The Perfect Choux Pastry

Choux Pastry

Choux pastry is a light pastry used for cakes and desserts. Technically it is not a pastry but Choux “Paste” although in practice everyone calls it pastry. Unlike most cake mixes it uses no raising agent and instead depends on a high water content which turns to steam in cooking and expands the choux. Rather strangely the “choux” of choux pastry is the french word for cabbage as many recipes, profiteroles would be a prime example, are often likened to small cabbages.

The mixture is basically a water and flour paste. Obviously that wouldn’t be very interesting as a recipe so it is enriched with butter and eggs in the same way that an enriched dough would be though considerably lighter and cooked in smaller quantities. Cooking small choux is essential because the basic cooking process is to heat the water, turning it to steam which expands the paste into thin shells which are then cooked and dried by the heat. Note that cooking in this way will leave a shell which still contains some water which is why for good should it is necessary to puncture them after cooking to allow the remaining steam to escape.

The basic cooking process for choux is to;

  1. mix the butter and water together while heating. It is important to not overheat or the fat will separate.
  2. Once melted and mixed it should be brought to boiling point quickly and the flour added. Then remove from the heat and quickly bring together to form a smooth mixture. This is the point which can cause problems as the process needs to be done quickly enough to avoid the fat separating from boiling the water for too long and the paste formed quickly enough before it has cooled to far but without leaving it on the heat. Another good reason to cook choux in small quantities.
  3. Finally the eggs are beaten into the mixture until a smooth pipeable texture is achieved.
  4. When piped as required it needs to be baked hot until risen. This is probably easiest done by watching rather than providing precise timings. Finally slit or puncture the baked choux to remove the remaining heat.

Your choux are now ready to be filled and topped