Pate a Choux is an essential pastry recipe that is the base for many desserts; cream puffs, eclairs, gougères and churros just to name a few. You will be surprised how easy it is to make classic choux pastry.
What is Pate a Choux?
Pate a Choux is an essential recipe that is the base of many different pastries. It’s not a one trick pony. Master this rather simple batter and you can create a whole world of delicious treats.
Fill it with pastry cream to make cream puffs or chocolate eclairs. Fill choux pastry with ice cream to make profiteroles. Add some cheese and you’ve got lovely gougères. Fry the batter and roll it in cinnamon-sugar to make churros.
Ingredients for Pate a Choux
- Water – Water makes a crisper pastry than milk.
- Unsalted butter – Adds a little richness
- Table salt – for flavor
- Granulated sugar- for a hint of sweetness and for browning
- Bread flour – High protein flour allows the puffs to contain steam so they rise high in the oven.
- Eggs – Adds liquid to the batter to help form steam.
- Egg whites – Extra whites add more liquid and create a strong shell for maximum rise.
How to make Pate a Choux
- Combine the water, sugar, salt and butter in a small saucepan.
- Bring the mixture to a full boil.
- Turn off the heat and add the flour all at once.
- With the heat still off, vigorously stir the flour into the water until completely combined.
- Turn the heat back on to medium high and continue stirring the batter vigorously.
- After 2-3 minutes the batter should easily form into a cohesive mass.
- Transfer the batter to food processor. You can also mix by hand in a mixing bowl.
- With the processor running, add the eggs in a steady stream. If working by hand add the eggs in three batches, stirring until all the egg is absorbed after each addition.
- The batter is now ready to use.
The baking science of Pate a Choux
All baked goods rise because air in the batter or dough expands when heated. The air bubbles are trapped in a network of protein and/or starch and form the “crumb”. The air bubbles can be formed by different means for different recipes.
Physical manipulation of the ingredients creates air bubbles, as is the case when you use the “creaming” method for a traditional pound cake. Chemical Leaveners and yeast react with water and other ingredients in the recipe and release carbon dioxide gas, which forms air bubbles in the batter or dough.
Pate a Choux is interesting because it is a big release of steam that creates the air in the batter. The high proportion of liquid and protein in this batter work together to create the special “crumb”, which is essentially a giant air pocket trapped in a crisp shell.
In the oven, as the outside of the cream puff begins to set, the batter inside still has lots of moisture. As the moisture heats up and forms steam, this pushes the batter out and forms large air cavities that are just begging for a delicious filling.
Choux batter also has a high proportion of protein from the flour and eggs, which forms a strong shell around the air. The stronger the shell, the higher it can expand.
For cream puffs I want maximum crispness and maximum capacity for the creamy filling. For this reason I use high protein bread flour and extra egg whites in my Cream Puff batter.
To make a slightly softer and more tender choux pastry recipe, as I do for Cheesey Gougeres, you can use milk instead of water, 4 whole eggs instead of extra whites, and/or all purpose flour instead of bread flour.
Once again, knowing the science behind the ingredients helps you create the art of a perfect baked good.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- If measuring the flour by volume use the “dip & sweep” method. That is, dip the measuring cup into the flour bin, overfill it, then sweep away the excess.
- Save the extra yolks to make pastry cream filling for cream puffs or eclairs.
- The baked choux pastries freeze very well. Pack them into freezer bags (don’t overcrowd or crush) and freeze for up to a month. To use, line the frozen puffs on a sheet pan and heat in a 350°F oven for 5 minutes. Cool and fill.
A big release of steam creates air in the batter and makes choux pastry rise. In the oven, as the outside of the cream puff begins to set, the batter inside still has lots of moisture. As the moisture heats up and forms steam, this pushes the batter out and forms large air cavities
Yes, Churros are made with choux pastry. Fill a piping bag fitted with a star tip with choux batter. Pipe strands of batter into 350F oil. Use a paring knife to cut the strands of dough as they come out of the piping bag. Fry until golden then immediately toss the churros in cinnamon sugar.
Choux pastry is made with a batter that rises when a big release of steam pushes the batter up and out. Puff pastry is a “laminated” dough. A laminated dough starts by wrapping a block of butter with pastry dough. Then roll, fold, roll, fold the dough over and over, creating thousands of layers which rise in the oven.
Choux pastry does contain a high proportion of eggs and the center of a choux pastry can be a bit custardy if undercooked. After baking choux pastry turn off the oven, make a small hole in each pastry and return the baking tray to the still-warm oven for 30 minutes. This will help dry out the interior.
Watch the recipe video to see how to make Pate a Choux & Cream Puffs.
If you love classic French pastries (and I know you do), here are a few great recipes you’ll want to try; Caneles de Bordeaux, Marjolaine, Financiers, Kouign-Amann, Chocolate Eclairs, French Apple Tart, Creme Brulee, and airy Chocolate Genoise.
If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.
Pate a Choux Recipe
- 8 ounces water (1 cup)
- 3 ounces unsalted butter (6 tablespoons)
- ¼ teaspoon table salt
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 5 ounces bread flour (1 cup (see note 1))
- 3 eggs
- 2 egg whites
- Combine the water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan. Bring the water to a full boil.8 ounces water, 3 ounces unsalted butter, ¼ teaspoon table salt, 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all a once. Vigorously stir the batter until the flour is absorbed and there are no lumps.5 ounces bread flour
- Return the pan to medium low heat and continue stirring for 3 minutes. The batter will come together and form a smooth, cohesive ball.
- Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the batter to a food processor fitted with a blade (if mixing by hand transfer to a mixing bowl). With the processor running, add eggs and whites in a steady stream. Mix until the batter comes together. (If mixing by hand add the eggs in three batches. After each addition, stir vigorously until the batter comes together.)3 eggs, 2 egg whites
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