Perfecting Choux Pastry – The Conclusion
It has been an epic journey through choux pastry and to be honest, I’m a bit over eating profiteroles. I need a break and a new project. But before I do, here’s my conclusions for perfect choux including what I think is the perfect recipe.
Choux Pastry recipe
- 125g cake flour
- 100g unsalted butter
- 240g eggs
- 125g water
- 125g milk
- 2.5g salt
- 2.5g sugar
Cut butter into cubes and put in saucepan with the milk, water, salt and sugar. Heat until butter has melted and liquid is boiling. While waiting for that to happen, sift flour and have it ready to dump in. Take pan off the heat, get a whisk ready in one hand and dump in flour with other then whisk like mad. Back on the heat when combined, change to a wooden spoon and stir constantly over the heat for 3-5 minutes. This is the panade A crusty film should form on the bottom of the pan and the mixture will have come together. Dump it into your mixer bowl and let it cool until it’s a little under 60C. Using the paddle attachment, start on medium. Lightly beat all the eggs together in a jug. Add a splash – about half an egg – while beating. Beat until incoporated. Add another splash and repeat. Keep your eye on it – the more you add, the slower you need to go. Once it starts to look smooth and shiny, go very slowly with the eggs. You can add more but once you go over, the mixture will be irredeemably sloppy and won’t work as well. Periodically stop, dip your finger in and pull it out so a little pointed blob forms on the end (like a beak). Hold your finger out parallel to the ground. If the tip of the beak starts to droop it’s ready. The mixture will be really golden and smooth and shiny. Have a look at the pictures at The Flavour Bender, which offer a really good visual guide.
Pipe on a greased tray. Bake at 180C for 20 minutes (although check at 15 mins if they are small so that they don’t brown to quickly. Crack the oven door and jam a wooden spoon in to keep it ajar. Bake for another 10-20 minutes. You can then turn off the oven and leave them to dry out more. You can cut a vent although I don’t bother and it’s fine. Cool completely before filling.
- Dump all the flour in at once and whisk like anything. There may be a few tiny lumps. It’s ok but try to avoid them.
- Cool the panade to below 60C before adding eggs of they will cook. Leith’s say get it down to about 40C as you’ll be able to incoporate more eggs, giving more rise. I didn’t test this, but I feel like it’s correct from my experience plus it’s Leith’s – I trust them.
- Cook the panade thoroughly so that it dries out a fair bit. The drier it is, the more egg you can get in, and egg makes for a nice big rise. You can, according to Sadaharu Aoki, check the temperature rather than look for a skin. If you want to do it this way, it needs to get to 75C. The Flavour Bender suggests using the ‘upright spoon’ test – that it’s cooked when it’s stiff enough for a wooden spoon to stand upright in it. It will also have droplets of oil on the surface.
- If you’re in the UK, make sure your cake flour doesn’t have a raising agent in it. Most of the ‘sponge flour’ at the supermarket does and this will be… bad. I’m not sure what they will look like, but not nice.
- You can use less butter (as little as 60g) or as much as 125g. It will be fine. Butter just tastes a bit better but it’s not fatal.
- You can bake at 160C or 200C if you like. 160C is unforgiving if your paste is imperfect and they won’t puff as much, but they might crack less. 200C will make them puff even if your paste is a bit iffy.
- You can use just water. They will be a bit blander but fine.
- You can use plain flour (all purpose flour) or bread flour. Bread flour will be a chewier rather than tender and crispier. I’d add more butter if I were using bread flour. Plain flour will be a little chewier too, but fine as well if that’s all you have. Don’t sweat this.
- You can spritz with water/oil mixture before baking. I couldn’t see much difference.
- Use the best butter and eggs you can. They give the flavour.
- Make sure salt and sugar are dissolved in the liquid.
- You can leave them to fully dry out overnight in the oven (turned off, door closed) once done. They won’t have the custardy centres, but they also won’t get soggy when filled. It’s a judgment call based on what you’re using them for and when.
- Bread flour makes stronger choux. I’d use that if I were making a croquembouche.
- Add streusel to make a rounded, more puffed puff. Chef Eddy’s recipe is the best I’ve found.
- You can deep-fry choux and dredge in icing sugar… just saying…
The best filling, hands down in my book, is creme leger – creme patissiere with whipped cream folded through it. You can use the creme patissiere recipe here. Once it has cooled, beat it well with a wooden spoon to loosen it (try not to whisk unless it’s lumpy. If you do whisk, do so as little as possible). Whip double cream with vanilla and sugar and fold through. Pipe in by making a tiny hole first in the base.
Creme patissiere on it’s own is also good, and you can flavour it. Grand Marnier and chocolate (together or apart) are lovely options. I also like a light chocolate ganache, and flavouring it with Monin syrups is gorgeous. Cutting apart eclairs and puffs allows you to add fruit. Take some inspiration from Paris Patisseries.
Dipping in caramel is classic, a bit of a faff, but delicious. Chocolate also wonderful. And dipping either in an extra layer of nuts or praline is a superb option. Icing is fine too, if you like that sort of thing. If that’s all too much, just dust with icing sugar!
That’s the end of this epic exploration of choux. The main thing is, don’t be nervous. It’s not that hard, just a bit tricky in places but give it a go. It’s tremendously satisfying if it goes well, and if it doesn’t, just fill them whipped cream and cover with chocolate and they will still taste great.