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Cream Puff/Profiteroles, Eclair. Does it sounds familiar to you? If you said yes, then I guess I started you off right before we dive into pâte à choux. I didn’t even know that this is what the dough is called, until I heard Cream Puff, Profiteroles, Eclair, that I know. The main shell for the pastry is called pâte à choux. Since learning how to make choux paste is what I consider part of baking basic, I decided to create a separate post just to discuss choux paste.
What is Pâte à choux?
Pâte à choux (pronounced pat-a-shoe) or choux paste to be simple. For the rest of the discussion, I will used choux paste just to make it simpler and not intimidating. Choux paste is simply cooked flour and butter (which is called roux) mixed with eggs. It is thicker than a regular cake batter, but not as stiff as regular dough or not as thin as pancake batter. It sounds fancy and difficult, but this is one of the basic and easy pastry that will let you do a lot of things. Once you know how to make it, there’s a whole world of pastries and desserts that will open to you. Not to mention, you will probably get addicted to it too.
What are the Ingredients in Making Pâte à choux?
The ingredients for making choux paste are very basic. They all play important part in the process, but there is always the star of the show, which affects the hallow center and crispy stable shell. This main ingredient is the egg. In my Baking Basic: Let’s talk about Eggs, we learned that egg white contains protein and water. This contributes to making the shell rise and puff up. When the choux paste is put in the oven, the heat will make the liquid turn into steam. When steam comes out, the choux paste will start to rise and it will leaven the choux paste even without leavener like baking soda or baking powder. Also, the protein in the egg when heated starts to stretch and puff, thus creating the hollow trademark of the shell. This is why baking time is very crucial, if not bake at right temperature, the choux paste will not puff, the center will not be hollow and the outer shell will not be stable and crunchy.
Where Do I Use Pâte à choux?
Again, just to mention the basic and common used, this is used when making Profiteroles, Eclair and Cheese Gougeres (savory version of cream puff) or the equivalent of Brazilian Cheese Bread. There are others, but I prefer to stick to the familiar one to make it easier to imagine.
Only Add as Much Egg as the Dough will Hold
The recipe will surely specify how many eggs to use. That’s true, but there are instances that you might want to make a smaller batch or some other time, you want to make bigger batch. It is important to know how to adjust the recipe, it is not always the case of just doubling the ingredients.
Since egg is a key ingredient, it is important to only add as much egg as the dough will hold. If you add too many eggs, the dough will be too wet, you’ll have trouble piping it, and the dough will have trouble puffing and drying out in the oven. Some days, you’ll need 1 whole egg. Other days, there will be little left. It all depends on the humidity in your house and the kind of flour you’re using that day. Old flour would require more eggs as compared to using new flour, but then do you actually monitor how many days or months your flour is? Don’t worry, once you get the hang of making this, you will know immediately if you reach the correct consistency. In the Profiteroles recipe, I only used 1 egg since it is a small batch. If you decide to make it into bigger batch, do not just double the egg. Add the egg gradually and check the consistency as you do it. You are aiming for not too thick and not too thin consistency, it should fall freely from the spoon when turned up side down.
How Can I Tell If The Choux Pastry is Ready?
This is often a struggle as a lot of factors can affect the consistency and texture of the choux paste, just like when making French Macarons. Sometimes, no matter how you follow exactly the ingredients, measurement and steps, it just doesn’t come out the way you expect it to be. Finished choux paste should be soft, smooth and be able to be piped or spooned. Not too stiff and not to runny to the point that it starts to drip out of the tip even without squeezing the piping bag.
Making a Choux Pastry is a 3 Part Baking Process – So Be Patient
Baking pâte à choux is a three-part process:
First, start with a high temperature, high heat (400°F). At the first 10 minutes of baking in this temprature, the pastry will start to puff and develop the structure needed to have a hollow center.
Second, Once the pastry puff, the oven temperature is lowered to 350°F and baking continues for 20 more minutes. At this stage, the pastry starts the browning of the shell and further makes the shell stable
Third, The third stage is to turn off the oven and and leave the pastry in the oven for 30 minutes. This stage helps the pastry to dry out and have a crispy shell.
It not as easy as 1,2,3. But practice makes perfect. Imagine the sense of accomplishment you will feel once you successfully make a choux paste. Even more greater reward is seeing the smile on your friends face as they eat and admire your beautiful and sinfully delicious creation.
Challenge of the Day
I have prepared 2 recipes where you can put into action what you have learned from this discussion. Both Cream Puff and Eclair have the same process. Try to make any of these two, or even better both.
Enjoy! If you make this, share and tag me in Instagram #SweetNSpicyLiving. I would like to see your creations too.
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