Welcome to French Patisserie 101: Part 1 | What is Pate a Choux? | What Can You Make with This Pate a Choux Recipe? | Is Choux Pastry Easy to Make? | Common Problems with Pate a Choux (Cream Puffs) | Can I Refrigerate Pate a Choux Dough? | The Best Fillings for Eclairs, Cream Puffs, and Other Choux Pastries | Essential Baking Tools
This pate a choux recipe produces puffs that are crisp, light, airy, and just slightly sweet. Want them to be savory? Leave out the sugar, and voila! You can use this recipe for so many wonderful desserts. Read more below for the recipe and details.
Welcome to French Patisserie 101: Part 1
Bonjour tout le monde! (Hello everyone!) Are you ready to dive into the world of French pastries and desserts?
French desserts and pastries are two of the main subjects that got me into baking and going to culinary school. I have a deep love and passion for basically all things French, and I take every opportunity possible to take more classes and to continue learning about this amazing culinary art when I go to Paris.
In this series, we will walk through the basics of choux pastry, popular fillings, a few less common but still delicious fillings, the history of these desserts, and how to make various choux pastries. So let’s get started. Allons-y! (Let’s go!)
What is Pâte à Choux?
Pâte à choux, also known as choux paste, is an easy French pastry dough that is light and airy. When choux pastry bakes, it hollows out inside, leaving the perfect cavity for a delicious filling.
In addition, when choux paste is fully baked and dried out, it should not be soft or eggy on the inside.
This pâte à choux recipe consists of water, butter, salt, powdered sugar, flour and eggs. Sometimes I use some milk in place of some of the water for a richer flavor. You have to be careful when using milk though, because milk may encourage too much browning during baking.
What Can You Make with This Pâte à Choux Recipe?
Choux pastry is used for cream puffs, craquelin, croquembouche, Paris-Brest, profiteroles, eclairs, and much more.
For a savory choux recipe, leave the sugar out of the dough, and fill the baked puffs with chicken salad. Easy, right?
Is Choux Pastry Easy to Make?
Yes, but read through the section below so that you can avoid common problems.
Also, you don’t need a mixer unless you want to use one when adding the eggs. Otherwise, you just need a pot and a good spatula for stirring.
Common Problems with Pate a Choux
Pâte à Choux is too Eggy
This is a problem if the recipes calls for too many eggs. The solution is make another batch with one less eggs to see if that fixed the problem.
Also, if the puffs do not bake long enough, then they may taste slightly eggy because the insides haven’t cooked long enough. We want the pastries to be crisp on the outside and dry on the inside.
Solutions: Don’t use too many eggs and bake long enough to dry them out.
The Pâte à Choux is too Runny
To start, there may be too much liquid in the dough or not enough flour. Either problem will result in a dough with a thin consistency.
Another cause of a runny choux is letting the dough cool too long before adding the eggs. One time, I decided to let the dough cool for about 30 minutes before mixing in the eggs in a stand mixer. The result was a considerably runnier dough, and it was not the right consistency. Because the dough was cool, it didn’t absorb the eggs in the same way.
Lastly, choux may be softer when it’s still super warm, which may cause problems when piping. so let it cool for 20-30 minutes before piping it to see if this improves the consistency.
Add the eggs while the dough is still hot so that the eggs blend in properly. It’s best to use a stand mixer so that the eggs don’t scramble, however.
Let the dough cool for 20-30 minutes before piping, and you may find that you didn’t need more flour after all if the problem is the dough temperature.
If the problem is the dough consistency, add flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer runny. After adding more flour, cook the dough over the stove for a couple of minutes to get rid of the flour taste.
***You know that the dough is the right consistency when you pipe it and are able to flick the piping tip away without the dough forming a “string.”
Pâte à Choux is too Dry
There are a few reasons why choux pastry can be too dry.
First, there isn’t enough liquid in the dough. This results in a dry puff that is flatter in flavor and undesirable.
Second, the pate a choux dough baked too long. The solution is to bake them for less time.
Third, the puffs baked at too high of a temperature or baked too long, causing them to dry out too much.
Solution: Use a good recipe with the right balance of ingredients, and bake the pastries at a high enough temperature for a long enough period of time.
Why Aren’t My Choux Pastries Rising?
Choux pastries (i.e. cream puffs, eclairs, etc.) won’t rise if the oven temperature is too low. For the pastries to rise properly, the temperature needs to be really high at first so that the steam builds up inside of the dough and causes them to rise and hollow out.
As a rule of thumb, the temperature should always start out between 400-450 for the first 10-15 minutes. You can then drop the temperature to 325-375 for the remainder of the baking time.
Solution: Bake at a high temperature to start, then lower the temperature so that the pâte à choux doesn’t burn.
