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Baking 101: Choux Pastry (It’s Not Scary, Really!)

Pate a choux (pronounced “pat ah shoo”), or choux pastry, is a pastry dough used to make profiteroles and eclairs as well as savories such as gougeres (a.k.a. cheese puffs).

But do NOT be alarmed or intimidated by all the fancy French — this is one of the easiest pastries to master, and while I love to use my electric mixer to whip up a batch, the entire thing can be done by hand too.

Even better, you probably have all of the ingredients you need to make these any time — just milk, butter, and eggs (and a bit of sugar and salt)!

And best of all? You can pipe out your shapes and freeze the unbaked pastries till you’re ready to use. They can go straight from the freezer into the oven, so you can always be at the ready with a wow-worthy dessert that only you will know is truly easy!

I love the versatility of choux pastry and that it can go sweet as easily as savory.

I’ve broken the recipe down into clear step-by-step directions to ensure success on the very first try. And I’m sharing my favorite way to use choux pastry — in these delicious cream puffs!

homemade cream puffs

  • Choux Pastry = So Many Amazing Desserts! 1 of 10
    choux pastry, cream puffs

    Choux pastry is only tricky to pronounce! You need no special skills, equipment, or ingredients to make this multi-tasking dough that will become a staple in your baking repertoire!

  • Beat Liquids into Your Flour 2 of 10
    choux pastry

    After bringing your ingredients to a boil, add to the flour in your mixer. Beat on low till the dough looks dry and pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Allow to cool for 5 minutes.

  • Add Eggs One at at Time 3 of 10
    choux pastry

    Once mixture has cooled slightly, add your eggs one at a time. The easiest way to do this is to break the eggs into a small bowl. With your mixer running on low speed, slowly pour one egg into the side of the bowl (away from the paddle). The dough will break apart slightly and then come back together. Add the next egg when the dough looks even and smooth.

  • Batter Is Ready to Pipe! 4 of 10
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    This is what your batter should look like — thick, smooth, and shiny. If it feels too stiff to pipe, add another egg.

  • Pipe out Your Puffs! 5 of 10
    choux pastry

    Pipe out rounds — about 2-2 1/2" in diameter — onto your prepared baking sheets. You can either bake them right away or freeze on the sheets. When frozen, pop the rounds into a freezer bag and store up to one month. They can go right into the oven from the freezer!

  • Puffs Are Done! 6 of 10
    choux pastry

    Your puffs are ready when they are a deep golden brown and firm to the touch. Transfer immediately to a wire rack to cool completely.

  • Slice off the Tops 7 of 10
    choux pastry

    Using a serrated knife, carefully slice off the tops of each round. Using your fingers, gently push any excess dough to the inside "walls."

  • Fill Your Cream Puffs! 8 of 10
    choux pastry, cream puffs

    Your puffs are ready to fill! I used lightly sweetened whipped cream but pastry cream or even ice cream would be just as delicious!

  • Almost Ready! 9 of 10
    cream puffs

    Your cream puffs are almost ready! Gently replace the tops and sift a bit of confectioner's sugar over.

  • Enjoy Right Away! 10 of 10
    choux pastry, cream puffs

    It's best to serve your cream puffs right away, as the longer they sit the soggier the pastry becomes. But really, do you want to wait to eat these?

Cream Puffs

adapted from Joy of Cooking

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Ingredients
1 c. flour
1/2 c. each whole milk and water
1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 T. sugar, divided
1/2 t. salt
4 eggs, room temperature
2 1/2 c. chilled heavy cream
confectioner’s sugar

Special equipment: large pastry bags, 1/2″ plain tip, 1/2″ star tip

Instructions
Pre-heat oven to 400. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place flour in the bowl of your electric mixer. Break the eggs into a small bowl. Fit a pastry bag with the plain tip.

In a medium saucepan combine the milk, water, 1 T. sugar, salt, and butter. Heat to boiling over medium heat. Immediately add to flour in your mixer bowl and beat on low till the mixture looks dry and has pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Let cool for 5 minutes.

With the mixer on low speed, add one egg. Beat until the egg is fully incorporated and the batter looks smooth. Repeat with remaining 3 eggs. Scoop the dough into your prepared pastry bag and pipe circles 2-2 1/2″ in diameter onto your baking sheets. (At this point you can freeze the dough on the baking sheets. When frozen, transfer puffs to a freezer bag for up to one month. Do not defrost before baking.)

Bake for 10 minutes; reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 25 minutes, or till golden brown and firm to the touch. Remove puffs to a wire rack to cool completely.

Just before serving, slice the tops of the puffs off using a serrated knife (do not discard tops). Push any soft dough toward the inner “walls” of the rounds. Fit another pastry bag with your star tip. Beat the heavy cream with 2 T. of sugar till soft peaks form; transfer to pastry bag. Fill each puff with cream and replace the tops. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve immediately.

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