Want to make eclairs (yum!), profiteroles (deeelicious!), gougeres (mmmmm!), or a croquembouche (are you crazy?!)? Well here’s some tips to help you along the way.
Now, I don’t claim to be an expert in choux pastry, I don’t even claim to be good at it, to tell you the truth sometimes I have a mini panic attack inside at the thought of having to make this stuff, but what I can claim is that I’m slowly getting better at it. I have done a lot of reading and, more importantly, I have done a lot of (often frustrating!) practice to try and master my little nemesis. So here I am to pass on some tips that I learnt on the way that will hopefully help anyone else who also has a little nemesis called Mr. Choux. Hey, and if the tips don’t work….there’s no harm in buying a few, I won’t tell!
1. Be organised. Have all your ingredients ready, eggs at room temperature, oven preheated and all the equipment ready to go before you start.
2. Dampen your baking paper. Its the steam that helps the choux pastry to rise. That’s why there’s lots of water in the mixture. You can create even more steam by running your baking paper (parchment paper) under a cold tap for a few seconds then shaking off any excess water before lining your baking trays.
3. Don’t over boil your water/butter mixture. Again, we want all that water for steam so don’t let your pot boil for too long, so when the pot comes to the boil, remove it from the heat straight away then add your flour so that you don’t lose water as it evaporates off.
4. “Shoot” the flour. You want to add the flour quickly and all in one go to the boiling water/butter mixture so that it cooks evenly. I picked this next tip up from British baking pro Delia Smith‘s website. Take a piece of baking paper, make a crease down the centre then open in back up. Sift the flour straight onto the paper then use this to tip the flour in with one hand while you are stirring vigorously with the other.
5. Show off your guns! Ensure that you stir vigorously with a wooden spoon (or electric mixer) while you add the flour, then continue to beat until the mixture comes away from the side of the saucepan. This is a bit of work so make sure you bring your muscles for this one! You want to develop the gluten so that you have light pastry, but you also don’t want to overwork it, so when it comes away from the sides, you can stop beating.
6. Add the eggs one at a time. It may look like the mixture is separating, but stick with it and it will turn into a thick glossy paste.
7. Let off some steam. After the choux pastry is cooked, pierce the bottom of each pastry with a skewer or a knife to release the steam that had helped them rise. This helps them to dry out.
8. Leave in the oven to cool. This is a tip from my darling mother. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and return the pastries to the oven to allow them to cool there. This dries them out even further.