Pate a choux (pronounced pot-ah-shoo), or choux paste as it’s sometimes called, is one of the big foundation recipes of the craft, and once you get it into your bag of tricks there’s lots you can do with it. Things like chouquettes (cream puffs), profiteroles (cream puffs filled with ice cream), croque en bouche (a tower of cream puffs), gougeres (savory cream puffs) and other French words for cream puffs. But for reals, gougeres are like baked crack with cheese.
If your choux splits open during baking, it’s almost always because the oven is too hot or you have too much liquid in your dough. Excess heat means rapid expansion (in the form of steam) before proteins and starch in the dough have set or “gelled” enough to contain the pressure. Too much liquid means too much steam, so that no matter how sturdy the dough is, a rupture is inevitable to relieve the pressure. If you do get split choux, try changing your oven temperature first, and if that doesn’t work then look at the recipe or method.
I use bread flour in my recipe because it develops stronger gluten, which will create strong walls for containing steam, giving the choux better rise.
It’s common to add a bit more liquid to your dough at the very end of making it. I know, I know, I just got done saying that too much water can jack your recipe up, and that’s still true! But like a lot of pastry, it’s a delicate balance. Cook the dough a bit too long on the stove for instance, and you may take too much water out and need to add a little later in the game to get back to even. If it turns out that’s the case, just use a little warm milk until the consistency is right.
If you’re baking your choux in a deck oven, then you’ll want to open the vent about halfway through baking to release excess steam in the oven chamber. If you’re baking at home, your oven will likely be leaky enough that steam will naturally escape. Some people crack the door of their oven to simulate opening a vent, but I’ve found this to be largely unnecessary and alters the oven temperature too much.
Again, if baking in a deck oven, a quick injection of steam will help to give an initial rise to the choux and help to keep it from cracking. At home, I place a single ice cube in a metal bowl on the bottom rack of the oven when I put my choux in to bake.
pate a choux
150g whole milk
140g butter unsalted
200g bread flour
300g whole eggs
Sift your flour before getting started. Combine the water, whole milk, salt, sugar and butter together in a sauce pot.
Bring the mix up to a boil (but not before all the butter is melted!) and turn off the heat.
Add the flour all at once. I use a whisk to begin to incorporate the flour, whisking from the center out until the mixture thickens. Then, switch to a spatula to finish incorporating all of the flour.
Turn the heat back on high and stir the dough until a thin film of cooked flour forms on the bottom of the pot, about 2min. Mixing the full length of time will help to dry the dough out as well as allow starch to gelatinize and protein to denature.
Transfer the dough to a stand mixer and mix with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time, allowing them to fully incorporate into the dough and scraping the bowl before adding more.
The dough is ready when it is smooth and shiny with slight elasticity.
Pipe your choux batter onto a sheetpan lined with parchment paper or a non-stick mat, giving the choux space from one another to allow proper airflow in the oven during baking.
Brush the piped dough with egg wash before baking.
Bake: deck oven; 190C/375F; 15min vent closed, 15-20min vent open. If baking in a convection oven at home, bake at 375-380F; 15min, rotate the pan, 15-20min.
Voila! Beautiful little puffs to fill with whatever you damn well please. Stay tuned for lots or recipes on all the stuff I put in choux puffs!