Basic Choux Pastry
Prep 20-30minMakes 30 profiteroles or 12 average-sized éclairs serves
Completely unique in the pastry world, choux pastry goes against every rule in the book – eggs are more important than butter, the mixture is heated, and beating, as opposed to 'rubbing', is the method of mixing.
- 150g (1 cup) plain flour
- 185ml (¾ cup) water
- ½ teaspoons salt
- 75g salted butter, diced
- 4 eggs (59g each)
- Sift the flour onto a sheet of baking paper.
- Combine the water, salt and butter in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat until just boiling. Remove immediately from the heat, add all the flour at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon to combine.
- Return the saucepan to the heat and beat vigorously over a low heat for 30 seconds or until the mixture is smooth and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and a flour film forms on the bottom of the pan (image 1). Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside for 3-5 minutes or until cooled slightly.
- Use a fork to whisk together the 3 eggs. Add about one-quarter of the whisked eggs to the flour mixture at a time (image 2), beating well with the wooden spoon after each addition until well combined and the mixture thickens and becomes smooth before adding more (image 3 and 4). Use a fork to lightly whisk the extra egg and gradually add to the flour mixture a teaspoon at a time (image 5) and beating well after each addition until the mixture is thick, shiny and falls heavily from the spoon (image 6). You may not need to use all of the last egg.
- Pipe (as below) and bake immediately, or cover well and keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours before baking as directed. Bring to room temperature before using.
Making choux pastry
There are three main things to keep in mind when making choux pastry to ensure success:
- Measure your ingredients accurately, as the key to good choux pastry is a balance between the major ingredients of flour, water and eggs. If there is an imbalance between these, there is a great chance your choux won’t puff, become crisp or turn a golden brown colour.
- Add the egg gradually. The amount of egg needed will vary and is determined by how much can be absorbed by the flour (which can vary slightly from batch to batch). If too much egg is added or if it is added too quickly, the consistency of the choux pastry will be affected, and in turn its ability to rise. Similarly, if not enough egg is incorporated, the choux pastry won’t puff and it will be dense inside. This is because it is the moisture in the egg that is converted to steam in the heat of the oven and that, in turn, creates the air pocket inside. So the more egg, the more the mixture will puff.
- Oven temperature is important. If the oven temperature is too low or if the oven door is opened for too long and valuable heat is lost during baking, your choux pastry won’t rise as well. The same applies if you don’t bake it for long enough.
Piping choux pastry
- Choux pastry can either be spooned or piped onto a baking paper-lined oven tray for baking, depending on the desired result.
- Sprinkle the lined baking tray with a little water before piping or shaping your choux pastry – this creates extra steam in your oven and will help the choux pastry rise and puff.
- Spoon the choux pastry into a large pastry bag filled with a large piping nozzle. Twist the end of the pastry bag to contain the mixture and push it towards the nozzle end and expel any air pockets. Place the twisted end between your index finger and thumb of your writing hand and place the bag in the palm of your hand. Use your other hand to hold the nozzle end and guide it as you pipe.
- Firmly hold the bag about 1 cm above the lined tray and at a slight angle. Press gently with the hand holding the bag, pushing the pastry through the nozzle and moving the bag to create the desired shape. (For profiteroles and small rounds, hold the bag and nozzle directly over the tray, perpendicular to the tray and pipe the desired size.)
- When you reach the desired length, pipe the mixture back onto the shape when finished to avoid a peaked end. Use a damp fingertip to press and neaten any peaks.
- To help create uniformed lengths for éclairs, you can mark lines on the underside of the baking paper with a pencil. For evenly-sized choux puffs, you can mark the lined tray with a flour-dipped cutter of the desired size.
- Bake the choux pastry as directed in the recipe.
Cooling choux pastry
- Perfect choux pastry is puffy and crisp, hollow inside and is a deep golden colour. To help the éclairs and puffs dry out inside you can either split them in half or piece a hole in the base or side before they cool to allow any excess steam to escape.
To make choux pastry with an electric mixer
- Follow the recipe until the point of removing the flour mixture from the heat. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat in the 3 eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined and smooth after each addition. Use a fork to lightly whisk the last egg and gradually add to the flour mixture, a teaspoon at a time, beating well after each addition until the mixture is thick, glossy and falls heavily from the spoon. You may not need to use all of the last egg.
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Photography by Alan Benson.