Perfect Choux Pastry
Choux pastry is a delicious treat – it’s a crisp and light form of pastry that usually supports a sweet cream filling but can be just as tasty as a savoury. It has an unwarranted reputation as being difficult, but nothing could be easier to make, as long as you observe the rules of choux making.
Rules For Perfection1 - When making this pastry, ‘shoot’ the flour into the wet mixture in one swift movement, this stops the pastry forming lumps as you beat it.
2 - As soon as you remove the choux buns from the oven, you must pierce them to release the steam. The pastry rises and hollows because it contains a large volume of water which becomes steam in a very hot oven and forces the pastry into a balloon. If you don’t let the steam out while the pastry is hot, the choux reabsorbs it as water and becomes soft and flat.
3 – Don’t store choux pastry once filled. Make the shapes you require and put them in an airtight box where they will keep for up to a week. When you are ready to eat them, fill and serve. As soon as moisture comes into contact with the crisp choux, the pastry will begin to soften and become soggy. While it keeps its form for several hours, the quicker you can serve it, the better the contrast will be.
IngredientsTo make around 25 éclairs or 16 round buns
- 150 grams plain flour,
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 100 grams unsalted butter
- 250 ml cold water
- 4 eggs beaten together in a bowl
MethodBegin by sifting the flour with the sugar and salt onto a piece of greaseproof paper in which you’ve made a central crease. Preheat oven to 200°C or gas 6.
Put the butter and water into a medium sized, heavy-bottomed pan. If the pan is too thin it will tend to loose heat before the pastry has become properly glossy and elastic. Bring the mixture to a boil, then shoot the flour mixture off the paper and into the pan. Stir well to combine.
Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and put it on a folded tea-towel to keep it steady. With a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until it forms a glossy, elastic, golden ball that lifts cleanly from the sides of the pan. It only takes a few minutes to do this, but constant beating is essential to create the right tension in the pastry.With the pan still away from the heat, beat the eggs into the mixture, a little at a time, until smooth. When you begin the egg refuses to blend with the pastry ball and you may feel the recipe hasn’t worked, but persevere and soon the egg combines smoothly with the other ingredients.
Keep beating until all the egg mixture is amalgamated and the paste is thick and shiny – the right consistency allows the paste to slide neatly off the spoon when it is tapped against the side of the pan.
Pipe or spoon the mixture onto a greased baking tray. To make buns, use two greased dessert spoons to shape the mixture onto the tray but for éclairs, put the mixture into a large piping bag and pipe finger shapes.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes for éclairs and 30 to 35 minutes for buns. Take from the oven, put on a wire rack and immediately pierce the base of each shape with a skewer to let out the steam. Leave base up for a few minutes until the pastry cools and then turn over to allow them to finish cooling completely.
Fill with cream and fresh fruit for a sweet pudding or with a stiff béchamel flavoured with mushrooms and onions or capers for a savoury delight.