Pâte à Choux (Eclairs, Etc.)

(Note: Pâte à choux is used to make cream puffs, eclairs and gougères. If making gougères, follow the recipe below only until the dough has been made and then use this recipe for gougères.)

The following recipe makes approximately 30 (3″) buns to be used for cream puffs or eclairs.

Ingredients
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
100 grams of butter
1/2 tsp salt
150 grams of flour
4 eggs

Technique
Heat the oven to 375-400 degrees.

Melt butter over medium heat. Add milk and water, bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and add flour and salt all at once (this is very important). Stir until a paste forms (known as panade). But the mixture back on the heat for a bit until the it appears to crumb/flake a bit when you run a spatula over it.

Move the panade to a stand mixer. On low, turn the panade for a bit to get out the heat (you should be able to comfortably touch the metal mixing bowl). Beginning with two eggs, slowly add the eggs to the panade (the mixer should be on medium-low speed). The panade will separate and look a bit gooey. When it comes back together, add the next egg and repeat process. On the fourth egg, first beat it up some, then slowly add part of the egg. The choux paste is ready when it slumps/slides away from the paddle into a “V” shape or point. Keep adding the fourth egg until the choux paste slides away from the paddle. (Note: depending on the egg size used, it may take all or just part of the fourth egg).

Put the choux paste into a pastry bag fitted with a #5 tip (See “Using Pastry Bags” below). Place dabs of dough on the baking sheet, then place a piece of parchment paper on the dabs. This will hold down the parchment paper when the buns bake.

Pipe the choux buns into small tall rounds or into small, three-inch long finger shapes. Brush each bun with an egg wash, then make light fork marks on each bun. To make the fork marks, gently press down on the bun with the fork’s tines. Here is approximately how the piped buns should look:

Bake the choux buns in a hot oven (375 – 400 degrees) for approximately 15 – 18 minutes (but it could take up to 20 or 22 minutes). Do not open the oven during this time. Look for browning. After a few more minutes check for firming. Once nicely browned and firm, the choux buns are ready to take out of the oven. Here is what baked choux buns look like:

Recipe Notes:
– The egg wash and fork marks process after the bun has been piped is very important. This is part of the reason for my past failures. I either didn’t remember this step or did it in a backwards order. (Egg wash THEN fork marks.)

– Don’t freeze choux paste. But for some reason it is alright to freeze the gougere dough (which is choux paste with cheese, herbs and spices). I didn’t ask why this is, but I should.

– Choux buns should be frozen if they aren’t being used right away. Put the baked choux buns in a box or plastic storage bag. They may be frozen for up to three months. When ready to use, bring back in a 300 degree oven until ice crystals dissolve.

Using Pastry Bags

– Always use a bigger pastry bag than you think you will need. I bought 12″ pastry bags at Sur la Table – way too small.

– To prepare the bag, cut off the tip and insert the pastry tip (#5 tip for choux buns) into the cut end. Twist the bag right above the large end of the tip and stuff the twisted bag into the tip. This keeps the dough from coming out while you fill the bag.

– To fill the bag, roll down the bag about halfway to make a cuff, then fill the bag half full with the choux paste. Twist the bag at the top. This is now a “locked” pastry bag.

– Hold the bag in the palm of your hand and gently press. The bag will expand out from the tip (where it was twisted) while that end fills with dough. Slowly continue to press the dough out into the bun shapes.

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