Choux pastry: how to make
Choux pastry, the base of pastries such as profiteroles, eclairs and gougere, is essentially a paste that when baked, captures steam within it to puff up and produce a hollow case. It’s the combination of water and eggs that provides the lift. The difference between choux-based pastries is mostly in the shape:
Eclairs are 7cm lengths of choux paste Croquembouche is the name of the cone-shaped castle of choux puffs — “glued” together with spun sugar or chocolate.
Gougere are choux puffs with cheese added to the paste.
Paris Brest is made by piping a series of large circles of choux pastry. Its name comes from the Paris to Brest cycle race, hence the shape is that of a wheel. It is usually cut in half and then filled with cream or pastry.
Beignets are made from deep fried choux paste and split open and filled when cool.
Churros are a variation on the choux recipe — no egg and deep-fried and dipped in chocolate or sugar.
Here's the recipe to make a basic choux pastry, this recipe makes about 16-20 puffs.
Pinch of salt
2-3 medium-sized eggs
Step 1: Heat the oven to 180C.
Step 2: Place the water into a heavy saucepan. Add the butter. Heat slowly to melt the butter then turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil.
Step 3: Sieve the flour and salt. Tip into the boiling mixture. Quickly, with a wooden spoon, beat the flour and water together. Remove from the heat after 30 seconds.
Step 4: Keep mixing together off the heat until the paste becomes thick and leaves the side of the saucepan. This is called a panade. Allow the paste to cool for 4- 5 minutes.
Step 5: Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until it is soft, shiny and smooth. If the eggs are large, it may not be necessary to add all of them. The mixture should be of a dropping consistency — should drop off a spoon in a blob — and not be too runny.
Step 6: Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Drop the paste into a piping bag or using two spoons, lift and scoop onto the tray. Leave about 2 centimetres between each blob of pastry.
Step 7: For a golden brown puff bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes. For a crisper pastry bake at 200C for 15-20 minutes. Avoid the temptation of opening the oven door for the first 10-15 minutes as this will affect the quality of the lift in the pastry.
To prevent collapse of the puff
When the puffs look crisp, some people like to take them out of the oven, stab with a skewer to remove the steam and put them back in the oven upside down for another 5 minutes.
For profiteroles that are to be filled, you can stab a hole, the size of a pea, in the base. Later this is where you can pipe in the filling.