Perfecting Choux Pastry – The Butter and Streusel Variables

Choux - Butter variable 11I like butter. I like it a lot. So the question of how much butter is best in choux is one close to my heart. I also like brown sugar, so if I can get some in via streusel, then I will. So those were the next two variables to try.

I made two batches using my now favoured cake flour but only used water. I felt that would make the impact of the butter more apparent (rather than having the milk fat in the mix, so to speak). The recipe was:

  • 125g cake flour
  • 240g eggs
  • 125g water
  • 125g milk
  • 2.5g salt
  • 2.5g sugar

I used the highest and lowest amounts of butter in my spreadsheet, namely 125g (Aoki) and 60g (Bertinet). I’ll call them ‘Buttery’ and ‘Not Buttery’.

In terms of making the paste, the main difference was at the panade stage. The Buttery batch looked very oily, like scrambled eggs, and didn’t make much of a crust on the bottom of the saucepan. By contrast, the Not Buttery mix wasn’t oily at all, but instead was almost paste-like, quite stretchy and came together very quickly. Made a crust easily and quickly, and was quite hard to stir. They absorbed similar amounts of egg (about 95-100g each). I decided to pipe these in rounds rather than éclair shapes as I thought it would be easier to see the impact of the streusel.

Which brings me to… making the streusel. I followed Chef Eddy’s recipe, which you can find here. I rolled it out very thinly and put little discs on top of some of each batch. I baked both at 190C for simplicity. Here they are post-bake:

Choux - Butter variable - 1 of 10Once baked, I enlisted a new tasting companion, my 5 year old son Ollie. He made some very insightful comments as you’ll see. First, though, here’s some comparison images.

Not that different. However, streusel really does make a difference…

Choux - Butter variable - 7 of 10

Comparing streusel

Choux - Butter variable - 8 of 10

What emerged was:

  • Streusel definitely helped them to expand more (which is in line with what the excellent Chef Eddy says here).
  • Streusel also meant they rose and expanded more evenly. You can see the ‘exploded’ look of the non-streusel ones next to the streusel ones very clearly
  • Buttery and Not Buttery choux expanded pretty much the same amount. Both were very hollow. The Buttery ones were perhaps a touch less hollow, but it did differ across buns so this wasn’t a clear distinction between them.

Then the tasting… To be honest, they weren’t actually hugely different. The Buttery ones were slightly more crisp and biscuity, while the Not Buttery ones were crunchy. Ollie’s conclusion was that the Not Buttery were ‘just below the right flavour level’ while the Buttery ones were ‘at the level of good flavour’. I agree. Buttery ones had better ‘mouthfeel’, as they say. They melted more nicely in the mouth, and the taste was a little better.

The streusel ones had a glorious sweet, brown-sugary crust that I loved, as did Ol. I think if you can make streusel ones, do. You could even put chocolate over the streusel (hmm… that gives me some good ideas) but I’m not sure if you could dip them in caramel successfully. I suspect you could make them using caster sugar instead to reduce the flavour impact if you wanted to.

Verdict

More butter is better but not crucial. Streusel will make your choux puff up a treat and produce lovely, neat little buns but might restrict what else you do, and will give them a distinct flavour.