Techniques

Pâte à Choux

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The easiest way to form cream puffs is with an ice cream scoop. Not only is the shape perfect, but the scoop makes them uniform. Puffs can be large (1/4-1/3 cup of dough) or small ( about 2 tablespoons of dough). Just be sure to bake only one size per pan. Because the cooking time varies by size, multiple sizes per pan means some will be overcooked, and some undercooked.

To form éclairs and other intricate shapes, a pastry bag is needed. Usually a plain round pastry tip is all that is necessary. Be sure to fold a large cuff on your pastry bag when loading the choux paste in. It’s a sticky mess, and keeping it in the bag (not squirting out the top) is priority one. Practice piping as necessary. Paste can be scooped up and re-used until the shapes are right.

To pan your puffs, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Because this dough is so gooey, chefs often use a smudge of dough in each corner of the paper to glue it to the pan. This keeps the paper from moving around as you try to scoop or pipe your dough. Space your choux so it has ample room to grow, with at least 2 inches between items. Don’t forget to egg wash!

Baking pâte a choux should be done at fairly high temperatures. The high burst of heat encourages the quick production of steam. Be sure to keep the puffs in the oven until they are a deep golden brown. If they are too blonde, the batter is not set, they will be eggy inside, and the puffs will fall.

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