Choux pastry is just such a versatile product, it can be made into different shapes and the final products can be either sweet or savoury, depending on what you fill or top them with.
Choux paste is actually the first pastry item I ever made as a kid, and isn't hard, just a bit on the "fiddly" side, and a few little secrets to making it perfect every time.
This quantity makes about 24 large dessert puffs/religieuse "nuns" or 36 small/medium profiteroles or 30 - 40 x 12cm eclairs. Half or double etc as required.
250 g (ml) Water
100g Unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
150g plain (all purpose) flour
4.5 - 5 large eggs - beaten ( the egg quantity varies depending on your eggs and flour, you might not need it all - read more in the recipe)
In a large enough saucepan, bring the water and butter salt and sugar to the boil, the butter should be completely melted.
When the water is boiling vigorously and the butter is all melted, remove from heat and add the sifted flour all in one go, and then return to the heat, and stir quickly and firmly with a wooden spoon until the flour is all incorporated with no lumps, and the mixture has formed a ball in the pan, with a white film on the bottom of the saucepan.
Remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature completely before moving on.
The mixture is now known as a "panard"
In the bowl of a stand mixture, on a low speed, beat your panard to break up any solid lumps that might have formed, then start adding the eggs little by little until the mixture is smooth, silky and shiny, a finger dragged through the mixture should form a deep channel that closes back on it's self straight away.
The Choux paste is now ready to be piped into whatever shape you like.
To Bake Choux paste:
Pre heat oven to 210C (190 if you have fan forced)
Pipe the choux paste onto very lightly greased baking trays (not silicon paper as it will move around annoyingly while you are trying to pipe)
Traditional eclairs are piped using a #9 or #11 Tube, at 10-12cm, the ones in cake shops are often much bigger, around 15-17cm, High tea sized models are much smaller around the 6-7cm mark, so choose your own size but I like the more elegant smaller size myself.
Allow plenty of room between each eclair shell and each row of shells as they do expand in all directions.
You can make smaller or larger shells if you like, or pipe small rounds for profiteroles or larger rounds for Puffs, or teeny tiny rounds topped with pearl sugar for Chouquettes!
Lightly sprinkle the tops of the piped out choux with water, and place into your hot oven poste haste!
DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN FOR THE FIRST 15 - 25 MINUTES - Depending on size of piped shells!!!
This is crucial, as during this time, the steam in the pastry is forming the "puff", but the protein has not yet set into a firm shape, so opening the oven will collapse the puffs, never to be retrieved again much like a souffle.
After about 20-25 minutes for eclairs or large puffs, and 10-15 for smaller profiteroles, you will see the puffs have a firm shape and are starting to colour up.
At this stage reduce the oven temp to 190C (170C FF) and open the oven door to allow the steam to escape.
You're now drying the puffs out, so open the door a few times until the Choux pastry is an even golden brown colour and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom - they usually take about 35-40 minutes in total (for the larger sized products), but can be slightly longer... don't rush it, they are better on the dry side than on the wet side.
Once baked allow to cool on racks with good air flow to allow the steam to dissipate.
The cooled dried shells keep brilliantly in a very air tight container for a few days or a week, or freeze them to have on hand when guests pop over, how impressive is that to whip out a batch of fresh home made eclairs with minimum notice!
You are not limited in what shapes you can pipe them into by the way, Rings for coffee and almond rings, larger rings for Paris Brest etc, we had to pipe swans at Culinary school LOL most amusing, but perhaps a little dated now days.
Fill and top as desired:
Most sweet choux pastry items contain Creme Patisserie, or Pastry Cream as it is known here, which is a lovely vanilla bean flavoured egg custard made and chilled, then combined with Whipped cream, yum! This mix can be flavoured with coffee, chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, or really anything you like, so long as you use a quality flavouring agent and a complimentary icing.
Or fill with whipped cream Chantilly (10% sugar and a good slurp of vanilla or a vanilla bean scraped)
You can also fill the puffs with savoury fillings, like cheese and ham or spinach etc, top with parmesan and cayenne pepper or other spice mixes.
I like to use a dark chocolate ganache and dip my eclair tops in them, then fill with whipped vanilla flavoured cream, or the Pastry cream, the dipped uncut eclairs are great to freeze also, then you just need to whip some cream to have eclairs on hand!!!
"Liquid" Fondant icing is also popular commercially, however it requires you either making it yourself (tricky!!!), or asking your local bakery if they will sell you a small amount of Fondant icing, this can be coloured and flavoured as desired, it is warmed to no more than 38C before applying quickly to the eclair tops and allowing to dry at room temp. *please note this is not the same as the American "Fondant" icing which is a solid mass designed to be rolled over a cake, Liquid Fondant is a very thick liquid icing that dries to a shiny solid state after heating, it is not sold in supermarkets or retail at all, and is an Industry product that is seen on a lot of Cake shop cakes and pastries, however most small bakeries will sell you a little of any of their specialist ingredients if you ask nicely .
Another style of topping is called Pate Sable, which is a very buttery shortpaste mixture, which is rolled out, refrigerated and cut to shape before being applied to the top of the raw product, prior to baking... this gives a very interesting looking rough texture and a less sweet product.
Toffee and or toasted nuts are also popular! Witness the Croqembouche, delightful balls of Choux dipped in toffee and piled int a cone shape, popular for Weddings as they double as dessert!
Toffee dipped and Pate Sable Choux puffs are also seen atop the lovely Gateau St Honore ....
Derek Still likes this.