Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pâte à Choux

I have long wanted to make a Croquembouche, one of those divine towers of caramel coated cream puffs crowned with spun sugar. Having never before so much as attempted a pâte à choux, I thought that was a good place to start. I chose Paula Peck as my guide and, true to form, she did not let me down. They turned out so well, I'm sorry now I didn't have the forethought to make a crème pâstissière. Next time.
You can use pâte à choux to make cream puffs, of course, or éclairs or profiteroles or a croquembouche or cheese puffs or any number of pastries sweet or savory. I did not put any sugar in my pâte à choux, but I'm sure you could if you want to push your puffs to the sweet side.

Pâte à Choux

adapted from Paula Peck's The Art of Fine Baking

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar (optional)
  • 4 eggs
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment or silicone mats and set aside
  • Combine flour, salt, and sugar (if using) and set aside. Put butter and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the butter is melted and the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Add the flour mixture all at once and stir vigorously for 3-5 minutes. The mixture will pull away from the sides of the pan and form a dough.
  • Remove from heat and transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment beat the dough on low speed for about a minute. Increase the speed and add 3 of the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly beat the fourth egg and add gradually to the dough. Beat until the dough is smooth and shiny.
  • Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with either a round or star tip, depending on the look you're going for, and pipe dough according to what you're going to use it for.
  • Bake until puffs are golden brown and show no signs of moisture, 40-50 minutes for two-inch puffs. Turn the oven off and leave the puffs in the oven for an additional 15 minutes.
It's an odd process, making pâte à choux, but worth its strangeness for the delight of seeing beautifully puffed pastries when you open the oven.

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