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Light Pastry Dough (pate A Choux)

Lighten Up with Choux Dough

Pâte à choux is also known as choux dough. This light, airy dough is used for cream puffs, éclairs, profiteroles, croquembouche, and classic desserts such as Gateau St. Honore. Literally translated, pâte à choux means cabbage paste, named for the classic cream puff shape rather than ingredients used.

Like most pastry doughs, ingredients for pâte à choux are humble and simple, using only butter, flour, salt, water and sugar. The mixing method, however is unique and allows the power of steam to transform the dough into light pockets of crispy hollows, with intricate and delicate tunnel structures, ready for sweet or savory fillings.

Pastry Dough Equipment:

  • Stainless steel pan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Standing mixer with paddle attachment
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Pastry bag
  • No. 5 pastry tip

Light Pastry Dough Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter (8 tablespoons, or 4 oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon of Kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon for regular salt)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour; bread flour can also be used (8 oz.)
  • 4 large eggs

Light Pastry Dough Recipe:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Slowly heat water, butter, salt, and sugar in a medium stainless steel sauce pan on low heat. When the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium and allow the mixture to slowly come to a boil--bringing it to a boil slowly limits the evaporation of valuable moisture that's needed to create steam during the baking process.
  3. When the mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat and add all of the flour at once. Put the pan back on medium heat and stir vigorously. Continue to stir for approximately 5 minutes. During this time, the starches swell and the dough comes together.
  4. As you are stirring, a thin film of dough may develop on the bottom and sides of the pan. Do not scrape this film into the dough--allow the dough to roll over the film as you continue stirring.
  5. When the dough begins to pull away form the sides of the pan and becomes one mass, stop stirring and remove the pan from the heat.
  6. Transfer the dough to a standing mixer with paddle attachment. Mix on low until the dough stops releasing steam and reaches approximately 140 degrees F.
  7. Add one egg and mix on medium speed until the egg is fully incorporated. Repeat, adding one egg at a time, mixing until incorporated, until all four eggs have been added.
  8. Place the pastry tip inside the pastry bag and transfer the choux dough to the pastry bag.
  9. Pipe the desired shape onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving approximates 1/2" to 3/4" of space between piped dough.
  10. Straight lines of dough create a classic éclair shape. A tightly closed spiral creates a classic cream puff shape. Dip your finger in water and gently press the top of the cream puff shape peak down to prevent it from rising too high in the oven.
  11. Place the baking sheet into a preheated oven. Do not open the oven door for the first 8 to 9 minutes. This allows the maximum amount of steam to produce a high rise in the piped dough shapes.
  12. Éclaires bake faster than cream puff shapes. After the first 8 or 9 minutes have passed, check the dough every 3 to 4 minutes for doneness. The finished puffs should sound hollow and be a light golden brown.
  13. When the dough is ready to be removed from the oven, transfer the dough to a clean towel. Using the back of a spoon or a pastry tip, poke a small hole in the bottom of each piece of the pastries to release any additional trapped steam--this prevents the inside of the dough from becoming soggy.
  14. Allow the dough to fully cool and then fill with pastry cream, whipped cream, ice cream, or your favorite savory fillings.

About the Author

After receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the Culinary Institute of America, Andrea Rappaport moved into a full-time career in the restaurant business. For over 12 years, she worked in various culinary jobs, including as a cook for Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and ultimately as the executive chef and partner of the highly revered San Francisco restaurant Zinzino. For the past seven years, Andrea has worked as the private chef for one family in the San Francisco area, and continues to expand her culinary portfolio by catering, teaching, and consulting.

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