I’m sharing all my tips for making light as air pâte à choux. This delicate pastry makes airy pastry perfect for filling with sweet and savory stuffings. Learn everything you need to know about choux pastry from how to make, pipe, store, and fix some of the most common issues.
If you are not familiar with choux pastry, it’s a light and airy dough used to make desserts ranging from eclairs to churros and more. This unique dough is twice-baked, first on the stove, to create a silky smooth finish. Then it bakes to golden perfection in the oven.
Made with water, eggs, flour, and butter the pastry has a high moisture content which causes the pastry to rise and leave space for delicious fillings to be stuffed with pastry cream or other fun fillings. Once you’ve mastered making choux pastry, the delicious treats you can make are endless including:
Eclairs: Pastry cream is piped into long logs and then filled with pastry cream and topped with chocolate.
Profiteroles: Also known as cream puffs, profiteroles are filled with pastry cream or ice cream. They often come served with a silky chocolate topping.
Croquembouches: A cone-shaped tower made from choux pastry puffs baked and dipped in caramel binding the tower together.
Gougeres: A savory appetizer made with choux pastry.
Beignets: The dough is fried instead of baked into a type of fritter.
Churros: Piped from a star-shaped nozzle and fried into a crispy treat.
The beautiful thing about this dough is that it uses just a handful of pantry staple ingredients that you probably already have on hand.
Milk: You can also use water or a combination of both water and milk. Depending on the final pastry you are making with the dough, one or the other may be called for in the recipe.
Butter: During the baking process, this allows the pastry to rise.
Salt: Gives a little flavor to the choux.
Flour: Gives structure to the pastry.
Eggs: Helps give the pastry structure and makes a crisp outer shell.
Boil milk, butter, and salt: Place the water or milk, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a full rolling boil.
Add the flour: Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon or a stiff silicone spatula, stir until the flour is thoroughly mixed in and no clumps remain, pressing and smashing the dough against the sides of the pan.
Stir the dough together: Return the pot to medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently until the dough comes together in one mass and there is a dry film on the bottom and sides of the pan.
Beat in a mixer: Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes to cool the dough down. Check the temperature again, it should read about 145°F.
Mix in eggs: Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Once all of the eggs have been added scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix again to ensure everything is fully incorporated for an additional 5 to 10 seconds.
Piping the Dough
Once you’ve made the dough, you will then need to determine what shape pastry you plan to make. I’ll give you directions for piping some of the most common choux pastry shapes.
Round (for puffs)– Use a round 1/2-inch piping tip. Make sure the tip always touches the dough to prevent ripples. Hold the bag upright as you pipe the dough to ensure the pastry will rise upwards.
Elongated (for eclairs)– Use a round or French star tip pipe the dough out at a 45° angle and keep consistent pressure while you pipe.
After piping the rounds and eclairs, be sure to dip your finger in water and flatten any points that might have been made with the pastry tip to prevent spots from burning.
After piping your pastry onto parchment paper, you are ready to bake these beauties!
Depending on the different pastry you plan to make your baking instructions will change.
Now, this is where you can really get creative with choux pastry. Since the dough is rather bland in flavor, you can really dress it up by stuffing it with many different fillings. Some of my favorite ways to fill baked pâte à choux include:
Some of the most common issues surrounding choux pastry include runny dough and collapsed pastries. Let’s talk a little bit about why these issues occur, how you can prevent them, and ways to fix the issue if they happen.
Runny pastry dough
This issue occurs in the addition of the eggs to the batter. Most recipes call for 4 eggs, this one included, and I have found time and time again 4 is the magic number for making the right consistency of dough.
If you add the 4th egg and it gets too runny, do not add additional flour to thicken the dough. I repeat, do not add additional flour. Instead make the milk, butter, salt, and flour dough base and cook through steps 1-3 on the stove. Allow to cool and gradually add the dough into the first batch of dough you made until it reached the ‘V’ shape consistency.
There are two main reasons your pastry will collapse. The first is that the oven was opened before the choux cooked through. This happens when you open the oven to check on them before the cooking time is complete. I would suggest keeping the door closed the first 20 minutes of baking before peeking for a doneness check.
By opening the oven you allow the steam to escape preventing the exterior of the pastry from crisping up.
Choux pastry also collapses when you do not prick the baked pastry shells to vent the hot air from inside. If un-vented, the hot air adds moisture inside the pastry and causes it to collapse while cooling.
Making in Advance
Store unfilled baked pastry shells in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Reheat them in the oven to crisp up and fill.
Freeze baked pastry shells in an airtight container for up to 3 months, thaw, and bake to crisp up before filling.
To tackle pâte à choux and bake along with me this month, simply do the following:
Make a batch of choux pastry and turn them into whatever pastry you’d like! Gougeres and churros are linked above, and stay tuned this week for recipes for pastry cream, cream puffs, eclairs, and profiteroles. You’ll have many options!
Snap a picture and either share it on social media (#BEBbakealong on Instagram or Twitter), upload it to the BEB Facebook group, or email it to me.
Check-in on Instagram and Facebook throughout the month to see everyone’s pastries and cheer each other on!
Place the water or milk, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan. Place over high heat and bring to a full rolling boil.
Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon or stiff silicone spatula and stir until the flour is thoroughly mixed in and no lumps remain, pressing and smashing the dough against the sides of the pan.
Return the pot to medium-high heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the dough comes together into one mass and there is a dry film on the bottom and sides of the pan. If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should register 175 degrees F.
Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes to cool the dough down. It should register 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
Add the eggs one at a time, ensuring each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Once all of the eggs have been added, scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and mix again to ensure everything is fully incorporated, an additional 5 to 10 seconds.
Use immediately or keep at room temperature for up to 2 hours in a piping bag or with a piece of plastic wrap pressed against the surface.
Make the Dough By Hand: You do not need a mixer to make this dough; I often make it by hand. Cool it down by stirring it frequently with a spoon or spatula, then beat in each egg one at a time by hand.