Pate a Choux: The Most Versatile Dough in Pastry

There are a couple of superheroes in the pastry lineup; pastry cream, pie crust, meringue…but none are as versatile and easy to master as Pate a Choux, or cream puff dough. A pate, in French, is a dough or a base, and a choux is a cabbage. Naturally, since cabbage is relatively cute and round, little cherubic cream puffs should be so aptly named. Before we go on, here are a few reasons to master the dough:

  1. You can make these with ingredients we guarantee you’ve already got in your kitchen.
  2. You don’t need any special equipment; cream puffs and gougeres can be scooped with an ice cream scoop if you don’t have a pastry bag and churros need only a bag, a star tip and scissors.
  3. Most of the doughs can be baked, frozen and re-toasted in the oven for a few moments before filling.
  4. Make a restaurant-worthy dessert with simple puffs, ice cream and chocolate glaze and impress everyone.

Beyond the awesomeness that is a single dough which can produce Cream Puffs, Eclairs, Churros, Beignets, Religieuses, Profiteroles, Gougeres and a myriad of other dessert components is the fact that they expand so explosively without any leaveners. Cream puffs and all their cousins get their lift entirely from steam and gluten. In the oven, the water you start with and that is present in the egg whites create steam and try to escape the little mounds. On their way out, the gluten strands you developed when stirring the dough trap the air- creating a cavernous and custardy inside while the outside crisps to a golden color. You can master this recipe in about 10 minutes, but before you do, read on for best results:

How to make good better:

  1. Don’t open the oven door! At least in the first 10 minutes of baking. The pressure that the oven creates is how steam builds and how the puffs, well, puff! Opening the door releases all the pressure, causing your puffs to collapse.
  2. Bake until dark and lovely. That means forgetting the anemic-looking puffs you’ve seen in the freezer section of the store. Take it from the French and cook until bien cuit. 
  3. Chocolate goes with everything. Seriously. Dip, pour and coat anything you can with glaze. We prefer melting chocolate and butter together because it sets up better than ganache (which is made with cream and chocolate). Melt equal parts dark chocolate and butter together, using a little less butter if working with semi sweet or milk chocolate.

Pate a Choux: Cream Puff Dough

Want a bit more info? Visit our blog post about Pate a Choux here

Ingredients

Pate A Choux

1/2 cup 120g Water
2 ounces 56g Butter
1 tsp Salt
1/2 cup 65g Flour
2 Eggs
1 Egg (for egg wash)
1 tsp Milk (for egg wash)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425F and prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
  2. Heat the water, butter and salt in a pot over medium heat. Stir until the butter is melted, then wait for the water to boil.
  3. Once the water is boiling, dump the flour in all at once and stir, using a wooden spoon, until you get a thick ball of dough (it will look and smell like mashed potatoes)! Turn the heat down to low and move the ball of dough around, working it against the side and bottom of the pot for about a minute and a half. You will notice a film forming at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Remove your dough from the pot and place into a medium bowl. Cool the dough down by beating it a couple of times. Once the dough has cooled to just a bit warm, whisk in the eggs until a smooth, even paste forms. Whisk your egg and milk together to make an egg wash.
  5. Here's where you choose your own adventure!
  6. To make CREAM PUFFS, fit a round piping tip inside a piping bag, fill with the dough and pipe even mounds. If you don't have a piping bag but have a small ice cream scoop in the house, go ahead and scoop them onto the parchment paper. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to lightly brush egg wash onto each puff, careful not to get any on the parchment.

    Place in the oven at 425, turning the heat down to 380 after about 5 minutes. Bake until dark and lovely, doing your best not to open the oven until at least 10 minutes into the baking process.

    To make PROFITEROLES, slice in half horizontally and fill with ice cream, topping with chocolate glaze or ganache just before serving.
  7. To make ECLAIRS, fit a round piping tip inside a piping bag, fill with dough and pipe long, thin strips. Piping takes practice, but try these tips to make it easier:
    1. Keep your tip 1/2" to 1" above the paper, starting at the top of the eclairs and moving the tip towards you as you go.
    2. When you get to the end, release the pressure from the bag, then move back over the eclairs, straight across, for a minuscule moment to avoid a sharp tip at the end.
    Use your fingers or a pastry brush to lightly brush egg wash onto each puff, careful not to get any on the parchment.

    Place in the oven at 425, turning the heat down to 380 after about 5 minutes. Bake until dark and lovely, doing your best not to open the oven until at least 10 minutes into the baking process.

    Once baked, slice in half and fill with pastry cream, dipping the top halfway into chocolate glaze or ganache.
  8. To make CHURROS, find a medium pot and fill it with 2" of frying oil, heating it to 350F. Mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 2 tsps cinnamon and set aside. Line cookie sheet with towels or place a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Fit a star-shaped (the closed kind) piping tip inside a piping bag and have a pair of scissors handy, then fill the piping bag with your pate a choux. Once the oil gets to temperature, squeeze 3-4" churros into the hot oil, snipping them off at the piping tip with scissors, careful not to overcrowd them. Flip the churros when they are golden on the bottom, and only once. Pick them up out of the oil carefully- might we suggest tongs or a slotted spoon- and place them on the cooling rack or cookie sheet for a minute. While still warm, dust them in the cinnamon sugar.
  9. To make FRENCH CRULLERS, first chill the dough for at least one hour in the fridge. Find a medium pot and fill it with 2" of frying oil, heating it to 350F. Cut a few piece of parchment paper into 3" squares. Fit a star piping tip inside a piping bag, fill with the chilled dough and pipe into a doughnut shape. Carefully lower the crullers, dough-side down into the oil, removing the paper carefully. Flip once golden on the bottom, but only flip once. Once golden on the other side, remove with tongs and place on a cooling rack. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.
  10. To make GOUGERES, add 1/2 cup of your favorite dry cheeses (think: parmesan, gouda, manchego..), 1 tsp more salt, a 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper, a pinch of cayenne, if you want a little heat, 1 tsp fresh thyme and, if you're going for it, 2 Tbsps finely minced pancetta or bacon.

    Fit a round piping tip inside a piping bag, fill with the dough and pipe even mounds. If you don't have a piping bag but have a small ice cream scoop in the house, go ahead and scoop them onto the parchment paper. Use your fingers or a pastry brush to lightly brush egg wash onto each puff, careful not to get any on the parchment. Sprinkle with any remaining cheese you've got.

    Place in the oven at 425, turning the heat down to 380 after about 5 minutes. Bake until dark and lovely, doing your best not to open the oven until at least 10 minutes into the baking process.