How To Make Choux Pastry (Pâte à Choux)

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If you have ever wondered how to make choux pastry, or pâte à choux then this step by step tutorial has you covered. You can use this choux pastry recipe to make so many wonderful French pastries! Cream puffs, eclairs, and more!

 

 

 

Ok so story time. When I was young. Like maybe 10? Let’s go with 10 years old. Every Sunday we would gather as an extended family down the street at my grandmother’s house. Now I grew up in Upstate (very!) rural New York. My father, however, grew up in Queens, NY. And this one particular Sunday we had his family visiting from New York city. We were all sitting outside enjoying the nice weather on the deck after (from what I can only assume) was a very large dinner, once again.

I don’t remember the dinner. I do remember the dessert. His family had brought up from NYC something they called a profiterole. Or maybe it was cream puff. I had never heard of one before. Wasn’t quite sure I was going to like it. If I’m being honest. But then..I took a bite. 

Oh. My. Word. I was in heaven. Where had this delicate French pastry filled with cream and dipped in chocolate been my whole life?! Why had I been denied this delicious decadence?

Isn’t funny how certain foods can transport you back to a certain time and place? Yup cream puffs do that for me. Ok but I’m getting ahead of myself! 

Hey..I thought we were making choux pastry here. And here you go reminiscing about cream puffs?! 

What Is Choux Pastry?

Choux pastry, pronounced “shoe” is a French pastry dough. It’s also known as pâte à choux,  in French pronounced “pat a shoe”. And “choux” means cabbage. Pate means “paste. Cabbage paste…sounds kind of unappealing, doesn’t it? Don’t worry cabbages will not find their way into our mixing bowls today. 

It’s called that because when you pipe out the paste (and yes it’s a thick paste) they bake up and resemble little cabbages. So cabbage paste. 

And what I love about this simple dough made with just some basic pantry ingredients is that you can then use choux pastry to make all sorts of wonderful baked goods. Such as…

Cream Puffs:

Cream puffs are piped rounds that you then slice open and can fill with whipped cream. And traditionally they are dusted with powdered sugar. But you can add fruit, like sliced strawberries with the whipped cream. Maybe a curd. Or try a savory filling like tuna or chicken salad!

Eclairs:

Basically long piped versions of choux pastry. I like to make my homemade eclairs then fill them with vanilla pastry cream, and dip the tops in chocolate ganache.

Profiteroles:

These are cream puffs, but you serve them frozen and traditionally filled with ice-cream. 

Gougeres:

Savory cream puffs made with cheese, and sometimes herbs.

Churros: 

You could also pipe the pastry dough into oil and fry them. Roll them in cinnamon sugar and you have churros.

Choux  Craquelin:

These choux craquelin might be for the more advanced baker who has already mastered making cream puffs and eclairs. These have a kind of cookie like pastry baked on top of the cream puffs giving them a crackly top. 

three profiteroles on a cutting board

Are Profiteroles And Cream Puffs The Same Thing?

Ok I’ll be honest I always thought they were! I always used them interchangeably. But…as you may have read above. There is a difference.

Profiteroles are frozen and usually filled with ice-cream and topped with ganache. While cream puffs are not frozen, filled with cream and dusted with confectioners sugar. ..

What do I need to make choux pastry?

baking sheet with choux pastry ingredients measured out

It’s  simple dough made from:

  • flour
  • water
  • butter
  • eggs
  • sugar
  • salt

Some recipes may not call for sugar. And some may call for milk or a milk/water combo. But I found this recipe from good old Martha Stewart worked beautifully!

There is no leavening agents involved here. So go put that baking soda and baking powder back in the cupboard. You won’t need it this time. Nope, no yeast either. So what makes these little pastries puff up? Well when the liquid in the dough evaporates in the oven, it causes the pastries to puff up.

How Do I Make This Choux Pastry Recipe?