Why isn’t My Pâte à Choux Hollow?
Choux pastry isn’t hollow for a couple of reasons.
First, the dough is too wet and runny. The dough needs enough flour to give it structure so that it can properly rise and hollow out. The solution is to use enough flour so that the dough is thick enough.
Second, your cream puffs or choux pastries may not hollow out because the baking temperature is too low to start. As with most pastries, this dough needs high heat to get a high rise!
Solution: Make sure your has a good balance of flour and liquids, and bake at a high enough temperature.
My Cream Puffs are Moist Inside
This really applies to any choux pastry but is a common problem for cream puffs. If your cream puffs are moist inside after baking, this is because they did not bake long enough.
In addition, the puffs need to dry out on the inside after baking. To help the pâte à choux dry out properly, turn the cream puffs upside down and use a toothpick to poke a hole in each one.
Solution: Poke a hole in each puff to allow the steam to escape, and then they can dry out within a couple of hours. If your pastries are still moist inside after doing this, then the solution is to bake them longer next time.
Can I Refrigerate Pâte à Choux Dough?
Yes, know that you will get the best results by using the dough right away. If you need to refrigerate the dough, set the choux pastry out so that it comes back to room temperature before baking. Cold dough doesn’t pipe as easily or rise as well during baking. For the absolute best results, don’t refrigerate the dough.
If you are going to use the dough right, fill your piping bag and let the dough cool for 10 minutes. The dough is slightly easier to work with when it’s not piping hot.
If you try to pipe hot dough, it will be runnier and more difficult to pipe into beautiful mounds or strips.
The Best Fillings for Eclairs, Cream Puffs, and Other Choux Pastries
The type of filling that you choose will largely depend on what you do with the choux dough. If you are making traditional cream puffs, for example, then use stabilized whipped cream.
Here is a list of amazing fillings for eclairs, cream puffs, profiteroles, and other pastries:
- Vanilla pastry cream
- Caramel cream filling
- Chocolate mousse
- Vanilla ice cream or any sort of ice cream
- Pastry cream with fruit purees mixed in, such as strawberry or raspberry.
- Hazelnut pastry cream
- Coconut lime cream
Essential Baking Tools for Choux Pastry
- #12 tip and couplers for piping the choux pastry dough
- Piping bags
- Half sheet pans and parchment (silicone mats don’t work as well for choux dough)
Recipes to Try with Pate a ChouxPrint
Pate a Choux Recipe (Choux Pastry)
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
- Yield: 50 servings 1x
- Category: pastries
- 158 ml (2/3 cup) water
- 79 ml (1/3 cup) whole milk
- 113 g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 4 tsp powdered sugar
- 3 g (1/2 tsp) kosher salt
- 136 g (1 cup) bread flour
- 4–5 large eggs
- Piping bag
- #12 tip or other similar sized tip
To Make Pate a Choux
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large medium sized pot, add water, milk, butter, salt, and powdered sugar. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture comes to a boil.
- As soon as the mixture starts to boil, remove from heat, add flour, and stir quickly. Return pot to heat and cook for 2 more minutes on medium heat to remove flour taste, stirring constantly.
- Remove dough from heat and pour dough into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
- Turn the mixer onto low and mix for 3 minutes to begin cooling down the dough.
- Turn the mixer up to a 3 on a 10 speed mixer, scramble the eggs with a fork, and begin adding them a little at a time. The pate a choux may curdle a little with each addition, but the dough will come back together. You know you’ve added enough egg when you can draw a line in the dough and it slowly sinks back in.
- Pipe the pate a choux onto a **parchment lined sheet pan with a #12 tip. Pipe rounds that are about 1 to 1 1/2 inches in diameter, making sure to leave 1-2 inches of space between them so they have room to expand.
- When piping, do not pipe them high. Rather, pipe so that the dough spread out and build up. You don’t want to end up with Hershey Kiss shaped dough. Instead, it should be more like a smooth mound that is 1/4 inch high, but don’t stress too much about it being 1/4 inch high. You can make them bigger if desired!
- Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, then turn the temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until puffs are deeply golden brown all over. If the tops start to brown too fast, cover them lightly with foil. Do not let the foil touch the puffs though, as this will deflate them.
- When they are done, poke a hole in the bottom of each one with a tooth pick, and allow them to dry out for 2 hours.
- Once the puffs are cool and dried out, fill with desired filling through the opening in the bottom. Or you can also cut the puffs in half and fill with a pretty star tip. Store choux pastries/cream puffs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Cream puffs can also be frozen for up to a month.
**I prefer parchment to silicone because the puffs won’t stick at all to parchment.
Keywords: pate a choux, choux pastry, cream puffs