Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.

Harriet Van Horne

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Choux Paste Mishap

I had my second Baking Exam last week. My first one (Bread and rolls) went well. My second one is a whole different story.

The subject on this exam was Choux Paste and Pies. The week before we had been told that Danish Dough, and Pastry Cream would also be on the schedule. And of course these were the things I concentrated on and practiced. In hind site... I wish I had worked on Choux Paste.


As Defined By Wikipedia:

Chou(x) pastry, paste, or dough (French pâte à choux, German Brandteig) is a light pastry dough used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, eclairs, French crullers, beignets, and gougères. It contains only butter, milk, flour, and eggs. Its raising agent is the high moisture content, which creates steam during cooking, puffing out the pastry.

As Defined By

Choux paste (as experienced initially) is a bastardly difficult, temperamental, and technical form of baking that is so simple it relies completely on the Chef's ability to predict unpredictable circumstances or else face utter failure.

Needless to say, the exam did not go so well.

I had actually never made Choux Paste before (in our school you work in partners for most labs and my partner had made the Choux paste when we first created eclairs) and wasn't really feeling up to snuff as it was, then confusion occured when other students did the 'last minute oven shuffle' and in the end I was left with one that was set at a very incorrect temperature. If you will refer to my definition above you will know that Choux paste is not forgiving.

The recipe as follows is easy enough to follow:


8 fl. oz water (you can use half milk half water)
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp Sugar
3.5 oz Unsalted Butter
4 oz All Purpose Flour
3 or 4 Eggs

  • Bring water, salt, sugar and butter to the boil
  • Add flour all at once and stir vigorously until flour is fully absorbed. Stir until a ball is formed and the dough is dry
  • Cool slightly
  • Stir in eggs one at a time until proper consistency is reached. The dough should pull away from the sides of the pot in thick threads.
  • Place into a piping bag.
  • Bake at 400 degrees until a golden brown color is achieved

You just have to be careful to cook them off in a 400 degree oven. It is the heat that provides the lift, there are no other leaveners. My éclairs turned out flat as a pancake because they were put into a 325 degree oven and the outside formed a crust before the the moisture in the recipe could form steam and lift up the little buggers.

The beauty of properly done choux paste is the hallow cavity surrounded by the rich, crisp shell.

I wish I could say other wise, but honestly choux paste is amazingly delicious, and judging from the success of the other student's I have to admit it's not all that hard to make, and well worth the effort.

You can use the paste to make eclairs by piping out little logs and filling them with pastry cream and then topping them with melted chocolate, or sweet profiteroles by dropping them out by the spoon full or pipping them into rounds and then filling them with cream or ice cream, or puff pastries, or savory profiteroles (just mix in a little grated cheese into the paste before baking off).

Here is a good recipe to fill your éclairs or sweet profiteroles with. You can make a chocolate version by adding in 2oz or so of grated chocolate at the end with the vanilla. Or you could go for an orange, mint, or almond flavor by using a few drop of extract.


2 1/4 Cups Milk
4 Large Egg Yolks

2/3 Cups Sugar
1/4 Cups Corn Starch
1/4 Cups Flour

2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • Heat 2 cups of the milk to boiling.
  • Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and the rest of the milk (1/4 cup)
  • Add the cornstarch and flour into the egg mixture, whisk until smooth.
  • Temper the egg mixture with the heated milk until you have added all of it.
  • Bring this mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, make sure you stir constantly. It will thicken as it heats up.
  • Once it has boiled, reduce the heat to low and cook for another 2 minutes, until you can't taste raw flour anymore.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.
  • Pour into a bowl, press plastic wrap onto the surface (prevents a skin from forming) and cool to room temp before chilling.
Once I get the time I'll be attacking Choux paste again. When I do something wrong in the lab I have this insatiable itch to do it at home to see if I'm incompetent or if it was just the circumstances.

In this case I'm not really sure which I would prefer. It'll be a hard pill to swallow if I realize that I actually can make éclairs at home, just not when it comes to an exam.

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