I'm walking you through how to make a simple choux pastry, also known as pâte à choux. This classic French pastry is used to make a variety of desserts and it's much easier than you may think!
Choux pastry, pronounced shoo pastry, is made with water, butter, salt, flour, and eggs. That's it!
I've seen some recipes use half milk and half water. This will give the final pastry a rich golden color. But today we are focusing on the traditional way which uses only water.
Instead of using a rising agent, the dough uses a high moisture content. This moisture releases steam during cooking which causes the pastry to puff up.
What can you make with choux pastry
Choux pastry dough is a versatile dough that is used to make a variety of desserts.
It's often piped or spooned onto a baking sheet and baked into profiteroles, cream puffs, or eclairs. These are filled with flavorful fillings and topped with chocolate glaze, caramel, or powdered sugar.
Cheese is added to the dough to make gougères. My bacon garlic gougères are loaded with flavor. You must try them!
Beignets are made by piping the dough then frying it. These are also filled with pastry cream and dusted with powdered sugar.
No matter how you decide to use the dough, you can have light, airy, and crisp pastries with just a few simple steps.
Why is choux pastry called choux?
According to the History of Choux Pastry, published in 2014, choux is the French word for cabbages. And when the little mounds of pastry are baked, they resemble small cabbages.
Here’s what you need to make this classic pâte à choux recipe. Nothing special, just 5 simple pantry ingredients.
- Water: Water is traditional so we are sticking with that.
- Butter: Unsalted butter is best. It doesn't need to be softened but I recommend cutting it into small pieces so it will melt quickly once heated.
- Salt: A small amount of salt is needed for flavor.
- Flour: Make sure to use unbleached all-purpose flour and sift it well. Sifting will remove any large clumps making it easier to mix thoroughly.
- Eggs: Make sure the eggs are at room temperature. This will make them easier to mix into the dough.
Can I use milk instead of water?
You can use half water and half whole milk. The milk will give the final pastry a richer color.
Avoid using only milk. You need water in order to get the correct amount of steam. Remember, steam is how the pastry gets its rise.
Can I make dairy-free choux pastry?
You can turn this into a dairy-free version by replacing the regular butter with vegan butter.
I have not tested this method, though. And can't guarantee how it will turn out.
- Heavy bottom saucepan: I prefer to use a nonstick pan for easy cleanup but stainless steel is best for beginners.
- Wooden spoon: All you need for mixing is a wooden spoon.
- Piping bag with tip: You need a large pastry bag (affiliate link) to pipe the pastry. And a Wilton 1A piping tip (affiliate link) for cream puffs or an Ateco 869 French star piping tip (affiliate link) for eclairs.
- Scoop: I prefer to scoop my dough for cream puffs and profiteroles. For this, you need a 1.5 tablespoon scoop (affiliate link).
How to make pâte à choux
- Bring water, butter, and salt to a full boil.
- Add the flour and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Cook for 5 minutes while stirring constantly until the paste forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pot. A film will be visible on the bottom of the pot.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Stir in the eggs in 3 additions, mixing until fully incorporated after each addition. Cool completely before using it.
- Pipe or scoop desired shapes and bake until golden brown and firm.
How do you fix runny choux pastry dough?
Runny choux dough happens when you don't cook the dough long enough, or you add too much of the eggs.
Make sure to cook the dough after adding the flour until a film forms at the bottom of the saucepan. This can take up to 5 minutes. If you're new to making choux, use a stainless steel pot because the film won't form on a nonstick pot.
You may not need to add all the eggs. The eggs are added in 3 additions and you only use as much as you need to get a shiny dough that is the right consistency. The batter should fall off the spoon in a v-shaped ribbon.
Why did my choux pastry not rise?
First, make sure to allow the water/flour mixture to cool before adding the eggs. If it's too warm, it will cook the eggs and the dough won't rise in the oven.
Next, make sure not to add too much egg. I mentioned this above. You only need enough to get the dough the correct consistency.
Finally, DO NOT open the oven as the pastries bake. This will cause them to deflate.
How do you keep choux pastry from getting soggy?
Immediately upon removing the pastries from the oven, use a skewer to poke a hole all the way through. This will allow steam to escape and help prevent the pastries from becoming soggy.
You can also place the skewered pastries back into the warm oven, with it off, and let them continue to dry out for 5-10 minutes. This will keep them crisp.
Make pâte à choux in advance
Prepared choux dough can be stored for later use. Allow the dough to cool to room temperature. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap touching the surface and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Baked and unfilled shells can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day or frozen for up to 2 months.
Filled shells can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.