Pâte à Choux
Pâte à Choux, a.k.a Eclair and Cream Puff dough. It sounds like something you would buy from a Payless Shoe Store! But this simple and humble dough can threaten to intimidate the novice baker. There's really no need to be fearful if you follow a few simple tips and tricks. Once mastered, you'll be turning out tons of these naughty little babies!
My Little Cream Puff!
When I tell you we probably made 10,000 eclairs and cream puff over the course of our baking and catering career, I'm being very modest! I kinda wish we kept a running total of all the things we did, but then I'd be sad, because I really do miss it at times. Then again, hobbies turn into jobs and then it's a job, and that's why they call it a JOB!
Hello, my name is Donna and I had a Love-Hate Relationship with my Stove!
Still, I do miss the big bakery toys and get my fix when we go visit our kids. I'm sooo glad my son decided to keep the bakery up and running. He kept all the equipment except for my beloved 10 burner range with two ovens. The same stove John threatened to bury me in when I died! He wasn't being cruel - well, maybe a little sarcastic - it's just that he threw his back out more than once moving that huge monster from place to place. I didn't cry when we sold it a few years ago, but it did bring a tear to me eye! I'd had that sucker for almost 20 years and I had a love-hate relationship with it at times. I did tell you in an earlier post that I needed therapy!
Cream Puffs, Eclairs and Profiteroles OH MY!
Anyway....You can use Pâte à Choux dough for all sorts of cute little pastries like mini eclairs and cream puffs, cream puffs filled with chocolate mousse or crab mousse or for a savory brunch item. They can be cut open and filled with custard and fresh fruit like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Ice cream profiteroles are to die for especially with hot fudge sauce or chocolate ganache! Very large holiday creations like croquembouches are really impressive and take a measure of patience even I don't possess, which also means I have never attempted it either...or should I say, yet?
Choux Pastry Filling Recipes
I'll give you the basic Pâte à Choux recipe and show you step-by-step how to make eclairs and cream puffs. When you get ready to fill them, shoot on over to my Suite101 article "Choux Pastry Filling Recipes: Sweet and Savory Fillings for Cream Puffs, Eclairs and Appetizers" This article will give you recipes for custard filling, salmon and crab mousse, cocoa and regular sweetened whipped cream, chocolate ganache and more tips and ideas than you have time-in-a-day for!
Don't freak out! This looks like a long drawn-out recipe, but it really isn't. I just want to make sure you're happy with your cream puff experience!
Eclair, Cream Puff & Pâte à Choux Recipe
- 1/2 pound (1 cup = 2 sticks) butter
- 2 cups water
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 2 cups all purpose white flour
- 7 large eggs, room temperature, VERY, VERY important!
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. When making choux pastry, always preheat your oven. Spend the money and purchase a small oven thermometer. They're probably less than $7.00 but will save you lots of headaches in the future.
- Parchment paper is another one of those bakery secrets. We used to purchase a box of 1000 full size sheets at a time! Supermarkets and kitchen stores like Bed Bath & Beyond sell parchment paper, but I think it comes in a roll like aluminum foil. I just stock up on the stuff when I go visit my son's bakery! Spray it lightly with vegetable spray and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, bring butter, water and salt to a boil. Turn heat to medium.
- Add all the flour at once.
- On low-medium heat, beat continuously with a spatula or wooden spoon until the mixture forms a ball and leaves sides of pan. This takes about 3-4 minutes. Your arms may get tired, but this needs to be done. Don't let it burn.
- Transfer mixture to a high-speed mixer.
- Using the paddle attachment, beat for 2-3 minutes on low speed. The mixture needs to cool down a little before adding the eggs.
- Add eggs one at a time and beat on low-medium speed after each egg. Scrape often.
- Be patient, it could take up to a total of 10 minutes until the dough is ready to pipe. You can tell when it forms together and comes away from the bowl.
- Use a variety of cookie scoops depending on the size you wish. Or, you can spoon the choux pastry into a large pastry bag fitted with a round or star tip, or as my photo shows, we just use the bag without a tip. It does need a large hole though.
- Be careful as the dough is still very warm and you can feel this through the bag.
- Pipe or scoop into whatever shape you need and leave a few inches between them because they will rise, puff up and spread. Sounds like me when I was on Prednisone!
- Bake at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes or until the outside is golden brown, crisp and dry and they sound hollow.
- Let cool before filling. Large cream puffs and eclairs will take longer to bake, so adjust your time accordingly. If your oven has hot-spots, rotate the pans half-way through baking. Resist the temptation to open and close the oven.
- Store unfilled puffs in an air-tight container.
- Unfilled shells freeze great, so make extra and thaw them out when you need them!
Ready, Get Set, Let's Bake! Here we go with a picture story of eclairs and cream puffs! Sorry, that does sound dorky doesn't it?
This is the Vanilla Custard Recipe, or better known as Pastry Cream that you'll find here on Suite101. I whipped it up in the mixer, then transfered it to a pan.
Whisk and whisk and whisk! Do NOT stop whisking until your custard looks like this. Let it cool a little, then place some plastic wrap over the top and chill. This can be done the day before.
These are the main ingredients for the Pâte à Choux minus the water and salt because you already know what those look like! Follow the directions above and boil the butter, water and salt together.
This is what the choux paste will look like after you add the flour all at once and cook it on low-medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Watch it. Don't let it burn!
Your batter will look like this after you add the eggs one-at-a-time and beat for up to 10 minutes. I know, it does take a long time, but at least your arms won't fall off! This is only half of the batter. The other half is in the pastry bag.
These are John's huge hands piping the eclairs and cream puffs. Notice he doesn't have a tip in the bag. See, you can teach a guy how to bake!
And just like Hansel and Gretel, we shoved them into a 400 degree oven and baked them until they screamed! Nah, just kidding. We only baked them till they were done!
Oh My! Look at that! They were put in the oven and came out in no time just like on Martha Stewart's cooking shows!! Not really, it does take about 25-35 minutes depending on the size shells you made. Look again! Aren't they so nice and all golden brown? Gotta love em!
Next, you poke them with a stick - or a dowel - on both ends and pipe the chilled custard into the eclair shells. You only have to poke one hole in the cream puffs.
TA DA! You're done and your Cream Puffs and Eclairs came out just like mine! Oh wait! They are MINE! You'll just have to make your own.
Here's one more picture, just to make you drool. Now, be good little bakers and go home, I have an eclair to eat!