Choux Pastry 101: How to Make and Use Pâte à Choux

Choux pastry, or pâte à choux, is a versatile pastry dough you can use to make more than a dozen popular pastries, including cream puffs and eclairs. And you only need a few pantry staples such as butter, water, flour, eggs, milk, and perhaps a bit of salt and sugar to make it.

Mastering choux pastry is an excellent starting point for those interested in homemade pastry making. The dough takes 20 to 25 minutes to prepare and is ready for piping shortly after. Soon, you’ll be crafting delicious eclairs, cream puffs, profiteroles, and more.

In the following article, I cover everything you need to know about choux pastry. That includes the ingredients, step-by-step instructions, tips for making the dough, and recipes you can make with it.

Feel free to jump to what you want to learn about :

Ingredients

Classic Recipe

Classic choux pastry ingredients

The ingredients list in the classic version of the recipe is as simple as it gets. You can start with this one or opt for the modern version I describe below.

The proportions for the classic choux pastry are:

  • 1 cup water (240 ml)
  • 3 oz unsalted butter (6 tbsp or ~85 g)
  • 5 oz all-purpose flour (~140 g)
  • 4 medium-sized eggs (190-200g, weighted after cracking)

Modern Version

Modern choux pastry ingredients

Classic choux pastry is pretty tasteless – all of its flavor comes from the filling or topping. The modern version fixes that by adding some whole-fat milk, salt, and sugar to the mix.

Those three ingredients make the dough itself quite tasty, good enough to eat as-is. The only downside is that this choux pastry doesn’t rise as high and expand as much if you use a combination of water and milk instead of using only water.

To fix that, you can stick to using only water, but still add the sugar and salt for flavor.

The proportions for the “modern” choux pastry are as follows:

  • ½ cup water (120 ml)
  • ½ cup whole-fat milk (120ml)
  • 3 oz unsalted butter (6 tbsp or ~85 g)
  • 5 oz all-purpose flour (~140 g)
  • 4 medium-sized eggs (190-200g, weighted after cracking)
  • ½ tsp salt (~3g)
  • 2½ tsp granulated sugar (~10g)

How to Prepare Choux Pastry

  1. Melt butter. Begin by combining water, milk, salt, sugar, and butter in a pot and placing it on the stove. Heat the mixture until the butter has melted completely and it begins to boil.
  1. Stir in flour. Take the pot off the heat, add all the flour to the mixture at once and give it a quick stir until it roughly combines. Bring the pot back to the stove and continue stirring with a spoon over low heat. The dough will thicken and clump quickly, but you should continue stirring the mixture for 2-3 minutes, making sure all the flour is incorporated and there are no white floury spots inside. While stirring, scrape the dough from the sides and bottom to prevent sticking. After 2-3 minutes, the dough should be glossy and easy to detach from the pot, and a thin layer, or film, should form on the bottom of the pot.
  1. Transfer. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
  2. Prep eggs. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk them.
Whisk the eggs
Crack and whisk the eggs
  1. Make dough. Once the dough has cooled slightly, start mixing it with a hand mixer at medium speed. After 20-30 seconds of mixing, add half the eggs to the dough and mix until incorporated. Repeat by adding half of the leftover egg mixture. Now it’s time to get the dough to the right consistency: you want it thick enough to hold its shape, but still pipeable. The best way to check for that is the V-Shape test: Dip your mixer whisks or spatula into the dough and lift it. The dough should slowly fall off, eventually leaving a piece of dough hanging that forms a characteristic ‘V’ shape or a triangle at the end of the whisk or spatula. If the dough is not there yet, continue adding the eggs bit by bit and checking the consistency.
Adding the whisked eggs
Mix the dough at medium speed and add the whisked eggs
  1. Done. The dough is ready for piping and baking or deep frying.
Choux pastry ready for piping

Choux Pastry Tips

Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing choux pastry.

