Calling all aspiring dessert chefs: choux pastry is a light, fluffy, and delicious type of pastry that relies on high moisture levels and steam instead of yeast to rise. If you’ve ever wanted to make cream puffs, cheese puffs, eclairs, or custard-filled pastries, the choux pastry should be your first building block, as the steam and the lightweight nature of the dough helps to create a hollow center that can be filled with whichever delectable treat you prefer. As you likely know if you have ever attempted a pastry recipe (Udemy offers numerous courses on the pastry chef pursuit, for those interested in starting for the first time), it isn’t the ingredients that make the choux pastry a challenging concoction.
On the contrary, the elements that make up this weightless pastry are secondary to the mathematical perfection of their ratios. So read on to learn the best choux pastry method to use as you don your chef’s hat and head into the kitchen. Just remember that exactitude and meticulous measuring are the true hallmarks of success.
Compiling the Ingredients
As I mentioned earlier, choux pastry recipes are not challenging because of their ingredient lists. Virtually any choux pastry recipe you stumble upon will call for the same items, all of which you likely already have in your refrigerator or pantry. Butter, eggs, flour, salt, and of course water are the essentials here, so make sure you have enough of each to make the amount of choux pastry you want.
For our purposes, we will base everything around one cup of water as the benchmark – a benchmark that will make about 20 medium-sized pastries or four-dozen small pastries. Luckily for you, it’s also a benchmark that makes everything incredibly simple. Most pastry chefs indicate that the best choux pastries are made from a 1:1:1:1 ratio: one cup of water, one stick of butter, one cup of flour, and one cup of eggs. Some recipes will explain the ratio as 1:1:1:1:1, including “one pinch of salt” as the fifth part of the ratio.
Obviously, the direction calling for “one cup of eggs” is the hardest part of the equation here, if only because most people don’t measure their eggs in terms of cups. Four large eggs will usually be equivalent to a cup, but since egg sizes vary, make sure to measure your eggs to be sure you get the right amount. Adapt the recipe as necessary for larger or smaller parties.
Mixing the Dough and Making the Pastries
There are a few directions that will be consistent across virtually every choux pastry recipe you come across. The 1:1:1:1 ratio is one of those hallmarks, as is the oven temperature, which pastry lore says should be set at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for the best results.
While the oven preheats, though, you will want to move to the stove to simmer the water and melt the butter. Add the flour and stir it quickly into the mixture, choosing only one stirring direction – clockwise or counterclockwise – and sticking with it until the concoction becomes a paste or dough. Then, remove the mixture from the stove and allow it to cool for a few minutes before adding the eggs and salt.
The Final Steps
When you add the eggs to the mixture, it will transform from a pasty flour, water, and butter mixture into a sticky, pale tan dough. This consistency should be your sign to transfer the mixture into a piping bag, which will allow you to squeeze the dough out onto baking sheets in the form of small or medium-sized puffs. Push down the tips of the dough on each puff to avoid burning, and then insert your baking tray into the oven.
All choux pastries bake for 10 minutes to begin with, all at the 425-degree temperature that you set before. After those 10 minutes have elapsed, turn the temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of your pastries. Keep an eye on the puffs at this stage, though, making sure to remove them from the oven once they are golden brown. As soon as you remove the pastries from the oven, pierce each one with a sharp knife to give the steam inside chance to escape.
Once the choux pastry shells have cooled, they will be ready to take on whatever filling you have chosen, be it sweet or savory. If you want to learn more about making pastry shells or choosing delicious fillings, Udemy offers an “Online Pastry School” that teaches complete mastering of the pastry chef art in just a week’s time! Who knows, you might learn so much from this course that you want to become a pastry chef by trade! If so, let Udemy teach you how to start a food business from home! If not, though, you can still at least wow your friends, your family, or even your dates with your delicious choux pastries.