Monday, November 21, 2011

How To : Make Pate a Choux

Today I'm going to show you the step-by-step process of how to make Pâte à Choux. Pâte à Choux is a twice-cooked dough that is used to make cream puffs, profiteroles, and eclairs.

Pâte à Choux (pronounced paht ah shoo)
Source: On Baking: A Textbook of Baking and Pastry Fundamentals
Yield: Approximately 3 lb. of dough

8 fl. oz. Milk
8 fl. oz. Water
0.3 oz. Salt (1 1/2 t.)
7 oz. Unsalted Butter
10 oz. Bread Flour
16 - 17.6 oz. Eggs (10-11 eggs)

1. Place the milk, water, salt and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Make sure the butter is fully melted.

2. Remove from the heat and immediately add all the flour. Vigorously stir the dough with a wooden spoon. Put the pan back on the heat and continue beating the dough until it comes away from the sides of the pan. The dough should look relatively dry and should just begin to leave a film on the saucepan.

3. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat it for a few seconds at medium speed. Once the dough has cooled down to 140 degrees then begin to beat in the eggs one at a time.

4. Continue to add the eggs one by one until the mixture is shiny but firm. It may not be necessary to use all of the eggs. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl in thick threads; it will not clear the bowl.

(Recipes for Pâte à Choux will never give you an exact amount for the eggs. There are many factors like the weather outside, humidity level, etc. that play into this so you need to add one egg at a time - sometimes even just half of an egg - until the dough is the right consistency.)

*For this recipe, I always make 1/2 batch at a time and lately I've been having to use 3 1/2 eggs. You want the dough to have a moist, spider-web like consistency but not too wet or the puffs won't be able to hold their shape.

5. Put a workable amount of dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe onto the sheet pans in the desired shapes at once. (Lines for eclairs; circles for cream puffs.)

With a small bowl of water on hand, wet your fingertip and gently press down on the curls on the top of the piped doughs. This will help flatten out those little curls and eliminate them from overcooking in the oven. Pay special attention not to get excess water on the dough. The tiny bit of water on your fingertip just keeps your finger from sticking to the dough.

6. Bake immediately at 425°F for the first 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 375°F until the pastries are dry and crisp, approximately 35 minutes for éclairs. To test for doneness, when the éclair paste seems to be baked through, remove one unit and let it sit for 1 to 2 minutes. If it does not collapse, the product is sufficiently baked.

Tip: It is very important that you do not open the oven door during the first 15 minutes of bake time. Those first 15 minutes are the most essential and very important for the dough to puff up. You don't want any of the heat to be released (by opening the door) or any vibration of slamming the door closed because this could ruin your cream puffs or eclairs.

7. Cool completely, then use a paring knife to put a small hole in the bottom of each cream puff. (For eclairs, you pipe from one of the sides.)

8. With a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip, fill with pastry cream.

9. Dip into chocolate ganache or caramel sauce.

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