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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Culinary School - Sessions 14 & 15: Pate a Choux, Eclairs, Paris-Brest, Profiteroles and Swans

Culinary School: Sessions 14 & 15 (09.17.14 / 09.19.14)

Pate a Choux, Eclairs, Paris-Brest, Profiteroles and Swans

Unit Two, Pate a Choux...

For the uninitiated, that's a little rhyming to help with the pronunciation. Choux sounds like "shoe".

With the introductory content of Unit One: Tarts & Cookies already no more than a distant memory (not really... this class will be making Pate Brisee and Creme Legere for months), it's time to really get cooking.

What is Pate a Choux? 

"Choux" literally means "cabbage". So, Pate a Choux is "cabbage dough". The name is appropriate enough given how small balls of this dough resemble tiny cabbages when baked.

Pate a Choux is the base dough for Cream Puffs, Profiteroles, Eclairs, Paris-Brest, Gateaux St. Honore, Croquembouche.... If it puffs into a tasty delight that is crispy on the outside yet tender and airy on the inside, then it is highly likely that it was made with Pate a Choux.

Profiteroles with Pate a Choux

The culinary origins of Pate a Choux are a bit unclear: a 500 year old culinary invention to satisfy the cravings of the d'Medici family... a 250 year old stroke of genius from the mind of a French baker? Personally, I like to imagine the medieval equivalent of Dominque Ansel stumbling upon Pate a Choux as the Cronut of antiquity.

Pate a Choux is a bit of a wonder dough. Like all-good-things-pastry, Pate a Choux starts simply enough: flour... butter... eggs... water. But it should come as no surprise that some unique baking techniques unlock the true magic of this puffing dough.

Yeah... well what makes you so special?

Pate a Choux is cooked twice. Water and butter are brought to a boil and then flour is stirred into the mix. The ingredients quickly form a thick paste that continues to cook as starches in the flour gelate. The continued heating process also evaporates a lot of moisture, drying the paste.

After the paste has dried for several minutes, it is removed from the hot pot and actively stirred to release excess heat and even more moisture. One-by-one, eggs are beaten into the paste until it takes on a smooth, batter-like texture. The ideal batter will form a smooth, continuous ribbon when poured from a spoon - liquid enough be used in a piping bag but dry enough to hold its shape.

The dough can be piped or spooned into various shapes, and it is ultimately baked in a very hot oven (i.e. typically over 400 degrees Fahrenheit). The high temperature causes the surface of the dough to set quickly while the inside remains liquid and moist. Steam builds inside the dough as water evaporates, and the dough expands into remarkable puffs. Once the puffs have formed, the baking temperature is reduced so that the insides can continue to cook without burning the already crisp shells.

The end product is an extremely versatile, light and crisp pastry with a mild flavor. It works well in both sweet as savory preparations, giving a pastry chef ample room to go crazy with various filling and topping combinations!

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Eggs... eggs... eggs...

With up to a dozen eggs used per batch of Pate a Choux, this class is going through them by the pallet.

Ingredients used to date (09.19.14):
  • Flour: 6,190g
  • Eggs: 3,450g (69x)
  • Sugar: 3,900g
  • Butter: 3,830g
  • Milk/Cream: 3,725g

- The Recipes -


Pate a Choux

The base dough used for a wide range of extremely versatile, light and crisp pastries.

Focus Techniques:
- Using steam as a mechanical leavener.
- "Dessecher" - Drying out the Pate a Choux paste made from boiling water, butter and flour. The paste must be sufficiently dry to be able to incorporate the eggs.
- Adding eggs to the Pate a Choux paste until it forms a continuous, silky ribbon when poured from a spoon. The paste must be sufficiently dry to be able to properly incorporate the eggs.



An oblong pastry made from Pate a Choux that is typically filled with a light pastry cream and topped with an accompanying glaze. Any flavor can be used for the filling and glaze; however, traditional Eclairs will match flavors (i.e. a chocolate filling with a chocolate glaze).

Focus Techniques:
- Piping 4" Eclairs of even width and density. Piping the dough with different density will cause the pastry to rise unevenly.
- Scoring piped Eclairs with a fork to prevent tears from forming during baking.
- Baking Eclairs (and all Pate a Choux products) until the pastry is completely brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
- Working with "Pate a Glacer", a chocolate used for glazing. This chocolate is made with hydrogenated oils rather than cocoa butter. The composition means that no tempering is required to achieve a shiny appearance.
- Gently heating Pate a Glacer and poured fondant, never exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Overheating these glazes will cause sugars to crystalize. Crystallization will result in an undesirable matte finish.
- "Glacage" - Glazing an Eclair so that only the top of the pastry is covered and no excess glaze drips on the sides. 

Unbaked Piped Eclairs

Baked Eclairs

Eclairs to be Filled

Filled Eclairs

Filled and Glazed Eclairs

Filled and Glazed Eclairs



A ring-shaped pastry made from Pate a Choux that is covered with almonds and filled with a special Creme Paris-Brest: a rich, praline-flavored Creme Mousseline. The pastry is designed to resemble a bicycle wheel and is named in honor of a cycling race that occurred in France between Paris and Brest.

Focus Techniques:
- Piping multiple concentric and overlapping circles of Pate a Choux to form a single, ringed-shaped pastry. Seams of dough are formed at the same spot to yield a more uniformly baked product.
- Making Creme Mousseline (German Buttercream), a whipped combination of pastry cream and butter.
- Piping a decorative layer of filling that is distinctly viewable but which does not pour out of the side of the pastry.

Pate a Choux Piped for Paris-Brest





Simple balls of Pate a Choux, sliced horizontally and filled with ice cream or light pastry cream. Profiteroles are traditionally served three to a plate and covered in chocolate sauce.

Focus Techniques:
- Piping uniformly sized and shaped choux of 2".

Creme Legere

Profiteroles with Pate a Choux


Swans (Cygnes)

Ornate swan-shaped pastries filled with light pastry cream and whipped cream. The swans are constructed from a single tear-drop shaped choux. The choux is sliced horizontally with the bottom half serving as the base of the body. The top half is sliced vertically to form the wings. The head and neck of the swan are carefully piped with a cornet.

Focus Techniques:
- Baking the delicate swan necks in a separate, lower temperature oven.
- Piping whipped cream in a seashell pattern forming a base for the swan neck and wings.


Take a look at the full syllabus

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