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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Recipe: Pate a Choux

Bowl of Mixed Pate a Choux

Recipe: Pate a Choux

A Pastry Recipe Everyone Should Know

Pate a Choux (pronounced paht a shoo) is one of those pieces of kitchen magic. It is used to make an array of puffy pastries such as Eclairs and Profiteroles. A unique, double-cooked dough, Pate a Choux inflates to tremendous proportions when baked in a high temperature oven given the high ratio of eggs to flour. Surprisingly simple to execute, this recipe is worth knowing, if only for the "Wow" factor.

Sprinkle Covered Chouquettes
Learning how to make Pate a Choux is a must. This amazing dough is used to make a tremendous number of stand-out pastries: sweet Cream Puffs, classic Eclairs, miniature-yet-delicious Chouquettes (recipe coming this weekend!), ice cream filled Profiteroles, and cheesy Gougeres. 

Ingredients for Pate a Choux
Recipes for Pate a Choux will vary slightly depending on the intended use for the dough. But every recipe will include a liquid (typically Butter melted in Water and/or Milk), Flour (either Bread Flour or All Purpose Flour) and Eggs (potentially with additional Egg Yolks or Egg Whites).

Different Ingredients and What They Do:

- Water: Using Water as the base liquid results in a leaner dough (i.e. less fat). The lack of fat gives the dough more structure (i.e. better gluten development) resulting in larger, light and crispy puffs. 
- Milk and Butter: Milk and Butter introduce fat and sugar to the dough. The resulting puffs will be richer in flavor and softer, but they will not inflate as much.

- Bread Flour: The higher protein content in Bread Flour provides for better gluten development and results in larger puffs.
- All Purpose Flour: APF will work for Pate a Choux, but the puffs will be heavier and denser.
- Cake Flour: Cake Flour is not recommended given the low protein content.

- Egg Yolks: Additional Egg Yolks will create richer, denser puffs. Even when fully baked, the insides may remain somewhat gooey.
- Egg Whites: Additional Egg Whites will result in larger, crisper puffs. Egg Whites help to dry the dough and set the structure.

Butter and Water for Pate a Choux
All Pate a Choux recipes start by boiling Water and/or Milk with Butter.

Boiling Water and Butter for Pate a Choux
Cut the pieces of Butter into small cubes so that they completely melt by the time the Water boils. If the Water boils too quickly, too much moisture will evaporate before the other ingredients are added.

Bread Flour for Pate a Choux
Flour is the second ingredient. The higher protein content of Bread Flour makes for larger, light and crispy Pate a Choux pastries.

Adding the Bread Flour to the Boiling Water and ButterOnce the liquid is boiling, add all of the Flour in one addition.

Mixing the Bread Flour and Boiling Water and Butter for Pate a ChouxKeeping the pot over the heat, quickly stir the ingredients to form a thick paste.

Cooking the Initial Paste for Pate a ChouxOnce the dough comes together into a solid mass, continue stirring over the heat. The additional cooking time is required to further dry out the dough and to gelatinize the starches in the Flour.

The Initial Paste for Pate a Choux before Eggs
Once the dough forms a solid mass that cleanly pulls away from the sides of the pot, transfer it to a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat the dough for a couple of minutes to further dry and cool the dough. 

Eggs for Pate a Choux
Once the dough has cooled (but is still warm) prepare to add the Eggs. If the Eggs are added to a hot dough, they might curdle. If the dough is cold, the Eggs will be difficult to mix smooth. 

Eggs Mixing into Pate a Choux
Add the Eggs in multiple additions (i.e. six or more). If the Eggs are added all at once, the dough will just slosh around the Eggs. With each addition, the dough will initially appear wet and broken, but the Eggs will eventually incorporate creating a thick, sticky paste.

Bowl of Mixed Pate a Choux
The number of Eggs required will vary depending on how much moisture evaporated on the stove. You will know if enough Eggs have been added if a trench drawn through the center of the dough slowly refills in a matter of seconds. If the trench does not refill, more Eggs are needed. If the dough can barely hold a trench, too many have been added.

Piped and Sugar Covered Chouquettes
Pate a Choux is typically piped into various shapes, but you can simply spoon portions onto a sheet pan to make puffs. I've also proven that the dough works well in a waffle iron.

For most applications, bake the dough in a very hot oven (i.e. at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit) for 20+ minutes. Apply egg wash to give the pastries a shiny exterior.

Pate a Choux is fully baked when it feels light, hollow and airy, and the outside has a deep amber color with no white spots  (particularly in the cracks that form as the dough expands).

There are many ways to store Pate a Choux. The unbaked dough can be refrigerated in an air-tight container for 2-3 days. The dough can also be piped into the desired shapes and frozen, wrapped in plastic wrap, for a couple of months. Frozen pastries can be baked directly from the freezer and will only require a couple of additional minutes in the oven. Baked Pate a Choux will keep for 2-3 days; however, the pastries will become soft from moisture in the air and should be reheated in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 5 minutes to restore crispness.

Baked Chouquettes

- The Recipe -

Pate a Choux:

Yield1,000g (yields about 4 dozen large puffs)

  • Water: 360g (1.5 Cups)
  • Butter, cubed: 140g (1.25 Sticks)
  • Sugar: 9g (1.5 Tsp)
  • Salt: 6g (1 Tsp)

  • Bread Flour: 270g (2 1/4 Cups)

  • Egg Whites*: 270g (9x)
  • Egg Yolks*: 115g (6x)

* The total amount of Eggs required is the equivalent of 6 Whole Large Eggs plus 3 Large Egg Whites


1. Using a large pot, bring the Water, Butter, Sugar and Salt to a boil over high heat. 

Chef's Note: It is important to cube the Butter into small pieces so that it melts completely before the Water comes to a full boil. If the Water boils too soon, there will be too much evaporation and the final dough will be too dry.

2. As soon as the Water reaches a boil, add the Bread Flour in a single addition. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture over medium-high heat until a homogeneous dough forms. Continue to actively stir the dough over the heat ("Dessecher") until it forms a ball that easily pulls away from the side of the pot - approximately two to three minutes.

Chef's Note: When adding the dry ingredients, stir aggressively - the dough should form quickly. Cooking the dough mixture for a couple of minutes causes the starches in the Bread Flour to gelatinize and also dries the dough.

3. Transfer the dough to a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat the dough on medium speed for several minutes, releasing heat and steam. While the dough cools, beat the Egg Whites and Egg Yolks together in a separate bowl and set aside.

4. Once the dough is no longer hot, add the Eggs in no fewer than six additions. After each addition, mix the dough until the Egg is completely incorporated. When all of the Eggs have been added, the dough should be slightly fluid (When a trench is drawn through the center of the dough, it should fill back in within a couple of seconds). 

Chef's Note: It is important that the dough cools slightly before the Eggs are added or else the Eggs will cook. However, if the dough is too cold, the Eggs will not mix in well.

5. Form and bake the Pate a Choux according to the specific recipe. Most pastries made with Pate a Choux are baked in a high temperature oven (i.e. 400+ degrees Fahrenheit) for over 20 minutes.

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1 comment:

  1. Helpful hint: when I make pate a choux I was always unsure when to add eggs I learned that once you added the pate a choux to the mixer and you can touch the dimple on the bottom of the mixing bowl without burning the tip of your finger it safe to add eggs hope this helps anyone who makes pate a choux