The definitive guide to making choux pastry comes from failing to get a perfect choux pastry even though we researched recipes thoroughly, or so we thought. Recipe fails are not what we, or you want. Apart from being disappointing, it’s just damned annoying entrusting a recipe to follow, only to fail.
So after many frustrating hours of testing we now feel confident to share with you the most important watch points for what really is a very easy pastry to make, but as always forewarned is forearmed……
Choux (pronounced shoo) pastry is a classic French pastry that is used to make profiteroles, eclairs, croquembouche, St Honore cake, gougers and beignets. It’s light as a feather, with a crisp shell and an airy interior.
In this instance we made profiteroles with the choux pastry that we filled with a stunning Creme Patissiere (vanilla custard) and then dipped them in toffee and sprinkles for a festive look.
making choux pastry
In a nutshell what you do is give the butter a head start to melt before adding the water and salt then bring to the boil. Once boiling remove the pan from the heat and add all of the flour at once and stir like crazy to incorporate and return to the heat.
Over a medium heat spread the dough out as shown above and then reform into a ball, turn the ball over and repeat ( this technique is way easier than beating the stiff dough) until the dough starts to fall apart as you stir and a thin skin forms on the base of the pan.
Now remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool down a little to below 60c (140f) or failing having a thermometer pop the dough into a stand mixer and mix for 1-2 minutes on low or spread out on a tray to allow the temperature to drop otherwise the eggs will cook and we definitely don’t want that!
Next comes the addition of the eggs which you add one at a time and a little perseverance needs to be taken at this stage. Adding the eggs causes the mixture to split (separate) into multiple pieces, keep beating and the mixture will reform.
Keep adding the eggs one by one until you have added egg number three and it’s fully incorporated, stop the mixer, and check for the signs that the dough is ready. At this point you’re looking for.
Refer to the movie or photos below
1/. the formation of ‘spokes’ coming from the side of the bowl into the centre (like spokes on a bike wheel)
2/. the dough should hang in a V (beard) shape from the beater
3/. the dough should be smooth and shiny
4/. run a test to see if a finger drawn through the dough creating a channel closes within 10 – 12 seconds.
most likely the dough will need a little more egg, so lightly beat the fourth egg and add a tablespoon at a time beating to incorporate and then checking for the watchpoints
after each addition.
The amount of egg needed relies on how well you dried the dough over the heat and also the absorbency of the flour. You really need to look for the watchpoints and add more egg if required as each and every cook will have a different volume of egg.
The reason you may not need all 4 eggs
Differences in flour quality, the absorption rate of the flour and humidity are all factors that can’t be determined ahead when making the choux pastry which is why you add the fourth egg little by little.
Bring to a boil and add the flour
Choux pastry leavens by steam and the water evaporates into steam expanding the egg protein hence causing the choux profiteroles to rise.
If you add the water too soon before the butter has fully melted and the water comes to a boil you will lose water as it evaporates meaning there is less steam to make the choux rise.
Bread flour versus plain (all-purpose flour)
Bread flour has a higher protein (gluten) content than plain (all-purpose) flour. The bread flour produces choux pastry with a thicker shell than choux pastry made with plain (all-purpose) flour.
We prefer to use bread flour as it results in a sturdy shell that holds its shape well. You can successfully use plain (all-purpose) flour though the choux may have a slightly different structure.
Piping choux pastry
It pays to make a template when piping your choux so each profiterole is the same size. We made our template 4cm (1 1/2 inches) square for the profiterole with a 2 1/2cm (1 inch) gap in between each profiterole to allow for spreading.
Place your template onto your baking tray and place another piece of baking (parchment) paper over the template to protect the template for the next batch, if piping directly onto the template be sure to pipe on the opposite side so the ink doesn’t bleed into the pastry.
Scrape your choux into your piping bag trying not to leave any air gaps or massage the dough in the bag to work the air pockets out (you can spoon the mixture onto the template if you don’t have a piping bag).
Dab a small amount of pastry into each corner of the baking paper to stop the paper moving whilst piping.
Hold your piping bag at 90 degrees (straight up and down) 1 1/4cm (1/2 an inch) above the centre of the template square. Pipe maintaining a constant height until the dough reaches the border of the square then release the pressure on the piping bag and swirl the nozzle to make a ‘C’ and the dough will break off from the bag. Squeeze, release swirl!
Dip a finger into water and gently smooth out any pointy peaks on the profiteroles as they are so fine and are likely to burn.
Baking choux pastry
The profiteroles are baked in a moderately hot oven at 190c (375f).
As steam is what makes the pastry rise the absolute number one rule is do not open the oven whilst they’re cooking or your steam will escape and result in flat profiteroles and we definitely don’t want that.
In fact it pays to pipe one or two and do a test cook as all ovens differ and if the oven is opened before they are a golden brown all over and crisp they will collapse.
Remove cooked profiteroles from the oven and pop onto a cake rack to cool.
Baking times will depend on the size and shape of your choux pastry. Bake until puffed, golden-brown in color, and dry to the touch. The choux will feel hollow and light when you pick them up.
Freezing choux pastry
- Raw choux pastry can be frozen then thawed in the refrigerator before piping and baking.
