Choux pastry (pronounced "shoo") is used for making beignets, cream puffs, éclairs, and gougères, among other things, and it's leavened entirely by steam, not by baking powder, baking soda or yeast.
How this is accomplished is by baking the choux first at a high temperature to generate the steam, and then finishing at a lower temperature to set the pastry and brown the outside.
It's traditional to use a pastry bag with the ½-inch plain tip to pipe the choux dough onto your baking sheet. You could just spoon it out into little mounds, or for éclairs, shape the dough into little cylinders with your hands. But a pastry bag will definitely give you a nicer result.
Note: The only slightly tricky thing about this recipe is that I've written it in a way you might not be used to seeing — which is to say, I'm using weights rather than volume measurements for the ingredients. This isn't very common in the U.S., but it will make it easier for you to use the right amount of everything, and your choux will turn out much better.
I've indicated approximate volume measurements for each, just to give you an idea, but you should definitely go by weight. This means you'll need a digital scale that can be set to grams.
- 150 grams bread flour (a little more than a cup)
- 150 grams eggs (beaten, about 3 large eggs; see note below)
- 125 grams milk (about ½ cup)
- 125 grams water (about ½ cup)
- 100 grams unsalted butter (a little less than a stick)
- 5 grams sugar (about 1 teaspoon)
- 2 1/2 grams salt (about ½ teaspoon)
- For Gougères:
- 170 grams gruyère (or emmental, grated; about 1½ cups)
Preheat your oven to 425°F (but not for beignets).
In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, water, sugar, salt, and butter. Heat to a boil.
When the mixture boils, take it off the heat and add all the flour at one time, stirring hard with a wooden spoon to incorporate.
Put the pan back on, over medium heat, and keep stirring quickly. In a minute or two, the dough will form a smooth ball and pull away from the sides of the pan and you'll see a thin film on the bottom of the pan.
Now scoop the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer, and mix on low with the paddle attachment for about a minute. This step is important because it releases some of the heat from the dough so that it doesn't cook the eggs when you add them in the next step.
Increase the speed to medium, and add the eggs a little bit at a time, making sure that the egg is fully incorporated before you add more. It's best to add about a quarter of the eggs each time and beat until the dough comes back together. Once all the eggs are incorporated, you're ready to continue. (If you're making gougères, you would now beat in the cheese.)
Note: If you're making beignets, your procedure involves frying the pastry, not baking it, so you'll want to head off here: Beignet Recipe. Otherwise, continue with the steps for baking the pastry:
Pipe or spoon the dough onto a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. If you're piping, use the plain ½-inch tip. For cream puffs or gougères, go for a mound about 1½ inches (4 cm) in diameter. For éclairs, pipe out ribbons about 4 inches (10 cm) long. It's a good idea to leave two inches in between each one.
Bake for 10 minutes in your 425°F oven, then lower the heat to 375°F. Continue to bake for another 25 to 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and has a crisp shell.
Now turn off the oven, open the oven door and let the pastries cool for 30 minutes in the oven with the door halfway open.
After that, remove the pan from the oven and let the pastries cool completely before slicing or filling.
Note on eggs: This recipe specifically calls for three large eggs, which weigh 50 grams each (not including the shell). If all you have are medium eggs or jumbo or whatever, just crack the eggs into a bowl and beat them. Place an empty container on your scale and zero it out. Then, pour the beaten egg into the container until the scale reads 150 grams.