Everyone, at least once, saw beautifully baked choux buns, eclairs, or profiteroles at the fancy bakery shop. And I’m sure that most of you thought that it’s hard to make them. Guess what? Classic choux pastry the most uncomplicated and effortless pastry I ever made.
Today, I will explain how to make this awesome foolproof pastry, and later on, we’re going to make Eclairs. Yep. You heard it right! Eclairs are light as a cloud dessert. They are delicious, crispy, and creamy. It’s never boring to eat them.
What is a choux pastry?
It’s a double-cooked pastry dough. Why double? The first time to incorporate butter & water with flour and make the dough. And the second time to bake it in the oven to transform the paste into hollow puffs.
How does the classic choux pastry work?
It doesn’t have a raising agent, but the high moisture content helps create steam during cooking and puff the pastry. ‘On Food & Cooking’: ‘The surface sets while the interior is still nearly liquid, so the trapped air coalesces and expands into one large bubble.’
What is the purpose of the ingredients?
To make a choux pastry, we need 5 ingredients:
- Liquid (water/milk/both)
- Salt (+sugar if making sweets)
I can’t say that without these ingredients, there will be no dough. It will, only different, not a choux for sure.
The key to making this dough is the technique and what role the ingredients play.
It all starts with cooking the flour with liquid and fat. We don’t want to develop gluten. Therefore, cooking the flour tenderize the proteins and prevents them from developing elasticity. Starch swells and gelates; consequently, we have a dough that normally would be a batter.
Eggs have a different purpose. Egg yolks create richness, and egg whites build structure, unite the dough.
Also, if you wonder why this pastry is hollow, eggs thin the dough into almost batter so the interiors’ air pockets can move, expand, and even coalesce during cooking.
Fat and eggs play an important role. They help to keep the structure that resists moisture and stays crisp while holding the cream filling. You can basically add anything, and you won’t ruin the texture.
Classic choux pastry proportions
I know that sometimes, because of infinite numbers of recipes, it’s hard to choose the one that will really work.
So here I wanna share with you not the ingredients’ quantities but the proportion. It always works. I assure you.
Liquid : Flour : Butter
2 : 2 : 1
Always a sprinkle of salt (and sugar if you make sweet ones).
Eggs depend on the quantity you make.
Later on, when you know what the consistency should be, you will be able to decide by looking at it whether the paste needs more eggs or not.
When you learn the technique, this proportion is all you need to make a choux paste. The only thing you will search for is different ways to fill the hollow puffs.
How to make classic choux pastry for Eclairs and other desserts?
It’s very easy to make this pastry. No kidding. This recipe is foolproof.
But, still, I want you to be aware of what you’re doing. It’s always easier to create something when you already know what to expect.
Therefore, here’s how we’ll make classic choux pastry (and don’t forget to get the full printable Eclair recipe with measurements on the page down below):
1. Preheat the oven at 180°C.
2. In a pot, pour water, milk, add butter, salt, sugar, and bring it to a boil. Make sure the butter has melted.
3. Turn the heat off and add the flour. Mix everything well, break any lumps you see, and turn the heat on. Mix until the dough clears the sides of the pot.
It won’t be sticky; it will be smooth and shiny because of the butter.
4. Place the mixture in another bowl to cool down.
If the dough’s temperature is too high, you will make scrambled eggs WITH the dough while incorporating them together. Test the temperature with your finger or thermometer. Touch the dough, and if it’s warm (not hot), you can add the eggs. The dough temperature should be about 60°C, not higher!
5. Add the eggs. Do it one at a time; otherwise, you will find a lot of clumps. Don’t be scared of mixing eggs with the dough. At first, it will look gross, but it will come together eventually.
How many eggs do you need? It depends on the consistency after each egg. The paste should be not too thick and not too liquidy. After all, it’s a cross between a batter and a dough.
If you take a little dough with a spoon, the mixture should slowly fall from the spoon.
