Choux Pastry (Pâte à Choux in french) is a basic pastry dough used in Italian and French pastries.
As opposed to other doughs, Choux pastry has an extraordinary capacity to puff up during cooking, giving a distinctive hollow aspect to the baked products. Moreover, choux has a neutral taste, able to adapt to sweet and salty fillings.
This characteristic is mainly due to the particular preparation technique, which requires double cooking. The first one is done by cooking or better gelatinizing the flour starches in water and fat. The second cooking is done in the oven or in oil for the typical fried choux!
Every ingredient of Choux pastry has a precise function, and it is primary for succeeding in the recipe.
- Liquids: Generally, for the preparation of Choux pastry we use water or milk. Using milk will make the product more colored once baked.
- Fats: they are responsible for the choux pastry’s crunchiness and the width of the inner cavity. In fact, Fats offer a barrier to the steam formed during cooking and determines the product’s development in the oven. For a better result, I suggest using butter, even though it is common to prepare the recipe with oil in some areas of Italy.
- Flour: for the good success of Choux, we use flour with a low protein content (W 180-200 if you live in Europe). Using a flour too rich in proteins (like bread flour) will produce a choux that will get wet quickly because of the proteins’ natural capacity to draw water from the filling.
- Eggs: They represent the liquid part of the recipe, and together with flour, they build the structure of the choux. The liquid part of the egg produces the steam needed to swell the choux during cooking, whereas its proteins form its structure.
- Salt: Enhances the flavor of the choux and aids the coloring of the crust. To get a neutral taste, I advise adding salt in a proportion of 0.5% of the recipe’s total weight.
HOW TO MAKE CHOUX PASTRY
To prepare a great Choux pastry, start by preparing the “roux,” bringing the water (or milk) to a boil with butter and salt. Then add the flour… Little magic, the mixture will not make lumps!
After the Roux has gently cooked on the stove, we can pour it into a stand mixer (or a bowl), and we can start adding the eggs, always beating the mixture after each egg. Obtaining the right consistency is primary for the choux’s excellent success. If the dough is too stiff, it will make the puff break while cooking. In contrast, a dough too soft will be tough to shape, and the choux will tend to flatten once cooked!
A good test is to take a little bit of dough with a spatula and then letting it fall back into the bowl. The dough attached to the spatula has to shape a triangle! Easy, isn’t it?
COOKING AND STORAGE
The best solution for baking the choux is to use a lightly-buttered pan, better if you remove the exceeding grease with a piece of paper. That allows the dough to adhere to the base and better puff up.
An excellent solution is the use of micro-perforated Teflon pans, now quickly available on Amazon.
A static oven is the best baking option because the fan tends to wrinkle the choux’s surface and hinder their development (you get crooked and very wrinkled puffs). However, if you have a fan oven, don’t worry; you can use a pan to shield the ventilation!
For better development of the choux, I suggest baking them around 180-190°C (356°F – 374°F), keeping the oven door slightly ajar to allow the steam to leave, and have a well-dried product.
Once baked, you can freeze the empty choux (if you have the blast chiller, you can blast chill them to -18 °C, 0°F), closed in plastic bags for up to 60 days, but I recommend not to exceed 30days!