How to Make and Shape Choux Pastry: Step-by-Step with Pictures and a Video
Unlike other pastries, choux pastry is made in a saucepan and rather than being rolled, the soft, glossy dough is piped or spooned into shape. The best flour to use is strong white plain (bread-making) flour. Use butter for the best flavor.
To make choux pastry and shape it into eclairs of puffs, simply follow the step-by-step directions given below. Pictures at the right of the text show what the pastry should look like at various stages in the making as well as how to pipe the pastry in eclair shapes.
Choux pastry can be made up to 14 hours in advance and kept wrapped in polythene or plastic wrap in the refrigerator. Baked, unfilled puffs or eclairs will keep crisp for a day in an airtight tin.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Makes: 15 eclairs or 30 puffs
You will need
- 2/3 cup plain flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2 ounces (60 g) butter
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 eggs, beaten
Choux pastry - step-by-step
1. Fold a large piece of greaseproof paper in half. Unfold it again and lay it out flat. Sift the flour and salt together onto the paper.
2. Put the butter and water into a heavy-based pan. Heat gently, stirring all the time, until the butter has melted. Turn up the heat and bring to a full, rolling boil.
3. Turn down the heat. Form the folded greaseproof paper into a chute, and tip the flour and salt very quickly into the pan. Start beating the mixture vigorously at once with a wooden spoon. Continue until the flour has been absorbed.
4. Return the pan to a gentle heat and continue beating the mixture for about a minute until it forms a smooth dough which comes away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the heat.
5. Let the dough cool for a few minutes until you can comfortably hold your hand against the sides of the pan.
6. Add the beaten eggs, a little at a time, beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon after each addition.
7. Continue beating until the dough is smooth and glossy. The eggs can be beaten into the dough with an electric beater -- first tip the dough into a large mixing bowl.
8. Cover the pan or mixing bowl and leave it in the refrigerator until ready to use.
9. Once the eclairs or puffs have been piped out (see below), bake in an oven preheated to 425° F (220° C) unless the recipe states otherwise. Do not open the oven door during baking.
10. Bake until perfectly crisp and dry - usually 15-20 minutes.
11. Remove from the oven and make a small slit in the side of the puffs or eclairs to let the steam out. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to dry out.
Piping Eclairs - step-by-step
1. Fit a piping bag with a 2/3 inch (15 mm) plain nozzle.
2. Hold the bag in one hand a little over halfway up. Fold the top of the bag down over your hand and spread out your fingers to open up the bag.
3. Fill the piping bag tightly with choux pastry.
4. Fold the top of the bag back up, then twist it, forcing the pastry down until it is just about to come out of the end of the nozzle.
5. Grasping the bag so that it is pinched closed just above the pastry, squeeze it until the required length of choux pastry has been forced out onto a baking tray - greased or lined with greaseproof or non-stick baking paper.
6. With a wet knife held against the nozzle, cut off the length of pastry, lifting the nozzle as you cut.
7. Give the bag a twist to maintain the pressure on the pastry. Leaving a 2 inch (5 cm) space between the eclairs to allow for expansion during cooking, pipe out another length of pastry.
Shaping choux puffs
1. Drop spoonfuls of pastry onto a baking tray. Use a teaspoon for puffs intended to be 1-2 inches (2.5-4 cm) in diameter. Use a dessertspoon for larger puffs.
2. Puffs can also be piped onto the baking tray. Fill a piping bag fitted with a 2/3 inch (15 mm) plain nozzle. Holding the bag vertically over the tray, squeeze out a mound of pastry then cut it off with a wet knife. To make small puffs, each mound should be the size of a walnut; to make large puffs, each mound should be the size of a plum.
Defrosting Frozen Pastry Shells
Baked choux pastry shapes freeze well. When required, place straight from the freezer in a moderately slow oven (325° F/160° C) for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on size, to thaw and crisp.
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