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.
Use for cream puffs, éclairs, profiteroles, etc.
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.