choux pastry/paste (pâte à choux)

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the recipe i learned is really very simple: 1 cup of milk, 1 stick of butter, 1 cup of flour and 4 eggs. i just embellished it a little bit according to my taste. possibly more detail than needed but i've found this has helped me in the past.
1 cup milk/water*
1 stick (8 tablespoon/4 oz) unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (3 oz) Gruyère (or other swiss cheese, like American or Emmenthaler) shredded (if making gougères)**
1/2 cup (1/2 oz) parmesan cheese, finely grated (if making gougères)*
Special equipment
medium saucepan
candy/deep fry thermometer if frying
wooden spoon for stirring and beating
1. preheat the oven to 425ºF and adjust rack to middle position, if making cream puffs, profiteroles or gougères.
2. heat milk, butter, sugar and salt in a medium sauce pan set at medium heat, just until it comes to a boil and the butter has melted.
3. dump in the flour, turn heat down to low and stir with wooden spoon until flour is mostly incorporated into liquid and then vigorously beat until batter pulls from wall of pan. beat for maybe 3-5 minutes or until a thin, dry film forms on the bottom of the pan.

you are cooking the panade and gelatinizing it, allowing you to add the eggs to create the structures keeping your choux from collapsing. it's not beating in air which my grandma said was the key. same thing, though, as i broke wooden spoons with either explanations. this step is particularly important if you are using an all-milk batter.
4. beat it off the heat for about a minute and when the batter has cooled down a little, add the eggs 1 at a time, making sure that it is completely beaten into the batter before adding the next one. the batter will look slicky at first, wanting to slide right out the bowl, and then more dry and sticky as the egg becomes more incorporated into the batter. beat to build up some of the protein which will create some strength to the batter.

at this point, some people transfer the mixture to a separate bowl and use the paddle attachment on the stand mixer or a just a hand-held to beat in the eggs one at a time. this is to avoid incorporating the dry film into the batter, to transfer to a cooler bowl to help cool down batter but mostly because the batter is now a sticky and stiffer batter that is more difficult to beat. i prefer to wash less dishes and beat more.
5. gougères
now that the batter is properly mixed, add the cheese. stir just enough to incorporate cheese into batter.
6. cream puffs, profiteroles, éclairs or gougères
a) either pipe with a pastry bag or spoon golf-ball size puffs, 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.
if making éclairs, pipe 3-inch long, 1-inch wide logs, with a 1/2-inch tip, onto the parchment-lined sheet.
b) bake for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 350ºF, rotate and continue baking for another 10-20 minutes, 'til it's a golden brown.
c) remove from oven and set on a rack. after they are cooled down, they are ready to be filled with cream filling of your choice.
7. pets de nonnes, aigrettes or beignets
a) in a large sauce pan, heat 3 inches of vegetable oil to about 350-360ºF.
b) spoon rounded teaspoonfuls of batter into hot oil. try not to fill up pan as dough should puff up to twice it's size. you might have to test run a few sacrificial puffs to get the right temperature. the trick is to have the oil hot enough to seal the batter from soaking up too much oil and also not too hot that it burns the exterior, not allowing them to puff up properly. fry up until pastry puffs up and poofs out some steam and becomes a golden brown.
c) set on top of paper towels on top of cooling racks to wick away the oil. after they have cooled enough, sprinkle with sugar or a combination of cinnamon and sugar (1 part cinnamon, 3 part sugar).
* if you are not using any milk, adding a teaspoon of sugar will help with the browning of the crust, if you so desire. the milk in addition to giving the pastry more of a golden color, also makes the crust more tender but also more susceptible to collapsing, which is probably why more people use water as it creates a more crisp shell. you can experiment with a combination of the two. start out with 1 part milk to 3 part water.

** if you are making gougères, take out the sugar and increase the salt to 1/4 tsp. reduce the milk to at least 1/2 and replace with water. you can even experiment and try increasing the cheese by half if you want more cheese or use Cheddar instead (add a pinch of mustard and paprika).

sub 3/4 c (2 1/2 oz / 80g) of whole wheat pastry flour + 1/2 c (2 1/8 oz / 60g) of bread flour for 1 cup of all-purpose flour.
source: King Arthur Flour.

i've noticed some recipes admonishing you to use dough immediately while it's still warm. not true, as i've refrigerated the dough before and used it afterwards with no adverse effects. you just have to protect against a skin developing on the surface by pressing plastic wrap directly on top and seal the edges to keep it from drying off.

some people freeze the piped, raw batter and then use it straight from the freezer to be popped straight into the oven. some adjustments to the recipe: cook the panade longer allowing the addition of more eggs, one or two, which helps create a stronger structure; soften the choux batter, after eggs are incorporated, with a little bit of milk to compensate for the lost moisture in cooking the panade longer.

food science info to make your head spin on the leavening power of steam in choux pastry.
Cuisine   FrenchDish   Dessert
Style   GourmetPrep Time   15 to 30 minutes
Cooking Time   1 hour 
Features   Vegetarian

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