STEP ONE:

Cut your butter into tablespoons or small chunks and add to a saucepan with 1 cup of water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon sugar and bring to a simmer over high heat. Bonus: No need to stir during this!

butter, sugar, salt, and water in a saucepan

STEP TWO:

Once the mixture is boiling and the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and add your flour all at once. You want to stir the flour in with a wooden spoon and then return the pan to the heat and continue to stir until the flour forms a smooth ball and there is a film on the bottom of the pan. 

choux pastry dough in a saucepan with a wooden spoon

STEP Three:

Remove from the heat and either in a stand mixer or with that trusty wooden spoon you want to stir this for about a minute (mine took a couple extra) until it’s slightly cooled (about 121ºF). 

choux pastry dough in a glass stand mixer bowl

STEP Four:

Beat in your eggs 1 at a time until you have added 4. Keep in mind, 4 is the recommended number but keep an eye on the consistency as the  number of eggs depends on the type of flour used. For me, it was exactly 4 eggs.

choux pastry dough with a beater in the bowl

3 Ways To Check The Consistency Of The Batter

To determine if the consistency of the batter is correct and you have added enough eggs, look for one of these three things.

#1:  You have added enough eggs when you drag a spoon through the mixture and the groove left behind slowly folds in on itself as shown in the second picture.

wooden spoon dragged through choux pastry

#2: Pull the wooden spoon up out of the dough. The dough should droop off the spoon and not stick straight out.

wooden spoon dipped into choux pastry

#3: If using a stand mixer, the dough should pull away from the paddle attachment in a thick rope.

stand mixer paddle attachment pulled up out of the bowl with a v-shape of dough hanging from it

Piping Your Pate A Choux

What do we use to pipe with? Well that depends on your end result. 

For cream puffs: I recommend using a round open tip. I used Ateco Plain Size #808) batter or you could use an ice-cream scoop). I recommend piping, because you can get the mounds taller, creating a taller puff in the end. Be sure to hold the piping tip upright, so you don’t end up with slanted cream puffs. 

For eclairs: I recommend using a French star tip. Be sure to hold at a 45º angle and pipe with even pressure. The extra ridges creates more surface area. You can use a plain circle tip or a french star tip to pipe your eclairs. You want a tip that is a 1/2-inch (1.5 cm) in diameter. The french star tip is actually recommended because it increases the surface area for your eclairs and helps in preventing eclairs from cracking as they expand. 

12 choux pastry puffs piped onto a baking sheet with parchment paper

Silicone Baking Mat Vs. Parchment Paper

The big debate! Ok maybe not big..but still. A debate nonetheless. I’ve successfully made choux pastry on both. Let me just be clear!

From one post I read, eclairs might fair a bit better on a silicone baking mat, causing them to not puff up as much. But for cream puffs (and profiteroles) we want them to puff – so parchment would be better.

Pro Tip: Moisten The Parchment Paper

This helps to create a moist environment for the pastries to puff up. It’s an egg-rich dough and all those eggs need a moist, humid environment to help puff up and rise, and not burn/dry out.

Just brush the parchment paper with water using a pastry brush before piping on your choux pastry.

Baking Your Pàte â Choux

This is also a bit involved. It’s a 3-step process. 

  1. Bake at a high heat to start. I bake mine at 400°F. This will help the dough to immediately puff up.
  2. Lower the heat. I then lower mine to 300°F. This will help them to continue to bake and develop color.
  3. Poke the bottoms. Yup you read that right. After you remove them from the oven, take a toothpick and poke the bottom to release any trapped steam. Trapped steam can cause them to become soggy.

And let me make this very clear… DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR WHILE BAKING!  Did the all caps make my point? Opening the oven door will cause your shells to collapse before they have had a chance to set up. So keep it closed. Do the dishes instead why don’t you? You know you haven’t yet 😉

three profiteroles filled with icecream

Tips For Making Choux Pastry:

  • Choose A Large Enough Pan. You will be making the cream puff in a saucepan so make sure to choose a heavy duty saucepan that is large enough.
  • Add The Flour All At Once. When you add the flour, you want to add it all at once with the pan off the heat then stir with a wooden spoon until it leaves a film onto the walls of the saucepan.
  • Use a digital thermometer. Use this to check the temperature of the batter before adding the eggs. You want the temperature below 121°F.
  • Drag A Wooden Spoon. The number of eggs can vary when making cream puffs. So check if you have added enough by dragging your wooden spoon through the batter, it should leave a path that folds in on itself. Or pick up the spoon the batter should fall off the spoon and form a “V”.
  • Parchment or Silicone Baking Mat. I’ve used a silicone baking mat, but parchment works a bit better for providing a non-stick surface. I’ve also read that eclairs do a bit better on silicone baking mat and don’t cause them to puff up as much. 
  • Moisten The Parchment Paper. This helps to create a moist and humid environment for this egg-rich dough to puff up and not dry out and burn instead. Sort of like a water bath does for a cheesecake! I just use a pastry brush to moisten the parchment with water before piping on my choux pastry.

