Another pastry basic and something everyone adores is this pâte à choux. Used in a variety of pastries ranging from the most classic Éclairs and St. Honorés, to round choux puffs, to the English profiteroles and the Japanese/Asian cream puffs to Singapore’s Durian puffs, this I feel, is something everyone should and would love to master even if you’re just beginner.
With its high liquid content, this stiff doughy paste has a lot of moisture which when baked, it evaporates into steam and pushes the dough upwards causing it to rise and puff. It creates a hollow pocket inside, perfect for filling it with whatever flavoured cream you would like.
You can do so many variations with choux puffs. Even changing up its colour with a thin layer of crumble placed on top of it which curls down when softened and covers the unbaked choux. This crumble helps the choux keep its shape too, allowing you to glaze the tops beautifully. Making this at home is astonishingly difficult especially if your home is as hot as mine. Blast the air-conditioner if it helps!!
Choux puffs are generally adorned with a beautiful glaze that matches the flavour of your cream and decorated to match the “theme” of it. The colours of the glaze and decors are endless. From fondant based, to pâte d’amande, isomalt/caramel topping and a normal cooked glazed, it’s no wonder choux puffs, especially Éclairs, are so fun to make, pleasing to the eyes, and tantalizing. There’s just something about it that pushes a certain satisfaction button on our tongues and in our bellies.
I remember seeing an array of the most gorgeous colourful éclairs from the windows of Fauchon and l’Éclair de Genie in Paris, gets to me every time. A French classic you can’t forego even if you tried!
With this write up on choux puffs, I hope it inspires you to make your own style and flavor of choux puffs from your very own home. Trust me when I say that no matter who you give it to, they’re bound to love it ;)
When you combine the butter, sugar, salt and water and bring to a boil, always make sure the butter is completely melted before the mixture boils. The prevents too much liquid from evaporating.
1. Always take the boiled milk mixture off the heat and wait till the bubbles disappear before you add in the sifted flour. The mixture should look like this after. Free of flour lumps and it comes off the sides of the saucepan and forms a ball.
Stir it around just to release the steam so that there will not be too much humidity in the dough.
And then Miss K. sneaked up hoping for some treats, the little cutie.
2. Transfer in a bowl of a standing mixer and beat with a paddle attachment to cool it off slightly. Add in the eggs slowly, one by one, till the mixture is supple but not too stiff or too liquid. At the the dough may look like it’s splitting but just keep mixing it till it comes together. In the mean time, prepare your tools and tray.
3. Using a scrapper of at least 11cm, dip it in some flour and knock it against your tray (I used a non-stick tray. If you don’t have one, simply grease it generously and wipe with paper towel) This will be a guideline as to how long you should pipe for the éclairs.
4. With constant pressure and a plain nozzle of 12mm, pipe over the floured lines. When you come to the end of the line, push upwards to cut the batter.
5. If you’re piping rounds, use a round cutter and dip them in flour and knock against the tray as a stencil again. Alternatively, you can weigh them out individually, they should be about 7g per round.
6. Brush them with an egg wash or melted clarified butter to remove any imperfections. For the éclairs, once you’ve egg washed them, score it lightly lengthwise with a fork. This is a crucial step as it helps to keep them straight when you bake it. (Sorry no photos, I forgot haha)
7. If you’re placing a crumble on top, roll the crumble out really thin to about 2mm thickness and cut it (3 x 12)cm for éclairs or use a round cutter and cut according to the size of your round choux puffs. Place it gently on top of the unbaked choux puffs/éclairs.
8. Bake them at a high temperature of around 200-210C depending on your oven till they have puffed up to its maximum. Open the door slightly to release the steam, reduce the heat to 160C and switch on the fan function and bake till golden brown and dry inside. If it gets too brown, you may switch off the oven and leave them inside to dry some more.
éclairs with crumble – round puffs with no crumble – éclairs with no crumble.
9. Poke holes on the bottom using a chopstick or with any rounded tip and fill it with your desired filling. Glaze it, decorate it and serve cold.
Páte à Choux:
water – 250g
salt – 5g
sugar – 5g
butter – 125g
flour – 150g
eggs – 220g
Melt the water, butter, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and add in the sifted flour. Mix vigorously and well until the mass removes from the sides of the saucepan and and it is smooth and free of flour lumps.
Stir it around for a minute to remove the excess steam and humidity.
Transfer into a bowl of a standing mixer.
With a paddle attachment, beat the ball of dough till slightly cool and beat in the eggs one by one, mixing well between each addition. Remember the scrape the bottom of the bowl halfway. The mixture should be smooth and supple. You may not need to use all of the eggs, but most of it.
Pipe using a pastry bag fitted with a round plain tip. Egg wash it and streak it with a fork. Bake at 200-210C depending on your oven till they have puffed up to its maximum. Open the door slightly to release the steam, reduce the heat to 160C and switch on the fan function and bake till golden brown and dry inside. Set aside to cool.
Fill and glaze them and leave in the refrigerator till cold.
Serve them chilled.
// Note: Test a small batch in your oven to see if it bakes well. If not, adjust your temperature and play around with your oven till you obtain the optimal baking process for your choux puffs. Don’t give up if it fails the first time, it always happens even to me ;) Bon courage!! //