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Choux pastryQuestions, questions . . .
An area that seems to pop up time and time again are ones on pastry production.

Unlike most areas of the kitchen, where a pinch of this and a dash of that can work well, pastry making is more of an exact science and I do not use that phrase lightly. Pastry making is all about science, the science and chemistry of foods. Understanding simple principles of what happens at a chemical level to the ingredients, goes a long way to helping you make great pastry.

If you want a perfect result each time, exact measurements are required and certain techniques must be applied. For more information on pastry making have a look at the page on pastry making tips.

Choux pastry is my choice of the week this week. A wonderful versatile pastry, that can be used in so many ways and be made into professional looking desserts that will leave your dinner guests stunned. Choux paste is also used in savoury dish such as:

  • Pomme Dauphine (choux paste mixed with duchesse potatoes)
  • Gnocchi Parisenne (small poached dumplings masked with Mornay sauce and gratinated)
  • Garnish for soups such as consommés
  • Duchesses for canapés (small eclairs filled with savoury mousses)
  • Carolines (crescent shaped and filled with savoury mousses topped with chaud-froid sauce)

Are small (bite-size) filled buns of choux pastry with either a sweet or savory filling. They are probably French originally, or at least the name is. The word originated in French as diminutive form of "profit," and so etymologically means "small gains" - and indeed it may have begun with denoting "a little something extra" cooked along with the master's main dish as part of the servants' perks. Alexander Barclay, in his Eclogues (1515) writes "to toast white shivers (slices of bread) and to make profiteroles, and after talking oft time to fill the bowl."

The croquembouche (meaning crunchy in the mouth) traditionally plays an important role at French weddings, baptisms, christenings and other family gatherings. It has at its origins a fanciful, edible, architectural structure displayed on the medieval tables of the French Royalty and Nobility. It was later popularised by Antonin Carème (1783 - 1833), the most famous French Chef of his generation. He created Turkish Mosques, Persian Pavilions, Gothic Towers and other pièces montées from choux buns or profiteroles. The shape in those days was that of a Turkish Fez.

The whole genre spiralled upwards and out of control towards the end of the Nineteenth century, but then subsided to manageable dimensions. During the Twentieth century the croquembouche has survived as a conical construction of choux balls piled on top of each other on a nougatine base with a decoration at the top.

But where did this amazing little pastry originate? It has an interesting little history. In 1533, when Catherine de Medici left Florence in Italy, to marry the Duke of Orleans who was later to become Henry II, King of France from 1547, she brought with her to France her entire court, which included her chefs. Seven years later in 1540, her head chef, Panterelli, invented a hot, dried paste with which he made a gateaux. He christened the paste Pâte à Panterelli. The original recipe changed as the years passed, and so did the paste's name.

It became known as pâte à popelini; popelins were a form of cake made in the Middle Ages and were made in the shape of a woman's breasts.

A Chef de Patissierie called Avice perfected a paste in the middle of the eighteenth century (1760) and created choux buns or profiteroles. The pâte à popelin became known as pâte à choux, since only choux buns were made from it, choux meaning ‘cabbage’ which they are said to resemble. Antoine Carême (said to be the first to wear the tall white chef hat/toque) in the nineteenth century perfected the recipe further and this is the same recipe for choux pastry as is used today.

Ingredients for Choux Pastry













How to make Choux Pastry

  • Melt the butter in the water and bring to a full boil
  • Immediately add the flour all at once and stir continuously with a wooden spoon
  • Cook for a couple of minutes until the mixture pulls away from the pan, forming a ball and remove from the heat
  • Place the dough in the bowl or a mixer, using a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment, mix the dough for a few minutes, allowing it to cool slightly
  • Add the beaten eggs gradually, in three or four additions, mixing the dough until it is smooth each time. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl until all of the eggs are incorporated
  • The paste should be of a pipeable consistency and not too runny

For beignets, choros, etc

A little finely grated cheddar, herbs, spices etc may be added to the mixture for savoury fritters

  • Pipe into shapes onto lightly oiled strips of greaseproof paper
  • Place into a deep fryer (170C) and lightly dunk until the paper can be easily removed
  • Continue frying for 12 - 15 minutes until brown and crisp, turning occasionally
  • These may then be coasted/tossed in a mixture of castor sugar/icing sugar/cornflour and cinnamon

For profiteroles, eclairs, etc

  • Pipe the dough into desired shapes, onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper, allowing space for them to raise and expand
  • Place into a pre-heated oven, on the middle shelf: begin the baking process at a high temp. (190 to 205C) and allow to bake for 20 minutes - do not open the oven during this time
  • Reduce the heat to 120C and continue to bake until they turn golden brown and crisp
  • Remove one from the oven and cut open, it should be dry in the centre with no uncooked dough in the middle: if there is, replace and continue to bake at 120C

Chef's Tip on Choux Pastry

Baked choux pastry products rise due to the egg content and steam. Therefore it is essential that the oven is hot, when the pastry is placed in the oven. Without this initial burst of steam they will not rise properly or dry out, they will stay flat and be soggy.

The swans can be made by piping a profiterole using a large star nozzle and then piping the necks with a fine plain nozzle. As they are used only for decorative purposes and very fine, these necks should be removed from the oven after 20 minutes, to prevent them from burning.

Chef's terminology:

litres   tsp = teaspoon
millelitres   tbs = tablespoon
kilograms   sq = sufficient quantity (add to taste)
grams   pc = piece, meaning a whole one of

Enjoy your Choux pastry and bon appetit . . .

Recipe from professional
Chef Tallyrand

Email Hub-UK : info@hub-uk.com