To Make Cream Puffs

You will need a piping bag for this fit with a plain circle tip (I used Ateco Plain Size #808) batter or you could use an ice-cream scoop –  Either will work just fine!  Aim to make each cream puff about 2 inches high and 3 inches wide.  When piping, hold the piping bag about 3/4-inch above the cookie sheet and start piping. As the round takes shape lift the bag up to about 1 1/2-inch above the cookie sheet to allow the round to widen. 

Then you want to use a moistened finger to tap down the point of each cream puff. And brush the top of each with an egg wash.  I bake mine in a 400ºF oven for 20 minutes. Then I turn down the temperature to 300ºF and bake for another 20 minutes.

And then once cooled you can split them open fill with whipped cream, maybe a lemon curd, or pastry cream. Or you can also pipe a filling into the cream puffs without splitting them open. Just poke a hole into the bottom with the tip of a filled piping bag and squeeze away!

I also love adding fresh strawberries alongside the whipped cream. But really whatever you want! I like to dip the tops in ganache, or dust with powdered sugar for a finishing touch…

You can get the full tutorial here on how to make cream puffs.

cream puff filled with whipped cream and rasbperries

To Make Eclairs

chocolate eclair cut in half

So you will make the choux pastry recipe but then transfer the cooled mixture to a piping fit with either a plain circle tip or a french star tip to pipe your eclairs. You want a tip that is a 1/2-inch (1.5 cm) in diameter.

The french star tip is actually recommended because it increases the surface area for your eclairs and helps in preventing eclairs from cracking as they expand. 

To make sure you have nice even straight lines that you are piping, on your parchment paper draw your straight lines with a pencil, pen or sharpie first. Just be sure to flip your parchment paper over after! For regular/large sized eclairs- draw 5-inch lines.

For mini eclairs (which is what I made): draw 2 – 2 1/2 inch lines.

Pro Tip: After piping, give them a quick spray of non-stick cooking spray. 

Once piped, you can go ahead and bake them. When you are ready to bake them, bake them in a pre-heated oven at 400°F for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 300°F and bake them for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

For the full tutorial on making eclairs click here.

To Make Profiteroles

Mmm, these might be my favorite version! Basically you want to follow the directions to make cream puffs above. And then once cooled, you can slice them open and scoop some ice-cream in the middle. Pop the top back on and freeze.

Basically the fanciest ice-cream sandwich ever!

To Make Gougeres

I have to be honest I haven’t made gougeres (yet!) I’m sure at some point I will….because…cheese!!! All. The. Cheese.

But if you want to make gougeres, here is a recipe and tutorial from The Kitchn.

To Make Choux Craquelin

I have yet to cross these off my bucket list! But if you ready for the advanced version of choux pastry then give these a go. You will need to make the “craquelin” which is a cookie/pastry like disc that gets baked on top of the choux buns. You get these gorgeous crackly like exteriors. 

And of course fill them how you want!

cream puff with a bite taken out of it

Can You Make Choux Pastry In Advance?

Absolutely. The choux pastry can be made two days ahead of time. Just simply keep covered until ready to use.

You can store them in refrigerator for up to 3 days. Just simply store them in the an airtight container. Be sure to store them unfilled, as they will go soft quickly once filled.

You can also freeze them, filled or unfilled, for several weeks. You can thaw in the refrigerator for about an hour, or at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Choux Pastry Troubleshooting

Did you end up with flat soggy choux pastry shells instead of puffy hollow ones? Maybe cracked ones instead?  Choux pastry can go wrong for all sorts of reasons so let’s break this down…

Your choux pastry should be crisp and hollow inside. 

But unfortunately sometimes it does not all go well in the kitchen. So let’s troubleshoot some choux pastry problems.

What if my choux pastry has collapsed?

