Choux pastry is unfairly considered to be quite a difficult pastry to make, and this could not be further from the truth. Unlike many other pastries it doesn’t require a light touch or careful rolling! If you can stir a spoon, you can make choux pastry!
Choux is the French word for cabbage which is an apt description of these little irregular cabbage like balls of delight. It is different to other pastries as it is cooked twice; once to make the choux paste itself and again to transform the paste into a puffed up hollow pastry!
Choux pastry is a light crisp, airy pastry that can be used to make profiteroles drowned in chocolate sauce, cream filled éclairs, praline packed Paris-Brest, or cheesy gougères.
You can consider choux pastry a little like a puff pastry. It rises up when baked in the oven giving it it’s super light and airy texture. This lightness is caused by the choux’s high water content, which allows the surface of the pastry to set while the interior is still nearly liquid. This liquid turns to steam during baking, creating small air pockets which combine together, expanding into one large bubble, forcing the pastry shell outwards, giving it it’s volume.
Once you’ve mastered this pastry you’ll be making perfect profiteroles, amazing éclairs or even a crowd pleasing croquembouche. But it doesn’t end there, you can boil little droplets of this pastry for some Parisienne gnocchi, or deep fry for some light, crispy beignets. The world is your choux ball.
— Al Brady
150g strong flour
225g eggs, beaten
Measure all the ingredients for the pastry before you begin. Sift the flour onto a sheet of greaseproof paper and put to one side (this will make adding the flour, all at once, quick and easy). If you don't have greaseproof paper available, you can sift the flour into a bowl instead.
Place the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt into a pan and bring to a boil over a medium heat. Once the liquid is boiling; shoot the flour into the pan all at once. Remove from the heat quickly and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, until the mixture forms into a rough dough.
Return the pan to a medium heat and cook, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, or until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and is just starting to steam. Remove from the heat and beat for one minute to cool the dough slightly before adding the eggs.
Keeping the pan off the heat, add a little of the beaten egg and beat it into the dough with a wooden spoon. Once the egg is fully incorporated, add a little more egg and beat again, gradually adding the remaining egg and beating until smooth after each addition. The finished choux pastry should be smooth, thick, and glossy
The pastry can be used straight away, or covered and stored in the fridge overnight or, if preferred, frozen. If baking, pipe the pastry onto a greased or parchment lined baking sheet, to stop the pastry from sticking. Using a wet finger lightly press down any peaks and points on the choux.
Bake the choux pastry at 220ºC, for 15 - 20 minutes, or until well risen, golden brown and set. Reduce the oven to 180ºC and cook for the remaining cooking time depending on the recipe. Once the pastry is cooked, prick the bases to release the steam and return to the oven for 5 minutes to dry out. Transfer the pastry to a wirerack and leave to cool. Use as required.
WATCH THE VIDEO
We can’t stress enough the benefits of being prepared when it comes to making this pastry, or any pastry for that matter. Weigh out all the ingredients, have the flour sifted, and eggs beaten and equipment ready before you start. You want to make this pastry all the way through without having to stop halfway through to go and measure your eggs, only to come back to find you have burnt the flour and liquid mix and have to start again!
USE STRONG FLOUR
The high gluten content of the strong flour provides more structure and stability to the pastry, allowing it to rise up further and still support it's shape. It also give a crispier end result than plain flour, allowing us to have our pastry filled for longer without going soft and soggy. Adding all the flour at once, helps prevent lumps and ensures even gluten development in the pastry. Giving our pastry an even distribution of strength and structure allows it to rise evenly and to it’s full potential.
We have been using this recipe for as long as we can remember and we know when it comes to adding the eggs to choux pastry it can be a fine line between a nice thick choux pastry and a loose runny batter! Too much beaten egg causes the pastry to be too loose, creating flat little choux that won’t rise very much. Too little causes a dense, hard to pipe dough that hasn’t got enough water content to create the steam that gives choux its light airy texture. Eggs come in all sizes, so we have included the exact weight of eggs we use in this recipe but there are many factors that can affect how much egg you can add to your choux paste. If the dough mixture is not cooked out enough it can mean there is extra moisture in the dough causing it to be too loose when the egg is added. If you're just starting out, we recommend adding about 3/4 of the eggs and then checking the consistency. Adding and beating in the remaining eggs gradually, in order to keep the thick, glossy consistency we want in our choux pastry.
SHUT THAT DOOR!
A pre-heated hot oven is essential to get the choux to rise and set and if you take it out of the oven before it’s cooked through it will collapse. We are all desperate to see if our choux is rising, but you’ve got to be patient, we’ve seen many a promising choux collapse because it has been taken out of the oven too early.
LET OFF SOME STEAM
Once the pastry is cooked and all puffed up, we need to allow any remaining steam and moisture to escape the choux ball. Pricking the base of each choux and returning to the oven will release the steam and dry out the pastry, giving you the perfect crisp hollow vessel for all those rich creamy fillings you have been dreaming about! If left to cool without pricking the base, the steam inside the choux will soften the crisp outer surface, resulting in a sagging, soft soggy pastry. No one wants that.