four additions, mixing vigorously with a wooden spoon or a dough whisk after each incorporation. After each incorporation it may look like the eggs are not mixing in but use a little elbow grease and they will.
After adding your 4 beaten eggs, you may need to add part or all of the fifth egg. This really depends on the humidity, the size of your eggs, and how much flour you add (this is why weighing is so much better). If your dough still looks stiff, you may need more eggs. The finished dough should be slightly sticky, paste-like, but firm enough to hold after being piped. Use your judgment in deciding whether you need more egg. Err on the side not adding egg or adding only a little bit more. Use your instincts. To add a partial egg, beat the egg with a fork and add as much as you think is necessary. Mix into the dough well.
I use a piping bag to form my pâte à choux, but you don't have one you can use a small cookie scooper or even spoon the dough onto a cookie sheet. I fill my piping bag (I like a french star tip) and I pipe straight lines for eclairs or little circles (like for on top of a cupcake) for cream puffs or profiteroles. Leave at least an inch in between your sections of dough. If you pipe your dough it may have a point on top. Dip your finger in water and gently press the points down.
Use a spray bottle or pastry brush to lightly dampen each dough piece before baking.
Bake at 400° F convection for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325° F convection bake for 15-20 more minutes. Bake one tray at a time. Do not open the oven while baking. If you have multiple batches, don't forget to bring the temperature back up to 400°.
Right after baking, use a paring knife to make a small slit in the bottom of your baked choux to let steam escape. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Fill with whipped cream, pastry cream, or something savory. If you go sweet, top with powdered sugar or chocolate ganache.
Make ahead tip: You can store leftover dough in the refrigerator for 3 days. You can also freeze the dough and thaw it in the refrigerator overnight whenever you need it.
* It is much preferable to weigh the flour in grams for this recipe. If you don't have a scale, you actually need to measure the flour "wrong" to get it right for this recipe. Usually, the correct method is to fluff up the flour and then use a small spoon to fill a measuring cup, thus creating a lighter (120g) cup of flour. This recipe requires MORE flour and so you should stick your measuring cup directly into the container of unfluffed flour to fill and then level. This will get you closer to 150g, and if you're not a serious baker, it's probably how you were measuring normally.
*If your oven does not have convection, increase baking temperatures by 25°.