General Tips

  • Accurate Measures. Use a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients. That’s especially true for eggs – if you use too much, the dough will be too runny, and forming puffs or eclairs will be much more difficult.
  • Spread to Cool Down. Allow the batter to cool slightly before adding eggs to prevent them from cooking upon contact. You don’t want to make scrambled eggs by accident. You can speed this up by spreading the dough in the bowl you’ll use to mix it with the eggs.
Spread choux pastry in bowl to cool
Spread choux pastry in a bowl to cool
  • Mix To Cool Down. If you’re really in a hurry, you can mix the hot batter for 3 to 4 minutes. This helps it cool down even faster than leaving it spread out in a bowl.
  • Do the V-Shape Test. The most important thing when making the dough is nailing the consistency. And the way to do that is by adding the last bit of eggs slowly, bit by bit, and checking the texture each time. Again, you want the dough to slowly fall off the whisk or spatula and leave a piece of dough hanging that forms a characteristic ‘V’ shape or a triangle.
Hand mixer V-shaped test
  • No Piping Bag? No Problem. We usually use choux pastry for piping. A piping bag is the best option, but if you don’t have one, you can grab a plastic food bag and cut its corner for a makeshift one. The result won’t be as beautiful, but it’ll be good enough. You can always buy a piping bag and some tips when you’re ready.
  • Wet Fingers Fix. If necessary, shape the piped pastry with wet fingers to prevent sticking.

Baking Tips

  • Keep the Oven Shut: Resist the urge to peek. Opening the oven door too soon can mess with the rise. If it’s a 40-minute bake, no peeking for the first 25 minutes.
  • Use a Cooling Rack. After baking, move the goods onto a cooling rack so you don’t end up with a soggy bottom.
  • Temperature Matters: Some recipes say to bake at 390°F (200°C), but I find a lower temperature of 360°F (180°C) for a longer time gives more reliable results, avoiding any undercooked surprises.

Uses

Remember when I said choux pastry has a lot of uses?

Here are some popular uses:

Sweet Choux Pastry Recipes

Savory Choux Pastry Recipes

  • Gougère
  • Pommes dauphine

Also, check out the whole list if you want even more options.

Beginner’s Suggestion

Feeling a bit overwhelmed after reading all that? Here’s a simple starting point:

Make Cream Puffs.

Cream puffs are a great choice for beginners. They use the basic dough recipe, and you don’t need to be a pro at piping. Just squeeze out a bunch of oval domes, and voilà – you’ll have a tray of cream puffs ready in about 40 minutes.

And guess what? A homemade piping bag (just a plastic food bag with a corner snipped off) is all you need for this.

Next, fill them with your favorite filling – whipped cream is always a hit. A sprinkle of powdered sugar on top, and there you have it: a yummy treat that’ll wow your friends (and maybe even surprise them with your newfound baking skills).

Mixing the dough

Choux pastry

One of the foundational French pastry doughs. Learn how it’s done and turn it into a dozen choux pastry dishes.
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Choux Pastry, Pâte à Choux
Servings: 1 choux pastry dough

Equipment

  • Hand or stand mixer

Ingredients

  • ½ cup water 120 ml
  • ½ cup milk whole-fat, 120ml
  • 3 oz unsalted butter 6 tbsp or ~85 g
  • 5 oz all-purpose flour ~142 g
  • 4 eggs medium-sized, 190-200g weighted after cracking
  • ½ tsp salt ~3g
  • tsp sugar granulated, ~10g

Instructions

  • Melt Butter: Heat water, milk, salt, sugar, and butter in a pot until the butter melts and the mixture boils.
  • Add Flour: Pour all the flour into the boiling mixture and stir vigorously for 2-3 minutes until the dough becomes glossy and a film forms on the pot's bottom.
  • Cool Dough: Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
  • Prep Eggs: Crack eggs into a separate bowl and whisk them.
  • Mix Dough: Use a hand mixer on low speed to mix the dough, gradually adding eggs. Start by adding half the egg and mix until fully incorporated, then repeat with half of the leftover egg mixture. Do the V-shape test by letting some dough slowly fall off a spatula or whisk and checking if it forms a 'V' shape. If the dough isn't there yet, continue adding the eggs bit by bit until it is.
  • Ready to Use: The dough is now ready for piping, baking, or deep frying.
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