Today I will be showing you how to make a choux pastry. A choux pastry is a pastry with a light and crisp outer shell, and a delicious, soft, creamy, custard-like inside. And it’s airy with large air pockets inside as well, perfect to be filled with a sweet filling. There will/may be a few cracks that will be visible on the outside, but it will still retain the shape it was piped in.
I used to eat a lot of éclairs and cream puffs when I was little, so choux pastry has a special place in my heart. And I find it pretty ingenious that choux pastry doesn’t use a chemical raising agent to rise. Instead, it uses the air and moisture trapped in the dough to rise (water and eggs). One day, I just couldn’t get it right! And I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. So I started testing different ways of making it, until I finally understood what made it work for me. If your choux pastry recipe doesn’t always work, then THIS foolproof choux pastry guide is for you. This article will help you understand WHY and HOW choux pastry works, with plenty of troubleshooting tips.
“Choux” means cabbage and pâté means paste. So, in other words, cabbage paste. Why is it called “cabbage paste” you ask? The name comes from the similarity it has with cabbage. When baked, the pastry puffs up with little crinkles and ruffles– pictured above. Little cabbages! But instead of cabbage paste, let’s simply call it choux pastry.
Choux Pastry Ingredients
1/2 cup (115g; 8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup (120ml) water
1/2 cup (120ml) 2% or whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
4 large eggs, beaten
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk or water
Rubber spatula or wooden spoon
Handheld or stand mixer
Large mixing bowl
2 baking sheets
Make the choux pastry dough: Combine the butter, water, milk, salt, and granulated sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted. Bring mixture to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat to low and add the flour all at once. Stir until the flour is completely incorporated and a thick dough clumps into a ball. Mash the dough ball against the bottom and sides of the pan for 1 minute, which gently cooks the flour. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or, if using a handheld mixer, a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool down for a few minutes before adding the eggs in the next step.
Read this step in full before starting. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the eggs in 3-4 separate additions mixing for 30 seconds between each. The mixture will look curdled at first, but will begin to come together as the mixer runs. Pour in the final addition of beaten eggs very slowly. Stop adding when the choux pastry has reached the desired texture: shiny, thick, and smooth with a pipe able consistency. I usually leave a few teaspoons of beaten egg behind, which can be used with the egg wash.
Your choux pastry dough is complete! You can use it immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Important Rules For a Choux Pastry Recipe
Stick to the ingredients and measurements
Whenever you can, always measure ingredients by weight, not by volume. This is true for any kind of baking. While I don’t have a problem measuring by volume for some recipes, I always prefer to use weight because that gives more consistent results.
The 7 main ingredients are common ingredients that you likely have in the kitchen right now: butter, water, milk, sugar, salt, flour, and eggs. Some recipes use all water instead of milk and water, but I find the combination gives a slightly softer and richer texture to the pastry. Not all choux pastry recipes call for sugar, but at least only 2 teaspoons provide a little flavor. The bulk of the pastry dough is eggs. The eggs provide some leavening, allowing the pastries to puff up and rise when baked. The centers are soft, light, and airy. The exterior is golden and crisp. A beautiful marriage of textures!!
Preparing the Choux Pastry Dough
Choux pastry comes together in about 10-15 minutes. Most of all the ingredients are cooked together on the stove, this cooking stage causes the starch in the flour to gelatinize, which will help the pastry hold onto the steam and puff up.
Once the dough is gently cooked on the stove, transfer to a medium mixing bowl and add around 3-4 beaten eggs. That’s the finicky part– the number of eggs in choux pastry isn’t really consistent between batches. Humidity, the size of egg, or an accidental additional 1/2 teaspoon of flour can create inconsistencies. 4 beaten eggs is an ideal starting point, though. Only add as much as you need to create a shiny, thick, and smooth dough with a pipe able consistency. I usually leave a few teaspoons of beaten egg behind, which can be used with the egg wash.
The yolks in the eggs bring most of the flavor and color to choux pastry:
At this point, our choux pastry dough is complete! Yes, that’s really all you need to do before shaping/baking it. Cook all 6 of the ingredients on the stove, then beat in the eggs.
Personally, I like my profiteroles to be a little softer, and for my éclairs to have a firmer shell. This is because the elongated shape of éclairs hold up well, and are more stable if they are made to have a firmer shell. Profiteroles are more forgiving and foolproof than éclairs, because of their round shape, and as such I like to keep them a little softer. Choux buns (profiteroles, cream puffs), are less likely to collapse compared to éclairs.
Making your Choux Pastry
- For cream puff and profiterole shells: Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly brush the parchment with water, which creates a humid environment for the pastry shells allowing them to puff up without drying out or burning.
- Transfer choux pastry dough to a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1A piping tip. Pipe 2-inch mounds about 3 inches apart. Watch the video in the blog post above for a visual. You can also use a zipped-top bag and cut off the corner for easy piping. Using a water moistened finger, smooth down the peaks and lightly brush each with egg wash.
- Bake for 20 minutes then, keeping the pastries in the oven, reduce oven to 350°F (177°C) and continue to bake for 10-15 more minutes until golden brown. Do not open the oven as the pastries cook, as cool air will prevent them from properly puffing up. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before filling.
- Split open the pastries and fill them with your homemade pastry cream, lemon curd, whipped cream, jam, a combination of these, or your favorite filling. You can also poke a hole in the pastries and pipe the filling inside. For my pictured cream puffs and profiteroles.
- Cover and store leftover filled pastries in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Cover and store unfilled pastries at room temperature for 1 day, in the refrigerator for 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before filling and serving.