Learn how to make pate a choux, also known as choux pastry, for sweet and savory treats. When baked, the pastry turns golden brown and creates a hollow shell that can be filled with cream, custard, ice cream, or cheese.
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Pâte à Choux or choux pastry is a classic French dough used to make a variety of elegant baked and fried desserts and appetizers. The recipe combines water, salt, sugar, butter, flour, and eggs. It requires lightly cooking the flour in the dough first, whipping it with eggs into a thick paste then piping it into desired shapes.
I use a gradual and gentle baking process to ensure that the pastry completely dries inside with golden brown exteriors. When baked, the dough puffs up, yielding crispy, hollow shells begging to be filled. If you deep fry it, the pasty becomes chewy in texture, making for a donut-style fritter.
What is pâte à choux used for?
This choux pastry recipe can be used to make cream puffs, profiteroles, croquembouche, eclairs, gougères, and Paris-breast. The main difference is the shape and how large the pastry dough is piped. If fried, they can make Dutch crullers or Mexican churros tossed in cinnamon and sugar.
Make the dough
Stir and boil water, salt, sugar, and butter over high heat in a heavy bottom pot. This ensures that the ingredients are evenly dispersed in the flour. Turn off the heat and immediately add the flour and stir with a heat-stable or wooden spoon until completely incorporated.
Continuously stir and cook the pastry dough over medium heat. After a few minutes, the dough will clump together and get drier in texture. This process helps to break down the starches in the flour so that it can more easily absorb the liquid and speed up gelatinization.
Cool the dough
The dough is whipped for a few minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer to help it slightly cool down to below 130°F (54ºC). This prevents the eggs from cooking when it’s added to the dough.
Add the eggs
The eggs are what give the baked choux pastry its characteristic rise. Add eggs one at a time to the stand mixer, equipped with a paddle attachment. Mix the pastry dough on medium-low speed. This will take about 30 seconds per egg.
You’ll notice that the dough appears chunky with the first two to three eggs. Then, with the fourth or fifth egg, it turns into a thick cake batter-like consistency. Stop adding eggs once that texture is reached.
Piping the pastry dough
Now that the choux dough pastry is ready, choose your shape and if you want to bake or fry it. I recommend using a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip or star tip.
A round piping tip is typically used for profiteroles, cream puffs, and eclairs. Star is used for Paris-breast and churros. Make sure to pipe onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart when baking.
For prettier results
Use your finger after dipping in water to pat down any “tails” left on the pastry after piping. Brush the surface with egg wash for a more golden color.
Baking the pastry dough
Make sure to preheat the oven to 425ºF (218ºC). We start the pastry at a high temperature to get the dough to steam and puff right away, then gradually reduce the heat by 50 degrees every 10 minutes until it reaches 200ºF (93ºC).
This step-wise baking method ensures that the shell sets hollow and completely dry in the middle without burning. This process takes about 1 hour in total time. Do not open the oven door! This will let out heat and take longer for the pastries to cook. Once complete, crack open a shell and check if it’s done drying. If not, bake longer at 200ºF (93ºC).
Alternatively to baking, when frying the dough, heat a high smoke point oil like vegetable, canola, soy, or peanut to about 350 to 360ºF (177 to 182ºC). There should be at least 2 inches of frying oil in the pot. Cut the piped dough into 4 to 6-inch strips and fry for about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the frying oil and immediately toss in the desired coating.
Storing and freezing
- Baked shells can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to one month.
- To make the shells crispy after storing at room temperature or being frozen, bake at 300ºF (149ºC) on a sheet pan until slightly hardened on the outside, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool before filling.
Filling and topping suggestions
- Whipped cream
- Vanilla custard for eclairs
- Ice cream for profiteroles. Freeze before serving
- Chocolate sauce drizzle on top or dip.
- Salted caramel sauce to serve on the side
- Make savory gougères by adding one cup of grated cheese like parmesan, gruyere, or cheddar to the dough after adding the eggs.
Gradually add the eggs!
