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How to Make Pate a Choux & Fill Eclairs and Cream Puffs

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[This is Part 2 in a two-part tutorial series that I put together to illustrate how to make pastry cream and how to make pâte à choux dough for cream puffs and éclairs. If you missed the first part, feel free to go back and read Part 1: Pastry Cream.]

Éclairs and cream puffs are one of my favorite desserts. My mom used to go to a bakery and pick some up for me each time I would visit as a special treat. I am ashamed to say that I *may* have once thrown an adult temper tantrum when I realized that the number of éclairs I was planning to take back with me had diminished by a noticeable number and I was not the one who had eaten them. I’m serious about my desserts, folks! Since I had previously conquered pastry cream and made it a number of times since, I felt that it was finally the perfect time to master pâte à choux and whip up those delicious pastries that I love so much.

I had been intimidated by pâte à choux for quite a while, and had always shied away from trying it. It seemed so… delicate. So… fussy. Imagine my shock when I made it for the first time and found it to be… simple. Gorgeous puffs of dough emerged from the oven. No drama. Beginners luck, perhaps? I’m still not sure, but I’ve never encountered problems with the dough and have found the recipe and method I’m going to share with you to be virtually foolproof. Okay, you made the pastry cream – now it’s time to create the pastries!

Once again, I am using the same recipe that was used when I first made éclairs and cream puffs, so if you’d like a commentary and photo-free recipe to print, I suggest heading over to that post.

IMPORTANT NOTE: When I did this tutorial I was making cream puffs for an order, so I doubled the recipe. That’s why you may see twice as many ingredients in the pictures as what is called for in the recipe.

Part 2: Pâte à Choux

This recipe makes enough for 24 cream puffs or 8 éclairs.

The ingredients:

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tablespoons whole milk
6 tablespoons water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted

1. Beat the eggs and egg white in a measuring cup or small bowl; you should have 1/2 cup (discard the excess). Set aside.

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2. Bring the butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring once or twice.

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When the mixture reaches a full boil (the butter should be fully melted), immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and the mixture clears the sides of the pan.

how-to-make-pate-a-choux-flour-add

Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand, and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the saucepan, about 3 minutes (the paste should register 175 to 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).

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3. Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool slightly. With the machine running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream. When all the eggs have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process for 30 seconds until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.

how-to-make-pate-a-choux-food-processor

(If not using immediately, transfer the paste to a medium bowl, press a sheet of plastic wrap that has been sprayed lightly with nonstick cooking spray directly on the surface, and store at room temperature for up to 2 hours.)

4. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large (18 by 12-inch) baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper; set the pan aside.

5. Fold down the top 3 or 4 inches of a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip to form a cuff. [If you don't have a 1/2-inch plain tip, you can cut  a 1/2-inch hole off the bottom of a disposable pastry bag or large ziploc bag.] Hold the bag open with one hand in the cuff and fill the bag with the paste. Unfold the cuff and push the paste toward the tip of the pastry bag.

A Note on Filling a Pastry Bag: I have always found that using a tall glass to hold the pastry bag while I fill it with dough, icing, melted chocolate, etc. makes it much easier and less messy.

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For cream puffs: Twist the top of the bag and pipe the paste into 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch mounds on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 to 1 1/4 inches apart. Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in a bowl of cold water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the piped mounds.

how-to-make-pate-a-choux

For éclairs: Twist the top of the bag and pipe the paste into eight 5 by 1-inch strips, spaced about 1 inch apart. Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in a bowl of cold water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the piped strips.

how-to-make-pate-a-choux-eclairs

6. Bake 15 minutes (do not open the oven door), then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm (the puffs and éclairs should not be soft and squishy), 8 to 10 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. With a paring knife, cut a 3/4-inch slit into the side of each puff and on the top of each éclair to release steam; return the puffs to the oven, turn off the oven, and prop the oven door open with the handle of a wooden spoon.

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Dry the puffs and éclairs in the turned-off oven until the centers are just moist (not wet) and the puffs and éclairs are crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer the puffs and/or éclairs to a wire rack to cool completely. (The cooled puffs and éclairs can be stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours or frozen in a zipper-lock plastic bag for up to 1 month. Before serving, crisp room-temperature puffs in a 300-degree oven 5 to 8 minutes; crisp frozen puffs/éclairs 8 to 10 minutes.)

7. When ready to serve:

For puffs: Use the tip of a paring knife to make a small X in the side of each puff, about halfway between the top and bottom. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain tip with the pastry cream and then pip some pastry cream through the X in the side of each puff. (Fill each puff until the pastry cream starts to ooze out the side.) Top with chocolate glaze or sifted powdered sugar.

