21 March 2009

pâte à YAY!


The first time I attempted to make pâte à choux, I tried twice. The first attempt was unsuccessful, and the second time was perfect. So I became confident.

what cream puffs do NOT look like. if you have to scoop out the inside to make room for the filling… something is wrong. very wrong.

Then, I made them a second time. And failed. And tried again. and Failed.

Then, the third time, I was a bit more humble so I re-read the instructions carefully. And they worked! And to be sure, I made a new batch immediately. It worked! So I think I can safely say I finally found my way of making pâte à choux. It doesn’t matter how many different instructions I read – what determined how good my puffs came out was how often I practiced them to figure out the subtle things that do and don’t work that words can never describe. So that is my suggestion for anybody who wants to make pâte à choux: just keep making them. And eventually you figure out the method that works perfectly for you!


Recipe from foodbeam, instructions tweaked for what works for me.


125g milk
125g water
125g butter, diced
pinch of salt
1tsp of sugar
150g all-purpose our bread flour
4 eggs (approx. 240g)

1. Dice up your butter. And no need for it to be room temperature!

2. Combine milk, water, diced butter, salt, and sugar into a saucepan. And to be the honest, I just used a pinch of sugar as well.

3. I then set the heat on medium/medium high to melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, I become impatient and crank it up to high.

4. The moment it begins to boil and bubble up, I dump in the flour and begin mixing rigorously with a wooden spoon as I move the pot off the heat. I also crank the heat back down to medium/medium high.

5. Still away from the heat, I stir the mixture until the flour has absorbed all the liquid and a lump of dough exists.

6. Then I move it back over the medium heat and continue to mix the dough. I push it up against the walls and constantly flatten it and mix it to dry it. I do this for about 2-3 minutes. (To tell the truth, I am not sure yet when is the perfect moment to remove it. But so far 2-3 minutes has done the trick – I’m still working on figuring out the visual cues!)

7. I turn the stove off, and dump the dough into a mixing bowl and wait 5 minutes to let it cool. Otherwise, when you add your eggs they will scramble and you will have chunky pâte à choux!

8. Then with a handheld mixer, I mix in the first egg until it is completely incorporated. And I repeat for the next 3 eggs, slowly and one at the time. In the end I have a very warm and sticky paste.

9. I used a pastry bag with a large hole to pipe my choux. I hover completely perpendicular above the parchment paper/silicone sheet and lift slowly as I am piping, so my dough is not forced to spread left and right – only up!

10. All my little choux puffs have peaks, so I run my fingers under some water from the sink and pat them all down to flatten them. If I tried to do this with dry hands, they would stick to me.

11. I sprinkle the entire baking sheet with some water (i’m not too sure why i do this, but i’m sure this has to do with making steam… but I think of it has a good luck charm and a final farewell to the choux before I stick them in the oven!)

12. Into a preheated 400-425F oven they go! After about 12-15 minutes, when I am sure they have puffed up and have a light golden color, I crack open the oven with a wooden spoon and let them continue to bake (Usually another 5-10 minutes)  until they have a richer and darker golden color. (If you read foodbeam’s recipe, you note she cranks the temperature down the moment she puts her choux in the oven. For me, it didn’t really make a difference if I did or didn’t do it, so I just skipped that step.)

13. When they are ready, I pull them out and instantly slit a small hole into the bottom of them to let the steam escape.


Of course a cream puff is not a cream puff without  the cream!

The crème pâtissière, also adapted from foodbeam.


500g whole milk
4 egg yolks
3 tbsp corn starch
80g sugar
40g butter, diced

1. I bring the milk to a boil. I should be stirring it constantly so it doesn’t scald… but sometimes I don’t pay attention and oops! So if it does burn, I just use a sifter to separate the little chunks that form. Once it starts boiling, I turn the stove off, remove my pot, and let it cool for about 5 minutes.

2. I dice up my butter (no need for it to be room temperature) and set it aside.

3. In a separate bowl, I start mixing the 4 egg yolks together so they are homogenous with a handheld electric mixer.

4. I add in the sugar, and continue mixing.

5. Add in the corn starch and mix until it is all nice and even.

6. After 5 minutes of cooling time, I temper the egg mixture by pouring in about half of the warm milk. You’ll know if it’s too hot because your eggs will start cooking and you will get chunks. Mix it until it’s all nicely incorporated and you can’t tell the difference between the milk and the eggs.

7. Pour this mixture back into the pot with the milk and place the pot over medium heat.

8. Watch! Stir it. It will become thick. (Be careful, if your heat is too high, or if you heat it too long, it’ll start popping and shooting out of the pan… not fun.) Once it reaches a thick consistency, I take it off the heat and pour it into a mixing bowl. (If it helps, 84C is the temperature you heat it to. But I just eyeballed it because I didn’t have a good thermometer on me.) And let it cool for 5 minutes.

9. After it’s cooled for about 5 minute (Again, I didn’t have a thermometer on me, but the temperature should be around 60C when you dump in the butter), stir in your diced butter and stir it in until it’s melted and you can’t see it anymore. If the cream is chunky for some odd reason, you can strain it so remove the puts and have a nice smooth cream.

10. Then your crème pâtissière is finished ! Let it cool. When you are ready, fill up those cream puffs! And if you aren’t using it right away, place a piece of plastic wrap over it and make sure it touches the entire surface so a film doesn’t form.


Happy puff making!


E. Lee said...

MMMmmm...choux puffs...after days of experimenting myself (blurgh!) I learned that the star tip on the pastry bag makes the choux puffs look adorable and stripey, and parchment paper makes me feel better about removing the puffs from the baking sheet w/out tearing them. Congrats! I think my next step is a savory (crab/cream cheese filled?) puff for a dinner party.

Rachelle @ "Mommy? I'm Hungry!" said...

I've had these on my list of things to make for the 1st time. I have a feeling it could take me practice too, when I do. Probably why I haven't attempted them yet.

Glad you were able to get these down, the look delicious!

oneordinaryday said...

So light and airy - beautiful. I know how you feel though because that has been my recent bread baking experience. I just can't seem to get it right, but I'm still trying.

Hilma said...

Such nice looking ones! My grandmother used to make these when I was a child - in my language they're called "hats in the wind". I heard from a professional chef that it's easier to succeed with eclairs if you omit the sugar from your dough. But for me it's more about the exact right baking temperature - I usually fail the first time in a new kitchen, because ovens vary so much :)

I sometimes mix choux pastry with mashed potatoes (1:1) and a bit of nutmeg, and pipe on a baking sheet and bake that in the oven. It's a delicious side dish, and looks fancy!

cathy said...

thank you, everybody!
@e.lee: savory cream puffs sound so good! i think i'll head that direction as well :)
@rachelle: give it a try - the are worth the effort!
@oneordinaryday: good luck with your bread! i'm sure you'll get it down in no time
@hilma: that sounds delicious! comfort food can never go wrong :D

Through My Kitchen Window said...

If you don't succeed try again. Oh and my how you succeeded! They look perfect. Congrats.