Cooking - Pate A Choux (Choux Paste)

Choux is the French name for cabbage and these small dollops of puff paste do indeed expand in the oven to resemble tiny cabbage heads. Choux pastry is versatile and can be formed into a huge variety of shapes and can be filled with an even greater variety of fillings and creams. Choux pastries can be used as delicious sweet deserts or tasty savory bites.

Choux paste is the basis for cream puffs and Ã(c)clairs. An extremely popular desert is cream puffs filled with ice cream and cloaked in chocolate sauce. These are known as profiteroles.

Unsweetened choux paste is baked and filled with savory fillings or mixed with cheese and baked to make simple or fancy hors d'oevres such as gougeres.

Choux paste consists of flour, butter and water just like all other pastry dough but unlike others it is cooked on top of the stove before being shaped and baked. Milk is added for color and richness and it is leavened primarily with eggs. If choux paste is to be used with savory fillings it is often made with chicken stock or a mixture of chicken stock and water as the liquid. Before the eggs are added the cooked flour paste must be allowed to cool slightly to prevent the eggs from cooking prematurely. But if the paste is too cold when the eggs are added, they will not blend in smoothly. The perfect completed paste should be shiny, smooth and very thick but not stiff.

The method you choose to make choux paste is really down to personal preference. Choux paste can be made by hand or with an electric mixer.

Small puffs, profiteroles and Ã(c)clairs should be baked on ungreased baking sheets whereas larger puffs or large Ã(c)clairs are easier to remove when baked on greased and floured sheets.

Once the choux paste has been piped onto the baking sheet they should be lightly glazed with an egg wash.

The first few minutes of baking should be in a hot oven, which will cause quick expansion then the oven temperature, should be reduced to finish the baking and to dry out the hollow shells.

If you wish to further dry out the choux shells and allow more room for filling, turn off the oven and let the puffs dry out for a further ten minutes.

To fill the puffs poke a hole into them using a small skewer or sharp knife. Then carefully pipe in the desired filling. For example to fill with pastry cream, fill a pastry bag fitted with a Â1/4 inch tip, open puffs look attractive when they are filled with cream piped through a huge star nozzle but please remember whipped cream does not retain its texture when piped through a small tip.

Once baked and filled, choux pastries should be served immediately or placed in the refrigerator and served within the next few hours. Unfilled choux pastry can be frozen and placed in an airtight container but they are best used within the week.

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Michael Russell
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