Does the idea of making éclairs, profiteroles, and gougères scare you? Did you just google those terms? Well if you did, I bet you’re drooling right now. Go ahead and wipe off your keyboard, then listen up. What if I told you that you could make all of those delicious items yourself, in your own kitchen? Then can I convince you that it’s actually quite easy? Would you then believe me if I told you that you probably have all of the necessary ingredients in your kitchen right now?
Cream puffs will always remind me of my grandmother, who fills them with butterscotch pastry cream. They are such a special treat, my dad’s favourite. I never imagined I’d be able to make them so easily myself, since it always seems that only grandmothers whip up amazing food on the fly and from memory. I only wish I could cook and bake like my grandma. She’s the best kitchen consultant I know.
Back to the pate a choux – let me show you how you too can make your own, opening yourself up to a world of culinary possibilities. These little guys can be filled with sweet fillings like whipped cream, pudding, pastry cream, or fudge. Or they can be filled with savoury fillings like egg salad, cream cheese fillings, or cooked meat filling like curried chicken or buffalo chicken and blue cheese. Let your imagination run wild. They make a great little poppable mouthful for a special occasion or a lazy Sunday afternoon at home with your favourite people.
Pâte à Choux
1/2 C whole milk
1/2 C water
1/2 C butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 Tbsp sugar (if you’re using the dough for something sweet)
1/2 tsp salt
1 C flour
4 eggs, at room temperature
Gather the ingredients, then preheat your oven to 425F. Then, please read the recipe through, as things go very quickly once you get started.
Ready? Let’s go.
Bring the milk, water, butter, sugar (if you’re using it), and salt to a rapid boil in a saucepan over high heat.
Add the flour all at once, lower the heat to med-low, and immediately stir like mad with a wooden spoon or heavy whisk.
The dough will come together, and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring for another minute or two to dry the dough. The dough will be very smooth.
Turn the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer or a bowl you can use with a hand mixer (or a wooden spoon and more elbow grease). Let the dough sit for just a minute. Then add the eggs one at a time, beating all the while, until the dough is thick and shiny. Make sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next.
Drop the dough by tablespoonful (for round puffs) on a baking sheet lined with parchment, leaving about 2 inches between the mounds to allow for room to puff.
Slide the baking sheet into the oven, and immediately turn the temperature down to 375F. Bake the puffs for 12 minutes, then rotate the pan front to back and up and down on the oven racks. Bake for another 12-15 minutes until the puffs are golden and firm. Allow the puffs to cool on the baking sheet.
Now, the sky is the limit!
On this particular day, I chose to fill the sweet dough I made with 2 fillings: a vanilla pastry cream (later turning them into profiteroles with a little help from some chocolate ganache), and a smoked salmon and cream cheese mixture. Both were fabulous.