Pate a choux is one of the staple recipes in classic French pastries. In the United States, people most closely associate this dough with cream puffs and eclairs but it makes many other beautiful desserts as well. The word choux means cabbage in French and small cream puffs do look like little cabbages when you use a bit of imagination! The recipe for the basic dough is included here. Find links to finishing techniques and alternatives below. Enjoy!
by weight by volume
4 eggs 272 grams eggs
1 cup water 184 grams water
7 tablespoons melted butter 100 grams melted butter
2 teaspoons sugar 8 grams sugar
3/4 teaspoons salt 3 grams salt
1 cup and 2 tablespoons flour 150 grams all purpose flour
Bring the butter, water sugar and salt to a rolling boil.
Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir until all the flour incorporates and return to the heat. The dough will be quite thick.
Cook, stirring constantly until the dough leaves a film on the pan but pulls away from the sides and forms a ball. (Don’t do this in a nonstick pan. There will never be a film on the pan!)
Remove from the heat. Add the eggs one at a time and stir completely after each addition. The eggs will cause the mixture to break up into pieces. It may seem like it will not come back together, but keep mixing – it will happen. After the addition of each egg the mixture will break and then come back together.
After all the eggs have been added the pate a choux will be a thick paste and will almost hold it’s shape. The pate a choux should be used right away. If you need to keep it for a bit (meaning an hour, not overnight), put it in the piping bag you intend to use to pipe it and close the end of the bag. This will protect it from the air and keep it from drying out.
In the beginning, the dough bakes at a high temperature (425F) for approximately 10 minutes. This ensures that the outside of the shell is crisp and also creates a large cavity inside for lots of filling.
Reduce the temperature (350F) to finish the baking process. If the pate a choux is not sufficiently dried out inside it will collapse when removed from the oven. The time necessary to prevent this depends on the size of the pastries. Individual pastries like the ones shown below need approximately 15 minutes at 350F and larger cream puffs may need as much as 35 minutes. It is important to note that anywhere the dough “cracks” should be golden brown as well.
A nice way to enhance your cream puffs or eclairs is with craquelin. This gives the top a crunchy texture and a pebbled look.