If you find that instead of hollow crisp puffed up beauties your choux pastry has fallen flat and deflated. Here’s why:

  •  Forgot to poke those bottoms. You need to let the steam inside escape after baking and let the shells dry out. So as they cool, the hot humid air will cause the soft shells to collapse as they cool down.
  • Batter was too runny. Did it hold its shape when you piped it? It may have had not enough flour, or too much liquid. 
  • Boiled for too long. You may have boiled the sugar, butter, and water for too long. You caused too much of the water in the recipe to boil off. If there’s too little water in your choux, there won’t be enough steam to help the puffs inflate.
  • Opened the oven door. You opened the oven during the baking process, or set the temperature too low. This is always one of my oven 101 rules! No peeking! Again, steam is crucial to the rising process and letting it out or losing heat in the baking process can have a negative effect on the puff of your final pastry.
  • Removing the pastry from the oven too soon. If the choux pastry isn’t firm when you remove it from the oven, it will cave in on itself. You want your puffs to look golden brown before you even open your oven.

Tools You Will Need To Make Choux Pastry

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Choux Pastry

Choux pastry dough that can be used to make cream puffs, eclairs, and so much more!
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings: 24
Calories: 104kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter sliced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup (120 g) all purpose flour sifted
  • 4 eggs

Instructions

  • Combine the water, salt, butter, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over high heat. There's no need to stir.
  • Remove pan from the heat add the flour all at once. Stir in the flour then return to the stovetop over medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture forms a cohesive mass and pulls away from the sides of the pans, leaving a film of flour on the sides of pan.
  • Transfer the mixture to a bowl or a stand mixer and beat it with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment for about 1 minute or until slightly cooled. This may take a few extra minutes (internal temperature should be about 121oF)
  • Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until you've added 4. Check the consistency of the batter by pulling a wooden spoon through it. When the groove it makes slowly in on itself, you've added enough eggs. Another way to check is to see if the batter droops from the spoon when it is held sideways. If so it is ready. While the dough is best used right away, it will keep for several hours in the refrigerator.
  • Preheat the oven to 400F. If making cream puffs: Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch plain tip and fill it with the dough. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. If using paper, pipe a small amount of dough underneath the paper in the four corners to hold it down. For eclairs I like to use a French star tip.
  • For cream puffs (and profiteroles): Make 2 rows of 3 each cream puffs each. Start by holding the pastry bag about 3/4-inch above the sheet pan and squeezing. If the pastry bag tip is too close, the cream puffs won't be thick enough; if it's too far away, they won't be wide enough. As the round of pastry takes shape, lift the pastry bag until it is about 1 1/2 inches above the sheet pan. The mounds of dough should be about 3 1/2 inches in diameter and about 1 1/2 inches high in the center. Brush with an egg wash, lightly smoothing the surface with the brush at the same time. Bake the cream puffs for about 20 minutes or until puffed and golden. Turn down the oven to 300F and continue baking for 20 minutes more. Let cool for at least 20 minutes on a cake rack.

Notes

  • Choose A Large Enough Pan. You will be making the cream puff in a saucepan so make sure to choose a heavy duty saucepan that is large enough.
  • Add The Flour All At Once. When you add the flour, you want to add it all at once with the pan off the heat then stir with a wooden spoon until it leaves a film onto the walls of the saucepan.
  • Use a digital thermometer. Use this to check the temperature of the batter before adding the eggs. You want the temperature below 121°F.
  • Drag A Wooden Spoon. The number of eggs can vary when making cream puffs. So check if you have added enough by dragging your wooden spoon through the batter, it should leave a path that folds in on itself. Or pick up the spoon the batter should fall off the spoon and form a "V".
  • Parchment or Silicone Baking Mat. I've used a silicone baking mat, but parchment works a bit better for providing a non-stick surface. I've also read that eclairs do a bit better on silicone baking mat and don't cause them to puff up as much. 
  • Moisten The Parchment Paper. This helps to create a moist and humid environment for this egg-rich dough to puff up and not dry out and burn instead. Sort of like a water bath does for a cheesecake! I just use a pastry brush to moisten the parchment with water before piping on my choux pastry.

Nutrition

Calories: 104kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 64mg | Potassium: 23mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 304IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 12mg | Iron: 1mg
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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Wow! I am soooo glad I tried these! Amazing!!!

    1. aw I’m so glad you liked them Courtney!!

  2. 5 stars
    Hi Heather
    I haven’t made these in so long. Can I make the profiteroles ahead and freeze them with the ice cream in it for more than three days?
    I think I might do this for Father’s Day.
    Rose

    1. Hi Rose! Yes I think they would be fine to be frozen with the icecream for up to 2 months. And that’s a great idea to make them for Father’s Day! Let me know how they turn out!

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