- Pipe the choux into the desired shape, freeze then transfer to a ziplock bag for up to 3 months. No need to thaw before baking, just pop them onto a baking paper lined tray and bake from frozen.
- You can also freeze them after baking them, thaw and briefly pop them into a preheated oven to crisp them up.
- pastry is a science and to get the best results use a scale and thermometer
- let your butter start to melt before adding the water and as soon as the water boils remove the pan from the heat and beat in the flour all at once
- cook over a medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes by spreading the dough out across the bottom of the pan, then push it back into a ball turn it over and start again (see video)
- look for the skin to form on the bottom of the pan and the dough begins to tear as you mix it
- allow dough to cool a little by putting the dough in the mixer bowl with a paddle attachment and stir on a low speed for a minute or two till the dough is below 60c (140f) otherwise the eggs will cook
- add eggs one at a time making sure that each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next
- after the third egg is added and fully incorporated run your finger through the dough to see how quickly the created channel reforms (about 10 -12 seconds)
- if your dough is slow to reform lightly beat the fourth egg and add a tablespoon of beaten egg at a time till the dough reforms quickly after running your finger through it
- look for the ‘spokes’
- lift your paddle and check that the dough falls off the paddle leaving a ‘beard like V shape’ amount of dough on the paddle
- draw up a template so your profiteroles are the same size
- pipe, stop then swirl then dip your finger in water to smooth the top
- don’t open the oven whilst they’re cooking or you’ll allow all of the steam and the choux will collapse
Watch The Definitive Guide to Making Choux Pastry
Check out some more pastry recipes
We would love to hear from you in the comments below when you follow the definitive guide to choux pastry.
Choux pastry is easy to make but definately has some watch points so please check out our info above.
- 200ml cold water
- 80g butter
- 3g salt
- 200g of eggs without shells (approximately 4 large eggs)
- 160g strong flour - bread flour ( high protein ) all purpose flour
- preheat oven to 190c bake not fan forced (375f)
- in a medium saucepan give the butter a head start on melting (doesn’t need to be completely melted)
- add the salt to the water and pour over the butter then bring to the boil. watchpoint - When melting your butter the thing you don’t want to do is to let the liquid come to the boil before all of the butter has melted because we don’t want to lose any liquid through evaporation otherwise it changes your ratio when mixing with your dry ingredients
- when the water comes to the boil remove from heat and add all of the flour at once stirring to combine (this takes a bit of arm strength) and then return to the stove over a medium heat stirring constantly. This is to remove the excess moisture from the dough (about 3- 4minutes) Watchpoint - continue stirring over the heat until the dough starts to fall apart as you stir it and the skin forms on the bottom of the pan
After you add the flour to the water and fat mixture you continue to cook and what you want to achieve is for the starches, which flour is mostly made of to absorb the moisture and hold it, so that later on it will be released and help with the rising of your choux pastry
Look for the skin to form on the bottom of the pan and the dough to begin to tear
- don’t add the egg immediately because they will begin to cook. Add the dough to the bowl of an electric mixer and using the paddle on low speed stir for a minute or two to release some of the heat ideally looking for below 60c (140f) to prevent the eggs from cooking. If mixing by hand spread on a tray for 3-4 minutes until the mixture feels very warm but not burning.
- add the eggs one at a time beating until they are completely mixed in before adding the next egg, stopping after mixing in the 3rd egg
- watchpoint sometimes you need to add some more egg and sometimes you need to hold back so when you have beaten in the 3rd egg check the consistency of the dough
- place template on a baking sheet and dab a little bit of the dough in each corner to hold the paper down then repeat with top sheet of baking paper
- To pipe the profiteroles have your nozzle about 1 cm (half an inch) off of the paper then gently squeeze until your dough touches the lines of the template square, with the piping tip in still in contact with the dough release the pressure and twist the bag in a C shape to break the connection to the bag (squeeze, release, twist)
- set a timer and bake for 30 minutes, without opening the oven look through the glass to see if the choux is an even golden colour all over, bake for a further 3-4 minutes to dry them out and the colour is a golden brown
- Steam will soften the pastry, so once the choux is cooked turn the oven off and leave the door just slightly ajar to allow the choux to fully dry. Thirty minutes will be long enough to ensure your pastry stays crisp.
a. look for spokes like on a wheel coming from the side of the bowl as it mixes
b. your mixture falls back on itself when you run a finger through it within 10-12 seconds
c. the dough should be shiny and when you lift the paddle the dough should form a V or what looks like a pointy beard of dough hanging from the paddle - refer to the above photos and movie
d. Most likely you will need to add some or all of the 4th egg. Lightly beat the 4th egg and add approximately a tablespoon at a time beating well after each addition and checking for the above watch points each time
The amount of eggs can vary due to how well you dried the dough over the heat and also flour absorbency and the humidity in the air you really need to check your watchpoints, it’s not exact as conditions vary
- the baking times may vary depending on the oven and the size of the piped choux
- if you are not sure of your oven, do a test batch of 2-3 first
Amount Per Serving Calories 134Total Fat 7gSaturated Fat 4gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 3gCholesterol 76mgSodium 164mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 0gSugar 0gProtein 4g
Nutritional information provided here is only intended as a guide.