Learn how to make pâte à 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.
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 is simply a combination of water, salt, sugar, butter, flour add eggs. It requires lightly cooking the flour in the dough first, whipping with eggs into a thick paste then piping 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. When fried the pasty is chewy in texture, making for an addicting donut-style fritter.
What is pâte à choux used for?
When baked the choux pastry 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. When fried they can make Dutch crullers, or Mexican churros tossed in cinnamon and sugar.
Step #1: Make the dough
Stir and boil water, salt, sugar, and butter together 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.
Step #2: Cook the dough
Continuously stir and cook the pastry dough over medium heat. After a few minutes, the dough will begin to 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.
Step #3: 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.
Step #4: Add in the eggs
The eggs are what give the baked choux pastry its characteristic rise. Add eggs one at a time to the pastry dough on medium-low speed. This will take about 30 seconds per egg. You’ll notice with the first two to three eggs the dough appears chunky. Then, with the fourth or fifth egg, it turns into a thick cake batter-like consistency. Stop adding eggs once that texture is reached.
Step #5: Pipe the dough
Now that the pastry dough 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. Round is typically used for profiteroles, cream puffs, and eclairs. Star is used for Paris-breast and churros. If baking, make sure to pipe onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart.
Baking the pastry dough
Use your finger after dipped in water to pat down any “tails” left on the pastry after piping. Brush the surface with egg wash for a more golden color. 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 up right away, then gradually reduce the heat 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 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).
Frying the pastry dough
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 glaze to dip or sauce drizzle on top
- 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 and 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.
How to Make Pâte à Choux (Choux Pastry)
Pâte à Choux
- 1 cup (240 ml) water
- ½ teaspoon (2 g) kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon (4 g) granulated sugar
- 4 ounces (114 g) unsalted butter, cut into slices
- 4 ½ ounces (124 g) all-purpose flour, spoon and leveled (see notes)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
Pâte à Choux
- Set the oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Preheat to 425°F (218ºC).
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Add a large plain tip to a piping bag. Option to lightly spray the inside of the pastry bag with cooking spray to help keep the sticky pâte à choux paste from clinging to the inside of the bag.
- Place the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir the mixture until the butter is fully melted.
- Turn off the heat and immediately add the flour.
- Vigorously stir the dough with a spoon by hand until flour is incorporated.
- Turn the heat to medium and 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 should just begin to leave a film on the saucepan.
- Transfer the dough to a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. Slowly stir on low speed to cool to 130°F (54ºC) or just below, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing on medium-low speed, until each egg is fully incorporated, about 30 to 45 seconds per egg. It will go from a clumpy dough to smooth thick cake batter-like consistency. Stop adding eggs once it looks smooth. The dough may only need 3 or 4 eggs, too many will make it runny. The final dough should pull 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 that it’s easy to control when piped.
- Add a pipeable amount of dough into a pastry bag.
- Pipe the pâte à choux at least 2-inches apart from each other onto the sheet pan, they will expand slightly after baking. Create 1 ½-inch circular mounds for smaller pastries, 2-inch for larger ones, or 3 to 4-inch long strips for eclairs.
- 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 with the egg wash.
- 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! If needed wait until after the first 40 minutes of baking to prevent rapid changes in the oven’s temperature. 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 as possible on the inside. If needed, continue to bake at 200°F (93ºC) until dry in the center, they should feel light in weight. (Note: This baking method will work the best if you bake one tray at a time.)
- Transfer pastries to a cooling rack. Cool completely and reserve until ready to fill.
- Add a pipeable amount of dough into the pastry bag.
- Add vegetable oil to a heavy-bottomed pot that comes up to 2-inches from the bottom.
- Heat the oil to between 350 to 360ºF (177 to 182ºC).
- Pipe the dough into the oil and cut into 4 to 6-inch strips.
- Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the frying oil and immediately toss in the desired coating.
- Measure the flour using 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 compared to the dip and sweep method so the pastry is not too dense.
- Whole milk can be substituted for water, but will be slightly less crisp.
- I use a round 806 tip for piping the pastry.
- The baked shells can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for 5 days, or frozen for 1 month.
- Make them crispy again: Stored shells can be reheated 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.
- Once filled, the pastries taste the best when served the same day.