Updated: Aug 26, 2022
Hi, my lovely readers! If you have stumbled upon this page, you are probably looking to bake some eclairs and I have just the ultimate chocolate éclair recipe right here for you.
Some of the things I love most about eclairs is that they are so versatile and you can apply them to making so many different things with the same dough and to name a few, they are such as: Paris Brest, Croquembouche, Profiteroles, Pomme Douphine, Parisian Choux Gnocchi and Gougeres.
Choux pastry are not just for the sweet lovers, they are a good pastry base for savoury applications as well, such as adding cheese and making savour fillings to go with them.
If this is your first or first few attempts in making choux pastry, the following are some of the tips that I think you will find handy for a successful result.
Choux pastry or Pâte à choux is a twice cooked French pastry invented by Chef Pantanelli, head chef of Catherine de Medici of Florence. The name choux refer to “cabbage” in French because of the way the traditional choux pastry would rise in its irregular form.
Modern choux pastry has improved over time and pastry chefs to date have found ways to prevent the choux pastry from rising irregularly, instead a uniform dome shaped choux bun or even eclairs are created
COMPOSITION OF CHOUX PASTRY
The composition of a choux pastry is as follow:
Flour (All Purpose or Bakers)
Choux pastry has a hollow centre when baked, which allows you to fill them with different variations of creams and fillings.
PREPARATION OF A CHOUX PASTRY
When preparing pâte à choux, the liquid is brought to a mere boil together with the sugar, butter, and salt.
It is important to not let the liquid come to a rolling boil as this can cause evaporation of the liquid and you can lose some of the liquid content in the recipe.
When the liquid has come to a mere boil, flour is then added (off heat) and stirred vigorously to create a paste that is called the “panade”. The best indication of the right time to add the flour into the hot liquid is when the liquid is at least 80˚C as starch breaks down around that temperature range of 70-80 ˚C.
This panade is then stirred and cooked further on a low heat in the pot for 2 – 3 minutes to ensure that the starch is fully cooked through and doesn’t leave a floury taste to your palette.
The panade is then placed over to a mixer or stirred by hand to cool to below 50˚C before gradually adding in the eggs.
WHEN TO ADD EGGS INTO THE PANADE
Eggs starts to coagulate (scrambled) at a temperature of 60˚C and above. Adding eggs at below 50˚C will prevent cooked eggs in the mixture.
If you want to pipe the choux pastry straight away, it is recommended to add the eggs at the lower temperature. If the panade is too cold when adding the eggs, it will not be able to absorb the eggs as well, so adding at 45˚C is recommended for cooler temperature.
WHAT HELPS THE CHOUX PASTRY TO HAVE A HOLLOW INTERIOR?
Pâte à choux can create a hollow centre thanks to the liquid and eggs that are added into the dough. As the pâte à choux hits the hot oven, the liquid from the water/milk and eggs transforms into steam inside and pushes upwards to escape. As wheat flour contains gluten, it helps the outer part of the choux paster to expand and hold its structure as the steam releases. As the pastry bakes longer, a hollow centre is created
Baked pâte à choux are often left to dry out in a turned off hot oven to allow a crisp shell that do not go soft too quickly, which is the nature of the pastry.
MILK VERSUS WATER
Water or milk or a combination of both can be used in a pâte à choux recipe.
Milk gives flavour and flexibility to the choux pastry thanks to its fat content. The fat also helps the choux pastry to expand more evenly without too many cracks.
Water yields a hollower centre in the pâte à choux with a drier texture. This is especially great if you are making croquembouche and wants the pastry to stand for longer before it goes soft.
Due to the nature of gravity, steam always rises to the top. Because of this, whilst the choux hits the hot oven, the water in the choux will start to transform into steam and rises upwards, which pushes the choux pastry and help them puff up. As the steam escapes the choux pastry, the centre starts to become hollow.
To take advantage of the nature of steam, it is recommended that you place the tray of choux pastry at the lowest part of the oven so that the heat are more concentrated at the base of the tray which helps to push the choux pastry further upwards.
It is also important to note that the oven needs to be hot enough to transform water to steam and to accelerate the transformation otherwise the choux pastry will not puff up as well. As a general guideline, 180˚C - 190˚C is a good temperature to start with domestic oven. In commercial kitchens, deck oven is the wonder for baking choux pastries.
When piping éclair, I highly recommend that you invest in a straight French Star Piping tip. The jagged edges that this pastry tip creates when you pipe éclair allows the steam to escape more evenly. If a plain tip is used, the steam might find it hard to escape the interior of the choux pastry and therefore scrambled around frantically which is what creates an uneven rise all around like a cabbage.