Pâte à choux perfected: the path to endless pastry possibilities

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Sift magazine welcomes springtime’s growth, discovery, and fresh starts from strawberry treats to learning new skills like working with pâte à choux.

Butter, water, flour, and eggs — just four simple ingredients combine to create pastry magic.  Today, we’re talking about one of the simplest, quickest ways to make endless creative shapes and delightful desserts: pâte à choux.

Pâte in French refers to dough; choux literally means cabbage, but is also a term of endearment, which is how you’ll feel about pâte à choux once you’ve mastered this technique.

Want to make everything from profiteroles to potato puffs? Learn to make perfect pâte à choux. Click To Tweet

pate-a-choux via @kingarthurflour

Simple steps

Grab your first three ingredients:
1 cup water
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine them and bring to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in 1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour all at once.

Baking gluten-free? Substitute 1 1/4 cups (5 1/4 ounces) of our Gluten-Free Measure for Measure Flour. The gluten-free shells will be every bit as crisp and high-rising as the all-purpose flour version.

pate-a-choux via @kingarthurflourWith a spatula or wooden spoon, stir vigorously until the flour absorbs the liquid and forms a ball. If it looks like the photo above, return it to the heat for a minute; keep stirring until the dough pulls away from the pan and leaves a thin film on the bottom of the pot. Remove from the heat and transfer the dough to the bowl of a mixer.

pate-a-choux via @kingarthurflour

Next you’re going to add eggs, so you’ll need to let the dough cool for a few minutes (to avoid “scrambling” the eggs). If you’re nervous about how long “a few minutes” is, let the dough cool to 125°F. Another benchmark: if you’re using eggs cold from the fridge, and you can leave your hand on the side of the bowl without snatching it away for 10 seconds, you’re good to go.

Beat in 4 large eggs, one at a time. The dough will look wet and slimy after each egg. Keep beating after each addition until the batter smooths out.

Note: We don’t recommend using a vegan egg substitute here; it won’t work well.

pate-a-choux via @ kingarthurflour

This is how the finished batter should look: soft enough to pipe easily (but not so much that it drips out of the bag) and firm enough to hold its shape when piped.

The dough is baked at a high temperature at first. This turns the liquid in the dough to steam. The steam expands and the pastry doubles in size and becomes hollow.

At this point, the protein in the eggs and flour will coagulate, setting the pastry’s shape. Often the oven is turned down and the shells are pierced so any lingering steam can escape. This allows them to dry out and become crisp.

Pâte à choux possibilities

This dough is where delights like cream puffs and éclairs begin. Piped in a circle, split and filled, it becomes a Paris-Brest (pictured at the top of this post), a dessert created to commemorate a famous bicycle race between those two cities.

profiteroles via @kingarthurflour

Piped, baked, split, and filled with ice cream, you have Profiteroles, which can be further glorified with a luxurious fudge or caramel sauce.

Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong via @kingarthurflour

Our beloved Almond Puff Loaf uses pâte à choux to make its airy topping.

appetizer-plate via @kingarthurflour

There’s a savory side to this dough, as well. Stir in some cheese before baking and you have a simple, elegant appetizer: Parmesan Puffs, or Gougères. And in a true meeting of the sublime and the salt of the earth, you can use pâte à choux to bind grated potatoes to make Crunchy Potato Puffs, our takeoff on a well-loved freezer-case french fry variation.

Once you’ve mastered this simple technique, the sky’s the limit for where you choose to take it.

Curious to learn more about how to perfect this pastry? Take King Arthur’s online class Pâte à Choux Pastries with pastry chef Gesine Bullock-Prado. You’ll learn and practice in the comfort of your own kitchen and at your own speed.

Susan Reid
About

Chef Susan Reid grew up in New Jersey, graduated from Bates College and the Culinary Institute of America, and is presently the Food Editor of Sift magazine. She does demos, appearances, and answers food (and baking) questions from all quarters.

comments

  1. SA

    What would you say should be a good “default” oven temp here? Nothing is as heartbreaking as your cream puffs collapsing!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi SA, in our cream puff and eclairs recipe, we recommend starting the oven at 425*F and baking the puffs for about 15 minutes before dropping the temperature for 350*F and baking for another 25 minutes or so, until the puffs are golden brown and feel light and hollow. The exact temperature and time may vary slightly based on the recipe you’re making, so be sure to check the recipe page first. (Find full instructions for baking cream puffs and eclairs here.) Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Deborah Chamulak

    What a good post. I first made a Paris-Brest five years ago using King Arthur flour and a vintage 50’s recipe. I’m going to try to make the Crunchy Potato Puffs.Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Joan Wolf

    How can I make this gluten free? Recipe cals for AP flour, can I sub GF AP flour? There are so many times I have wanted to make some of my old favorite foods but can’t because I’m not sure of an exchange to GF.

    Reply
  4. Cheryl Arguile

    I live at 5000 feet – can I use this recipe/method or do I need to make adjustments for being at a high altitude. If so, what adjustments/measurement changes are needed?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Hi Cheryl, we have a full High-Altitude Baking Guide to help you adjust recipes like this to your specific elevation. You’ll see that some of the adjustments you’ll want to make include turning the oven temperature up by about 15*F, decreasing the baking time by about 5-8 minutes, adding about 2 tablespoons of additional flour and about 3 tablespoons of additional liquid. Check out the chart for full details, and feel free to give our Baker’s Hotline a call if you have any questions: 855-371-BAKE(2253). We’re here to help! Kye@KAF

  5. Helen le Vann

    Why do some recipes for choux pastry include milk? Does it make the pastry crisper?
    And should the flour have a high protein level as some books recommend?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Helen, milk makes pastries or puffs brown slightly better and also makes them a bit more tender. If you’re looking for a crisp shell, then you’ll want to use all water in your pâte à choux. You can also use a combination of half water and half milk if you’re looking for something in between. Feel free to experiment until you find what’s right for your taste buds. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The answer depends on how you’re using your pâte à choux, Cheryl. If you’d like to make a basic cream puff, bake the choux pastry at 425*F for 15 minutes and then at 350*F for an additional 25 minutes until the puffs are golden brown and feel light and hollow. Full baking instructions, including times and temperatures, are included on the recipe pages. To view a full recipe, click on an orange link, like this one for cream puffs and eclairs. If you have trouble finding what you’re looking for, don’t hesitate to give our friendly Baker’s Hotline a call at 855-371-BAKE(2253). Kye@KAF

  6. Athene Jordan

    I have used double or triple strength chicken broth, we tatted as much as possible, to make this. Added dried herbs. Filled them with Chicken curry salad or just chicken salad. Also Tuna salad. Smaller ones make nice party nibbles.

    Reply
  7. sandy

    Really nice post! I have always wanted to make a Paris-Brest and now I will. Question: can the pastry ring (not the completed filled pastry) be made ahead? If so, how should it be stored? I often have parties earlier in the day and to make the ring, the fillings, and assemble it might be challenging from a timing perspective. I do want it to be as perfect as possible and I am afraid the pastry will get soggy because I made it too far ahead. I am thinking that if I could at least make the pate au choux ring the day before, it would help.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      You can! Bake the ring and let it cool. Wrap it in plastic wrap and freeze it for up to 3 months. If it’s just going to be one day, store it at room temperature in plastic wrap. Before assembling, let it thaw on the counter for an hour or so (it’ll be fast), or just unwrap it if it wasn’t frozen, and put it back in a 350°F oven for about 7 minutes to re-crisp up the edges. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

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