Pâte à Choux
Pâte à choux [paht-uh-SHOO], in cooking terms, is a thick and sticky French pastry dough that’s baked to make several types of desserts. The dough is typically made from just four ingredients — flour, butter, eggs, and water — and resembles a paste. Looser than other pastry doughs, it can’t be rolled out. Instead, the dough is piped into shapes and baked. Once it’s piped and baked, depending on the shape, it takes on a new name and identity, such as éclairs and cream puffs.
Choux pastry works because of steam. There’s no leavener, like baking powder, to give the dough lift, only eggs and heat. Flour provides the structure for the paste. The moisture from the eggs evaporates in the hot oven creating steam. Like a steam engine, the steam is energy which creates power to push. In this case, the steam is pushing against the pastry walls, creating shells that are hollow — prime real estate for pastry cream, whipped cream, or even ice cream.
OFF HEAT, STIR IN:
Test Kitchen Tip
Pâte à choux translates to “paste of cabbages” in French. When you bake cream puffs (or profiteroles) they look like little heads of cabbages.
Preheat oven to 425°.
Combine water, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil.
Off heat, stir in flour and return pan to medium heat, stirring dough vigorously until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan; cook 1 minute more. Remove pan from heat and let dough cool 10 minutes.
Whisk one egg in a bowl and set it aside. Stir remaining 3 eggs into dough, one at a time, until each is thoroughly incorporated.
Transfer dough to a large pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain pastry tip.
For éclairs, pipe 1×3-inch strips of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
For cream puffs, pipe 2-inch mounds of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Brush tops of piped dough with remaining beaten egg, smoothing out any bumps.
Bake dough 15 minutes; reduce temperature to 350° and bake 10–12 minutes more. Pastry shells should be light, hollow, and dry to the touch. If sides are moist, return shells to oven until dry; transfer to a rack to cool.