The Pâte à Choux or Choux pastry is a light, crispy, and airy pastry used to make a number of things including choux au craquelin, croquembouches, gougères, French crullers.
Ingredients required to make one include flour, eggs, butter, and water. These are simple ingredients however they seem to give half of the population a problem while the other gets on perfectly well. Why is that? Keep reading to find out.
A simplified guide to making Choux pastry
The perfect choux pastry should have a light, crisp outer shell as well as a sweet, soft, and creamy innard. It should have large air pockets within too. This can be filled with any sweet feeling of your choice. It may show some cracks but the shape of whatever it was piped in will most likely be retained.
Below are tips that produce consistently perfect results:
1. When making the dough, measure each ingredient you use by weight and not by volume Michael Ruhlman’s ratio by weight for choux pastry is 2:1:1:2 of water, butter, flour and eggs but you can add a bit of extra flour to achieve crisp and stable results.
2. Cook the dough first. This will lead to the birth of a sturdy pastry shell with a custard-like texture within. You can start with cold milk or water, then add salt and sugar to the water or milk. Be sure to cut the butter into small pieces so they can melt before the mix starts boiling. This helps make a smooth dough which will determine whether you’ll have cracked shells later or not.
3. Remember not to knead the dough for too long because it will cause the butter to separate from the dough. Signs to look out for that show the dough is ready include:
- A film on the bottom of the saucepan left by the dough (visible for those with a stainless steel pan. If you use a non–stick pan, look out for oil droplets that form on the pan’s bottom.
- The dough becomes cohesive and can easily be pulled away from the sides of the pan.
- Zero flour clumps in the dough.
4. Let the dough cool down to at least 160°F
5. Whisk the egg before adding it to the cooled-down dough. Whisking the eggs beforehand will ensure you have an even mix of egg and yolk. It will also allow you to control how much to add as you determine the consistency you want.
6. Try to bake the choux pastry at one constant temperature. Preferably – 375°F, for 35 – 45 minutes.
7. Never open the oven door until the choux pastry shells have set. This is because the pastry depends on steam to expand. The process takes about 25 to 30 minutes for standard-sized choux pastry. That time decreases for smaller shells and increases for bigger ones.
8. Prick each shell with a toothpick at the 25 to 30 minutes mark to allow the steam within to escape.
9. Be sure to store the finished product in an airtight container. They can last in the fridge for up to two days.