Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pâte à Choux

Pâte à choux (paht-ah-SHOO) was something that I feared making. Seeing that it is frequently offered in French restaurants on the dessert menu as profiteroles, I wondered, "how can you make such a perfectly light and airy pastry without having a chef's experience under your belt?" Well, I took a baking class specifically for pâte à choux and discovered that the French chefs have us fooled. The choux dough is so simple to make and can be used for many applications. I love that you can use one dough and change it up just a bit to make both an appetizer (gougères) and a dessert (profiteroles, eclaires, cream pulls, churros) for a dinner party. It is best to make the pastry the day of your gathering. The texture changes from flaky to a bit chewy only being stored in the refrigerator one day.

Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour was a dream to use in this recipe. There was no clumping of the flour when mixing it and the result was a flaky, airy pastry that had some French friends reminiscing of the taste of home. That's a win in my book!

Roll up your sleeves, grab your favorite mixing spoon and get ready for an arm workout to make this pastry. Mixing by hand is highly recommended and makes it more tender. This recipe doubles well and is recommended if you are going to make both gougères and profiteroles.

Pâte à Choux
by Tonda
Adapted from Make it Sweet Pâte à Choux baking course with Jennifer Bartos

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
155 grams (approximately 1 1/4 cups) Bob's Red Mill Organic Unbleached White Flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup eggs (approximately 4 large eggs)

Gently heat the milk and butter in a saucepan over low heat until the butter is melted. Once the butter is melted, turn up the heat to high and bring the liquid just to a boil. Turn off the heat and add the flour all at once and stir, stir, stir. The flour will absorb the liquids and the dough will start pulling away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the burner and keep stirring another minute or two until the dough forms a ball. Return the pan to medium heat and stir constantly (this is just the beginning of your arm workout) until the dough just barely starts to coat the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for about 5
minutes. You don't want the dough too hot when adding the eggs or they will start cooking when stirring them in. Incorporate the eggs into the dough, one at a time. The dough will go through a funky separation stage and make you think "Oh no! What just happened?" after each egg is added, but keep on mixing and it will become smooth. Add 1 Tablespoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt with the addition of the second egg and mix thoroughly. After the addition of the last egg, the mixture will be glossy and just stiff enough to hold a soft peak (like an ocean wave falling over) and fall softly from a spatula.

If you are making the choux dough for a dessert, let's get to baking them. If you are making gougères, skip down for additional ingredients to add to the pastry.

For profiteroles, preheat the oven to 425°F. Either pipe mounds of dough or drop rounded Tablespoons full of dough on a parchment-lined baking sheet, approximately 2 inches apart. Smooth out the peaks by pressing them down with water-moistened fingers. Bake them at 425°F for 10 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the bun. In class, we were told to bake them until they were done. I thought that was a strange direction, but then it made sense. The smaller the bun, the faster they will bake. Larger buns will take every bit of the 30 additional minutes. Start checking them at the 20 minute mark. They should be puffed, golden brown and sound hollow when you tap the bottom of the puff.

Allow the buns cool completely before slicing them open and adding a scoop of your favorite ice cream. Drizzle the top with your favorite chocolate sauce when plated.


2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
3 ounces cooked and crumbled bacon (optional)
1 Tablespoon rosemary, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon thyme, finely chopped
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

You can vary the herbs and cheese and leave the bacon out if you wish. Just make sure that the cheese is a hard variety that can be grated. I left the bacon out when I recently made them, because we were serving them with pâté.

For gougères, preheat the oven to 375°F. Back to mixing...add all of the savory ingredients to the choux dough and mix well. Drop rounded Tablespoons full of dough (if you plan to slice and fill them) or rounded teaspoons full of dough (if you plan to serve them as is) on a parchment-lined baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the bun. Start checking them at the 20 minute mark. They should be puffed, golden brown and sound hollow when you tap the bottom of the puff.

Allow the buns to cool completely before slicing them open to fill with a slice of your favorite pâté or charcuterie and a cornichon. They are very good on their own too!

Bon appétit!

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