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. It’s made with butter, water, flour, and eggs, ingredients that you most likely already have on hand.
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 :
- Butter. Regular, unsalted butter.
- All-purpose flour. You can use bread flour or whole wheat flour, but avoid using self-rising flour as it contains leavening agents.
The ingredients list is as simple as it gets. Please note that there isn’t any salt or sugar in the base recipe, though some recipes add a bit of either for extra flavor. I suggest you start with the base recipe and then change things up when you’re comfortable with the basics.
How to Prepare Choux Pastry
- Boil water and butter. Begin by pouring water and butter into a pot and place it on the stove. Heat the mixture until the butter has melted completely and it begins to boil.
- Stir in flour. Add all the flour to the boiling mixture at once and stir vigorously with a spoon over low heat. It’ll thicken and combine quickly, but you should continue stirring the mixture for 3-4 minutes (set a timer). While stirring, scrape the dough from the sides and bottom to prevent sticking. After 4 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.
- Transfer. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes.
- Prep eggs. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl. You can choose to beat them, according to your preference. I leave them whole so that it’s easy to pour the eggs one by one in the next step.
- Make dough. Once the dough has cooled slightly, start mixing it with a hand mixer at medium speed. After 20-30 seconds of mixing, gradually add the eggs to the dough, one at a time, mixing well after each addition until all eggs are incorporated and the dough is thick, sticky, but pipeable.
- Done. The dough is ready for piping and baking or deep frying.
Choux Pastry Tips
Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing choux pastry.
- Accurate Measures. Use a scale to measure the ingredients to ensure the correct proportions. Good proportions make the dough easy to work with.
- 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.
- Mix Well. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition until the batter is smooth and everything is incorporated.
- Check the Consistency. The final batter should be smooth, glossy, and quite thick, yet soft enough to be piped.
- 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.
- 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 for a longer time gives more reliable results, avoiding any undercooked surprises.
- Second Bake if Needed: If your pastry is a bit undercooked (think wet and eggy inside), give it another go at 360°F (180°C) for the usual bake time. This won’t fix a failed rise, but it’ll cook it through nicely.
Remember when I said choux pastry has a lot of uses?
Here are some popular uses:
Sweet Choux Pastry Recipes
- Cream puffs
- Lady’s navel
- Nun’s puffs
Savory Choux Pastry Recipes
- Pommes dauphine
Also, check out the whole list if you want even more options.
Feeling a bit overwhelmed after reading all that? Here’s a simple starting point:
Eclairs 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 short, straight lines, and voilà – you’ll have a tray of eclairs 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 up 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).
- Hand or stand mixer
- 1 cup water 236 ml
- 4 oz unsalted butter ~114 g
- 5 oz all-purpose flour ~142 g
- 5 eggs medium-sized
- Boil Water & Butter: Heat water 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 3-4 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, beaten or whole as preferred.
- Mix Dough: Use a hand mixer on low speed to mix the dough, gradually adding eggs one by one until fully incorporated. The dough should be thick, sticky, and pipeable.
- Ready to Use: The dough is now ready for piping, baking, or deep frying.