A step-by-step guide to making pâte à choux, a classical French dough used to make a variety of pastries. It requires 6 simple ingredients and transforms from dough to finished product with the steam created by its high moisture ingredients.
Pâte à choux is not as intimidating as it might sound. Rather it’s a basic French pastry dough that is the foundation for many desserts. It’s a good formula to keep in your recipe toolbox to create impressive, easy and delicious desserts. The dough is versatile not only in the kinds of pastries that it can offer but in that it can be frozen at the raw stage or the baked stage. I always have extra dough on hand for a quick dessert to throw together for guests.
What to use Pâte à Choux for
Pâte à choux is a dough that is the base component for many classical French pastries. It is used for eclair shells, cream puffs, the impressive croquembouche, savory gougères, profiteroles, salambos, and gâteau Saint Honoré. It’s an easy dough to make and opens up many possibilities once you know how to make it. Seeing the simple dough transform into a puffed pastry with only eggs as its leavening agent is pretty impressive.
What you need to make Pâte à Choux
Digital scale (or measuring cups and spoons)
Baking sheet pan
Parchment paper or a silicone mat
Stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment
3/8-inch round pastry tip
Whole milk. Use only whole milk, as lower-fat milk is too watery for this recipe.
Butter. Only use butter for this recipe and never substitute any other fat as it adds flavor.
Granulated sugar. Adds a bit of sweetness to the dough and contributes to the color of the baked pâte à choux.
Sea salt. Adds a hint of salt to the recipe but also enhances the flavors of the other ingredients.
All-purpose flour. It provides the structure for the pâte à choux. Along with the egg protein, the gluten in the flour creates the crust of the baked dough.
Eggs. Works together with the flour to make the pâte à choux dough rise. Steam and air bubbles cause the pastry to leaven and the proteins in the egg stretch and set to keep the final shape.
How to make Pâte à Choux
- Boil ingredients. In a medium saucepan combine all ingredients (but the eggs) and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Add flour. Off the heat, add the flour to the liquid mixture and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together into a smooth mass.
- Cook mixture. Return saucepan to medium heat while constantly stirring with the wooden spoon until the mixture looks dry and pulls away from the sides of the pan. This will take about 2 minutes.
- Mix mixture. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the pâte à choux dough on medium speed for 2 minutes to allow the mixture to slightly cool. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, until each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to ensure the dough is completely mixed.
- Check consistency. Remove bowl and beater from the mixer. Pull the paddle straight up and allow the dough to hang down from the paddle. For the proper consistency, you should see the dough form a V-shape. If it does not then the dough requires more liquid. Add a teaspoon of egg or warmed milk at a time. After mixing check again for the proper consistency. Keep adding only one teaspoon at a time until V-shape appears when the paddle is lifted from the dough.
- Pipe dough. Transfer dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 3/8-inch round tip and pipe desired shapes onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet pan. Allow 1-inch between each pastry and lightly pat-down any choux pastry “tails” with a wet finger. Brush the surface of each pastry with a bit of egg wash.
- Bake. Place in preheated 400°F/200°C oven and bake for pastries for 10-12 minutes or until they have risen. Lower the oven temperature to 325°F/160°C and bake for an additional 20-45 minutes, depending on the size of pastry.
Tips and takeaways
- If too many eggs are added to the pâte à choux dough, the mixture will become soupy. Do not add more flour to thicken it as it will create lumps in your mixture. Instead, make more dough and combine them together to create a smooth mixture. If it becomes too thick you can then add more eggs, only a teaspoon at a time.
- Baking at a high temperature initially will allow your pâte à choux to properly puff up and begin to set. Lowering the temperature during the baking process will allow your pastries to develop their color and ensure that the pastry dries out.
- Practice your piping skills! If you are a natural at this, great. But if not (which is perfectly ok), practice piping pâte à choux. It is helpful to make a batch of the dough and practice piping on a silicone mat. You can easily scrape up the dough to refill your pastry bag and continue to practice piping. When learning to pipe, select one shape to master before continuing on to others.