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For éclairs: With a paring knife, cut around the sides of each éclair to remove the top third. Dip the top of each éclair into the glaze, shaking off any excess, and transfer the tops to a wire rack to dry. Spoon 3 to 4 tablespoons of pastry cream in the bottom of each éclair. Once the glaze has set, set the tops on the éclairs and press gently to secure. [You could also use a long, narrow pastry tip (such as this) and use the same method as cream puffs, piping in pastry cream from each end.]

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45 Responses to “How to Make Pate a Choux & Fill Eclairs and Cream Puffs”

  1. Elle on August 19, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Gorgeous! I only made eclairs once and getting them to stay puffed was impossible. Even made them twice, so it must’ve been the recipe.

    I love how yours turned out!

    Reply

    • Heide on January 26th, 2014 at 5:25 am

      Rose levy Beranbaum suggests the cuisinart technique in her book. Pie and Pastry Bible

      Reply

  2. Megan on August 19, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I love all your step-by-step pictures! I’ve tried a couple of pate a choux recipes (Joy of Cooking and Julia Child’s) — neither used beaten eggs or a food processor, so your recipe is very different from what I’m used to. I’m guessing that it saves a good deal of the effort used to beat the eggs one by one into the mixture by hand.

    It seems like your mixture ends up a bit lighter than mine too. I might give it a try and compare it to what I use. Thanks for all the tips and instructions!

    Reply

  3. Danielle on August 19, 2009 at 4:02 pm

    wow…great demonstration and awesome tips. I think if i put my mind to it, even I could do it!

    Reply

  4. Bridget {Bake at 350} on August 19, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Great tutorial! They looks so luscious! :)

    Reply

  5. BethieofVA on August 19, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Beautiful!! I might just have to give it a try.

    Reply

  6. BAKING is my ZeN on August 19, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    WoW! Fantastic presentation of this tutorial. A must try for sure!

    Reply

  7. linda on August 19, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    dear helen..for a baker that is trying to elevate her skills this is just the best! & i *heart* the note on filling the pastry bag!
    thank you…thank you!

    Reply

  8. Liz Marr, MS, RD on August 19, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Great tutorial!

    Reply

  9. Jen on August 20, 2009 at 2:07 am

    These are so cute! Your pictures are really nice. Thanks so much for the step-by-step visuals. I’m not a very experienced baker, but the pictures just might inspire me to try something. I LOVE choux cremes!

    Reply

  10. Lina@ My Life Is Yummy on August 20, 2009 at 2:08 am

    you make it look so easy!!!

    Reply

  11. Avanika (Yumsilicious Bakes) on August 20, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Thank you soo much for this!! :)

    Reply

  12. Tracey on August 20, 2009 at 9:57 pm

    I’ve only made pate a choux once, but I used this recipe from Baking Illustrated, too and had great success! I loved your tutorial.

    Reply

  13. sherri on August 21, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Really good job on the tutorial. These are perfect!

    Reply

  14. MARCIA on August 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I really like your idea of a tutorial on your blog….like an “on line cooking school”. When I first made cream puffs years ago, they were very intimidating until I tried them. Your followers will see just how easy they are. The only draw back is making them on a hot humid day, like the past three days!!!

    Reply

  15. pity on August 21, 2009 at 6:44 pm

    very educational and well explained, i want to go to my kitchen and start baking them now…i will try your way…thanks,

    pity

    Reply

  16. pigpigscorner on August 22, 2009 at 7:17 am

    This is definitely in my to-try list, love cream puffs!

    Reply

  17. Kendra on August 24, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    I LOVE your pictures and detailed instructions. I need to get around to trying to make these! I’m a little intimidated but you are making it a little easier for me. :)

    Reply

  18. B on August 27, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Thank you so much! I’m going to try these this weekend. I have one question… I don’t own a food processor. Would I be able to do that step in my stand mixer with the paddle attachment?

    Reply

  19. Michelle on August 27, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    B – Yes, you can do the food processor part in a stand mixer with your paddle attachment. I have seen quite a few recipes use that method. Can’t wait to hear how it goes!

    Reply

  20. Chris on September 3, 2009 at 6:23 am

    Yum

    Reply

  21. Mille on November 1, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Just to verify on the mount of beaten eggs: is it 1/2 cup or 1 cup? You stated 1/2 cup but your photo shows one full cup.

    Reply

  22. windy on December 13, 2009 at 10:31 pm

    thanks for the tutorial! I am attempting quite a feat for christmas: a croquembouche! I have made pastry cream one (and failed!) and have never made puffs/profiteroles either! I think your tutorial will really help! thanks!

    Reply

  23. Kristen on January 5, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    I just purchased some chocolate dipped cream puffs from the store because they reminded me of the Italian type I love and can’t seem to find now. *Wishing I could also find Terimisu*

    But since I’ve eaten these, they taste a bit different from the Italian type, but I love them the same. Therefore, I researched on how to make them, and I’m thankful for having found your tutorial(s). (I add the ‘s’ because I intend to use you as a major reference to most, if not all, my cooking now.)

