easy recipe for choux pastries
I experimented with choux pastry yesterday. ‘Experiment’ sounds so much more positive than ‘disaster’, I think! Maybe gluten-free choux pastry was a little ambitious, considering it’s the first time I’ve ever made choux buns, with anything.
However, I have been obsessed with trying to make my own choux pastry cakes since last week’s Great British Bake Off (which featured a choux bike and swans, among other things) and since I only have gluten-free flour in the house, I thought I would give it a go.
So, I gamely began baking, envisioning the bounteous clouds of profiterole buns which would soon emerge from the oven. I thought this would be as simple as other French desserts. However, it is a completely foreign concept.
It’s as far from what I consider as ‘pastry’ as you can get, but neither is it very like a batter, such as you would use for pancakes and Yorkshire puds. The entire process goes against my home-baking instincts, leading me into a strange world. The choux pastry is very hard to make.
The first batch was an utter disaster. I don’t know whether I was too gentle with my flour-beating, or too quick with the egg-beating, but I ended up with a horrible, lumpy batter that simply would not go smooth. I chucked it and started again, ending up with a much better pastry.
I don’t know whether it was the gluten-free flour, the fact that I opened the oven too early, or a combination of both, but when I took out the buns, half of them collapsed into a sorry-looking heap. They didn’t rise and weren’t so much buns as pancakes.
Still, I was determined to salvage my choux pastry mess. I nibbled a little and it tasted reasonably choux-like, so I whipped up some cream and stuck random bits of pastry together. There were a couple of round buns, but mostly it was just a collection of pastry and cream.
Undeterred, and feeling that decoration and presentation were no longer an issue, I bunged in a load of leftover cream into melted chocolate and made a ganache.
I spooned it generously over the choux pastry and let it cool, then my friends and I just dug in. Soon we were all grinning, covered in cream and chocolate, but sharing astonishment that they actually tasted like profiteroles. Despite the pastry’s sorry collapse, it was still light, airy, and sweet, and the cream added even more of a cloud-like feel.
So, this is how to make choux pastry step by step, in my own way.
Gluten-Free Choux Buns
- 3 oz butter
- 7 floz water
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 4 oz gluten-free flour
- 3 medium eggs
- 150 ml cream
- 2 oz dark chocolate melted
- Preheat the oven to 200oC and grease a baking tray.
- Heat the water, butter, and sugar in a pan until the butter melts. Then tip in all the flour whilst beating with one hand and then remove the pan from heat. Continue to beat – hard – until you have a ball of dough that pulls away from the sides of the pan. Allow the pan and dough to cool a little.
- Beat the eggs in a separate dish in the meantime. Add a little of the egg at a time and beat until fully combined before adding the next bit. Continue until you have a smooth paste which just drops from the spoon.
- Either spoon or pipe the pastry onto the tray and put into the oven. Throw some water into the roasting tin before closing the oven; this will create more steam and will help the pastry to rise (in theory!)
- Bake for 25 minutes until golden-brown. Pierce or slice buns (depending on whether you want to keep them whole) and allow to cool on a rack.
- Whip the cream and fill the buns.
- Make a chocolate ganache with melted dark chocolate and cream, or a chocolate sauce with sugar syrup and melted chocolate, and smother the buns.
- If they are pretty, serve proudly and guard jealously. Otherwise, get stuck in!
- Accurate measurements: Ensure precise measurements of ingredients, especially flour and water. Slight variations can affect the dough’s consistency.
- Allow the dough to cool for a few minutes before adding eggs. This prevents the eggs from cooking prematurely when mixed in. The dough should be smooth and glossy.
- Dough consistency: It should be thick, but still pipeable. If it’s too stiff, the pastries may not puff up.
- Baking temperature: Maintain a consistent temperature during baking. Avoid opening the oven door too soon, as it can cause the pastries to collapse.
If you try a couple of times and your choux buns still fail, what to do? Well, you can try it again like I do or turn them into different desserts. Crumble it up and use it as a base for a trifle or parfait, or blend it into a milkshake or ice cream.
You can even repurpose them as fritters or beignets by shaping the dough into small rounds or dropping spoonfuls into hot oil to make choux fritters or beignets. Deep fry until golden brown, then dust with powdered sugar or glaze for a tasty treat.
Or mix it with milk, sugar, and eggs (if necessary), then bake or cook on the stovetop until thickened. Using it as a pie crust for sweet or savory pies is also another option.
Don’t be afraid to experiment and have fun in the kitchen!
What is choux pastry?
Choux pastry, also known as pâte à choux (pronounced “pat-ah-shoo”), is a versatile and classic French pastry dough with a rich history that can be traced back to 18th-century France. It’s one of the most popular French desserts in the world.
Its creation is often attributed to a French chef named Antoine Carême. The term “choux” in French means “cabbage,” and the pastry was named because it looks like a small cabbage or puff when baked.
The unique characteristic of this pastry is when baked, it expands and becomes hollow inside, making it suitable for filling with a wide range of sweet or savory ingredients. It can be filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, salted caramel cream, chocolate or coffee ganache, or fruit compote like strawberry, raspberry, or blueberry.
Savory choux pastries are often filled with cheese, savory mousse, or seafood mixtures. They can also be topped with powdered sugar, chocolate glaze, or fondant for added flavor and visual appeal.
Some different types of choux pastries include cream puffs (profiteroles), éclairs, craquelin, and choux pastry swans, while savory options like gougeres (cheese puffs) and beignets are equally delectable.