desserts/ pastry/ this is how we do it

This Is How We Do It: Pate a Choux

Pate a Choux is a cornerstone of baking and pastry. Cream puffs, eclairs, profiteroles, Croquembouche, Paris Brest, and Gateau St Honore all rely on Pate a Choux for its handy ability to bake into a hollow vessel for various delicious fillings.

Having watched a fair bit of The Great British Baking Show lately, the kids have been asking for some fancier desserts. Drew’s 11th birthday party is this Sunday, and every guest is bringing a ‘Showstopper’ dessert. I’m torn between a Croquembouche and a Gateau St Honore, and both require a good supply of profiteroles (pate a choux piped into rounds, then baked until puffy and hollow). I’ve piped and baked at least 100 of them today, so I’ve a bit of a head start.


The batter is cooked on the stove top, then cooled in a stand mixer before the eggs are added. Adding the eggs to hot batter will result in a curdled mess, so allow plenty of time for the cooling step (about 10 minutes). Once you have piped your shapes, let them sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. This allows the batter to form a skin, which helps the final product rise properly in the oven.

The steam created during baking will cause your profiteroles (or eclairs, or whatever you made) to puff up. Once you’ve achieved good volume on your puffs, continue to bake them until they are almost uniformly golden brown. They need to dry out a bit to retain their crisp exterior, and an under-baked choux will deflate into a soggy pile of sadness once filled.

Small profiteroles freeze beautifully, unfilled. This recipe makes about 120 pieces, so you can keep a stash in the freezer when you need a little something fancy for dessert. Refresh them in a 350°F/176°C oven for 6-8 minutes before cooling and finishing.

Pate a Choux

Print Recipe
Serves: about 120 small profiteroles Cooking Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 7 oz/207ml milk
  • 7 oz/207ml water
  • 7 oz/198g butter, cut into pieces
  • 7 oz/198g bread flour
  • 14 oz/397g eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash

Instructions

1

Combine the milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt in a sauce pan.

2

Bring this to a simmer.

3

While the liquid heats up, set up a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.

4

Scale your flour and eggs in separate containers, and keep them close.

5

When the liquids reach a simmer, reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once.

6

Stir vigorously, forming a paste.

7

Continue to stir until the batter forms a ball, and a film appears on the bottom of the pan.

8

Transfer the batter to your mixer, and mix on medium/high speed for about 10 minutes.

9

Once the batter has cooled a bit, add your eggs one at a time.

10

Scrape after each addition, and only add the next egg when the previous one is totally incorporated.

11

After the last egg, beat the batter on high for about 15 seconds, so it is glossy and homogenous.

12

Place the batter in a piping bag with a round tip.

13

Using a bit of batter, glue the four corners of a sheet of parchment to your baking pan.

14

Pipe the profiteroles about 1 inch apart, and leave them to rest for at least 20 minutes.

15

Preheat the oven to 325°F/162°C.

16

Gently apply the egg wash to the profiteroles using a pastry brush.

17

Bake the profiteroles for about 25 minutes, or until uniformly golden brown.

Notes

Fill your profiteroles with ice cream, whipped cream, pastry cream, or your favorite custard. I like to drizzle a bit of chocolate ganache on top, once the puffs are filled.

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