Choux pastry, or pâte à choux, is the pastry used to make éclairs and cream puffs as well as gougeres, a version made with cheese. Preparing choux pastry can be difficult, as the pastry needs to reach the appropriate level of dryness without drying out too much. To ensure evenly cooked pastry, a cook should make each the same size. Three different temperatures are also required throughout the cooking process. To prevent sogginess, the pastry needs to be aired out and not filled too soon.
Four basic ingredients are used to prepare choux pastry. Water and flour should be used on a one-to-one ratio. For example, if the recipe calls for 8 ounces (227 grams) of flour, it should also call for 8 ounces (227 grams) of water. A single egg should be used for each ounce of butter. Usually, for every 4 ounces (113 grams) of butter used, four eggs are used. One cup of flour and water are used with every 4 ounces of butter and four eggs.
When preparing the choux pastry, the cook should boil the water and butter and then stir in the flour to make a paste. To prevent curdling or cooking the eggs, she should let this mixture cool before stirring in the eggs. Each egg should be added one at a time to ensure that they are mixed in thoroughly.
After the pastry is prepared, a cook can either bake it immediately or let it rest overnight in a covered bowl. It should be placed in the refrigerator if it will rest overnight. Resting the pastry in the refrigerator is ideal if it won't be eaten until the next day, because doing so will prevent the cooked pastry from becoming stale or soggy.
Before baking, the choux pastry needs to be piped on the baking sheet. Piping pastry can be difficult if a baker has not done it before. A large tip should be used on the pastry bag. She should hold the bag straight up and down at a 90-degree angle to the baking sheet. Each puff of pastry or éclair shape should be the same size for even cooking.
Three different oven temperatures are used when cooking choux pastry. The first temperature is the hottest, which causes the pastries to puff up and become hollow. The temperature is then reduced slightly to allow the pastries to cook through and brown. Finally, the temperature needs to be reduced again to let the pastries become crisp and dry. After they are removed from the oven, a small hole needs to be poked in each to let steam come out and prevent them from becoming soft.