This step is crucial because if you add too many eggs, the consistency becomes too fluid, won’t hold its structure when piped, and will be relatively flat when baked. About three to four eggs max is needed. To check if the dough is pipeable, spoon a small amount onto a plate and check after 5 minutes to see if it keeps its shape. If not, you may have piping issues.
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How to Make Pâte à Choux (Choux Pastry)
Pâte à Choux
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, (4 ounces) cut into 8 slices
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, (4 ½ ounces) spoon and leveled (see notes)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat the Oven – Set the oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Preheat to 425°F (218ºC). Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Boil the Water, Butter, Salt – Place the water, sugar, salt, and butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and stir until the butter is fully melted.
- Add the Flour and Stir – Turn off the heat and immediately add the flour. Vigorously stir with a large spoon (nonmetal) until the flour is incorporated. Increase the heat to medium, constantly stir the dough until it comes away from the sides of the pan, and clumps together, about 4 to 5 minutes. The dough should look relatively dry and just begin to leave a film on the saucepan.
- Cool the Dough – Transfer the dough to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Slowly stir on low speed (setting 2) to cool to 130°F (54ºC) or just below, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add Eggs One at a Time – Mix one egg at a time on medium-low speed (Setting 4) until fully incorporated, about 30 to 45 seconds per egg. Once 3 eggs are added, check to see if the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl in thick threads, it will not clear the bowl. It should be shiny but firm and not runny so it’s easy to control when piped. If it’s too thick, add the fourth egg and mix for 45 seconds.
- Pipe the Dough – Add a large plain tip to a pastry bag (Ateco 806). Option to lightly coat the inside with cooking spray to help keep the sticky choux from clinging to the inside. Add a pipeable amount of dough into a pastry bag.Pipe the choux at least 2" apart from each other onto the sheet pan. They expand slightly during baking. Create 1 ½" circular mounds for smaller pastries, 2" for larger ones, or 3 to 4" long strips for eclairs.
- Brush with Eggwash – Dip your finger in water and flatten any tails left on the top when piping to create a smoother surface. In a small bowl, whisk together one egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the tops and sides of each pastry.
- Step-wise Baking Method – Bake for 10 minutes at each temperature setting: 425°F (218ºC), 375°F (191ºC), 325°F (163ºC), 275°F (135ºC), 225°F (107ºC), 200°F (93ºC). Do not open the oven door! It will take about 60 to 70 minutes of total baking time.Break open one pastry to ensure that baking is complete. It should be as dry on the inside. If needed, continue to bake at 200°F (93ºC) until dry in the center. They should feel light in weight. This baking method will work best if you bake one tray at a time.
- Let them Cool – Transfer pastries to a cooling rack. Cool completely and reserve until ready to fill.
- Measuring the Flour: Use the spoon and level method. Scoop the flour with a spoon and add it to a cup, then level the surface with the back of the knife. This adds a few tablespoons less flour than the dip and sweep method, so the pastry is not too dense.
- Eggwash: Whole milk can be substituted for water for a more browned surface but will be slightly less crisp.
- Storing Shells: The baked shells can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 5 days or frozen for 1 month.
- Reheating: Stored shells can be reheated at 300ºF (149ºC) on a sheet pan until slightly hardened, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool before filling.
- Storing Filled Pastries: Once filled, the pastries taste best when served the same day or for up to 3 days uncovered in the refrigerator.
- Frying Method: Add a pipeable amount of dough into the pastry bag. Add vegetable oil to a heavy-bottomed pot that comes up to 2″ from the bottom. Heat the oil to between 350 to 360ºF (177 to 182ºC). Pipe the dough into the oil and cut it into 4 to 6″ strips. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the oil and immediately toss in the desired coating.
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2 Comments Leave a comment or review
Daniel Sanchez says
I made these with a pastry cream filling, and they came out surprisingly well for a first time! The tops came out perfectly crackly, and most had that signature gap in the center.
Jessica Gavin says
That’s wonderful to hear, Daniel! Great job!