Beat the eggs first in another bowl and add half of an egg at a time if you’re afraid of adding too much.
6. Place the dough in a piping bag, and cut the end to make the wanted shapes. Remember, the pastry will double in size.
7. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Everything depends on your pastry size, but you should search for puffed and golden brown pastry.
And that’s it! As I said, it is very simple. You just have to follow a few rules.
Theories and truth on how to bake choux pastry without shrinking
Shrinking is one of the reasons why people think it’s hard to make this pastry. Many articles discuss and explain how to prevent it, but I think it’s time to reveal what’s actually happening.
So, I found two main causes:
1. Temperature change.
In the oven, it’s about 185°C, and room temperature is about 22°C. As you can see, those little choux buns have to adapt to drastically low temperatures.
Also, it is harmful if windows are open or the range hood is on, and it’s not summer. It’s like opening all the windows and standing in the middle of the house thinking that you won’t get cold. You will, as well as your pastry.
2. Milk & water issue.
Different liquids create different textures and flavors of pastry, cakes, pies, etc.
If you use water, you can be sure that you’ll have a thicker crust that is not harmed so easily, but it will be less tasty. On the other hand, milk creates a more flavorful choux paste but weaker pastry than water because of the fat globules.
There is a solution that everybody offers on the Internet. They suggest leaving the oven door a little open after baking with the pastry in it for about 10 minutes.
I’m sorry to say that, but it doesn’t work.
When the dough contains water, it doesn’t matter whether you leave the oven door open or not. Unless you close all the windows, turn the range hood off, and tell your family not to breathe, choux pastry gonna be fine.
If the dough is made with milk, nothing’s gonna help. The pastry is simply too fragile. It can’t hold itself.
My solution to prevent shrinking and still create delicious eclairs or profiteroles is to combine milk with water and close all the windows and everything harming the pastry.
Make sure you combine 2/3 water with 1/3 milk. Don’t go 50/50 cause it would be too risky. On the page below is the classic choux pastry recipe. The only thing I change is whether I add sugar or not. This recipe never fails. No shrinking and no bland taste.
One more thing* Do not open the oven door while baking.
What are Eclairs?
It’s delicious, sweet, and light like a cloud dessert made from choux pastry and rich cream. There are lots of combinations and a huge filling variety. Still, today I will share with you a classic, simple, and luxury Eclair recipe.
I always recommend combining water and milk for the choux paste. It creates a fuller taste and still keeps its form after baking. And, of course, nothing can be better than light, lemony, cream cheese filling!
- Choux pastry
75g unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 whole eggs
- Eclair filling
200g cream cheese
100g icing sugar
250g whipping cream
1tsp vanilla extract
a little bit of lemon juice
a sprinkle of salt
- Make the choux pastry
- Preheat the oven at 180°C.
- In a pot, pour water, milk, add butter, salt, sugar, and bring it to a boil. Make sure the butter has melted.
- Turn the heat off and add the flour. Mix everything well, break any lumps you see, and turn the heat on. Mix until the dough clears the sides of the pot.
- Place the mixture in another bowl to cool down.
- Add the eggs. Do it one at a time; otherwise, you will find a lot of clumps. Don’t be scared of mixing eggs with the dough. At first, it will look gross, but it will come together eventually.
- Place the dough in a piping bag, and cut the end so the stripes you make would be about 1cm thick. In a baking tray (with baking paper), make the choux stripes about 7-8cm long. Remember, the pastry will double in size.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until it puffs and becomes golden-brown.
- Ensure all windows are closed, take baked choux pastry out, and let it completely cool down.
- Make the filling
- Mix room temperature cream cheese with powdered sugar & vanilla extract and salt.
- Whip the cream.
- Gently fold whipped cream into a cream cheese mixture (do not put all whipped cream at once) and pour a little lemon juice.
- Fill Eclairs with this delicious cream using piping bags & nozzles.