    I’m excited about trying these steps. I’ve never made such things before, and so I’m a little nervous. But I love to cook, so it should be good. Thank you for sharing your procedure(s) with us. :)

    Reply

  24. Sarah on March 29, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    these look faboulous!!! i can’t wait to try them but i had a question about the eggs..is it 1 cup or 1/2 cup. your tutorial says 1 cup so just want to make sure before i try these! thanks!

    Reply

  25. Michelle on April 3, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    It’s actually a ½ cup. I apologize for the inaccuracy of the picture, as I was making a double batch at the time.

    Enjoy the cream puffs! :)

    Reply

  26. Maggie on June 26, 2010 at 11:55 am

    Awesome! I have made the pastry cream and the pate a choux. I just used up my cream and chocolate when my girls wanted to make chocolate ice cream, so I’ve got to head back to the store. I read your other post without realizing you had pictures on this link. I can’t wait to try them!

    Reply

  27. Pingback: Toasted Almond and Candied Cherry Ice Cream | Brown Eyed Baker

  28. Dave on March 19, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    This was a great recipe. I made this today, side by side with another recipe (http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/projects/weekend-project-introduction-to-pte-choux-080889) which called for 4 eqgg yolks and 1 cup water. Your recipe was much better – sweeter and lighter, whereas the other was distinctly eggy. Just FYI in case anyone else is comparing recipes – this is a great one to try.

    Reply

  29. Angela on April 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    I only got about ten miniature puffs as apposed to 24. Was the twenty four according to your double batch? I followed the recipe exactly.

    Reply

    • Michelle on April 17th, 2011 at 3:15 pm

      Hi Angela, No the yield of 24 is for the regular recipe.

      Reply

  30. john belleme on August 7, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    wow did you also write baking ilustrated ?

    Reply

  31. Alexa aldridge on August 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm

    This is a question. Can pate a chouz be made a day ahead?

    Thank you.

    Alexa

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 13th, 2011 at 2:52 pm

      Hi Alexa, It really should be made the same day. At the most, you can keep it at room temperature for a couple of hours (as indicated in the directions). You can freeze baked cream puffs though.

      Reply

  32. Brandi on February 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    I just tried this recipe today and the pastry cream came out PERFECT!!! I was so nervous because I just started baking in general and I’m young and inexperienced, but I’m aspiring to become a great baker:) Thank you so much for this tutorial, it was really handy and detailed. BTW: I Love this site!!!

    Reply

  33. Trish on February 14, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    This pate a choux recipe did not work for me. I ‘volunteer test’ recipes for Cooks Illustrated and I tried this to the letter (weighed flour etc) and it was way too loose. The end result was flattened eclairs that I could not fill. I am now making the Joy of Cooking recipe (which has always worked) and noticed that you have twice the butter for the same amount of flour, which would only make more work for the eggs to get the dough to rise(?).
    It would also help to mention that overworking the flour with the low heat will cause the eclairs to collapse (as Joy of Cooking does).

    Reply

  34. Pingback: How To Make Pâte a Choux | Dinner Series

  35. Karina Fogliani-Ahmed on March 15, 2013 at 11:57 am

    For the puffs, should I just pump the dough straight or should I make a round movement while piping it on the plaque, as if to form a nest – sort of?

    Reply

    • Michelle on March 21st, 2013 at 9:22 pm

      Pipe the dough straight, not a nest.

      Reply

  36. Colette @JFF! on March 17, 2013 at 2:30 am

    It’s nearly midnight and I’ve now wasted 5,524 eggs trying to make eclairs for my dad’s birthday. Your advice just may have saved me. Thanks!

    Reply

  37. Nini. A on October 7, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I tried your recipe today and it was a total success!!! im so happy! the first time i made Pate a Choux, turned into baked churros. THANK YOU soo much!

    Reply

  38. Kelli on June 13, 2014 at 8:10 pm

    At the moment i am on vacation and i have no access to a stand mixer food processor. How can i use a hand held mixer to make the shells?

    Reply

    • Michelle on June 13th, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      Hi Kelli, Unfortunately, I’m not sure how these would turn out with a hand mixer. The food processor really creates a smooth and silky dough.

      Reply

  39. Carrie on June 21, 2014 at 8:08 am

    It is national chocolate eclair day tomorrow (June 22nd), and I’m using your fabulous recipes! Do you have a recipe for the chocolate glaze to use? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Carrie on June 21st, 2014 at 1:36 pm

      Wait…I just found the glaze recipe on your other post with the full eclair / pastry creme / glaze recipes! Thanks!

      Reply

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