Among the most iconic French pastries is perhaps pâte à choux. It forms the basis for the cream puff and the éclair sold by the dozens in just about every pastry case around the world. This crisp and light-as-air pastry shell, made by cooking water, flour and butter, then adding eggs until it becomes a silky paste, is a great vehicle for an array of delicious fillings and toppings, sweet and savory. Whether it’s pastry cream and chocolate glaze for the éclair, a billow of whipped cream for a cream puff, a scoop of your favorite ice cream for profiteroles, or a cheesey gougère, there’s no hope of resisting the temptation of each and every bite. And they make excellent small indulgences that really satisfy a craving for a simple pleasure without being so heavy that you wish you hadn’t. There are thankfully no regrets with pâte à choux.
The cream puff is a super simple pastry filled with sweetened whipped cream flavored with vanilla (aka, crème chantilly) and dusted with powdered sugar. In this Raspberry Chocolate Cream Puff, I’ve taken this simple concept and dressed it up a bit by making puffs filled with whipped cream that's been swirled with raspberry jam. The bottoms are dipped in chocolate, tops dusted with powdered sugar. The pastry is still light, crisp and airy and presents a bright and alluring visual element. It’s an easy dessert that takes just a few minutes to assemble. And truly, there’s nothing like a cream puff.
Place your piped pâte à choux in the oven and then wait for the magic to happen. You’ll be amazed at how gorgeous they look after just 22 minutes or so. Breathtaking!
- Pâte à choux is not difficult to make. It just requires that you try not to hurry the process. What makes it work are a few simple techniques:
1) Once you add the flour to the boiling water and butter, stir constantly and cook the dough for a couple of minutes until there’s steam rising and a distinct film appears on the bottom of the pan. This is important because you need to cook out the taste of the flour.
2) Take the dough off the heat and beat it in a mixer with a paddle on medium speed or with a wooden spoon until there is no longer any trace of steam rising. This helps to dry out the dough in preparation for incorporating the eggs.
3) Add the eggs one at a time and mix thoroughly before adding the next. The dough will look lumpy at first but will smooth out beautifully. Scrape down the bowl after each addition.
4) The pâte à choux is ready when it's smooth and shiny and falls from a rubber spatula in gloppy sheets.
5) Always use an egg wash to ensure beautiful even browning.
6) The test for baked pâte à choux is when the pastry feels very light and sounds hollow when tapped.
- I use a serrated knife to slice the cream puffs.
- Pâte à choux are best eaten the same day but you can also freeze them baked and unfilled in an airtight container. Thaw and crisp in a 350 degree F oven for about 8 – 10 minutes.
- Swirl your favorite jam into the whipped cream or layer with fresh fruit.
- Switch up the vanilla in the whipped cream with almond extract or brandy.
- A wonderful holiday treat: Profiteroles with Egg Nog Ice Cream and Rum Sauce.
Raspberry Chocolate Cream Puffs
Makes about 18 cream puffs
1 cup (8 oz) water
4 oz (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2” pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (5 oz) flour
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water + slight pinch of salt for egg wash
6 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
3 oz (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 cups (16 oz) heavy cream
2 tablespoons (26 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup raspberry jam
powdered sugar, for dusting
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare 2 baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.
Bring the water, butter pieces and salt to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and add flour all at once. Cook and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it’s smooth, pulls away from the sides of pan and leaves a noticeable film on the bottom of the pan. This will take a couple of minutes.
Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment (or use a bowl and a wooden spoon) until there is no longer any steam rising from the dough. Beat in one egg until thoroughly mixed. The dough will go from looking lumpy to very smooth. Scrape down the bowl, add the second egg and beat until you have the same results. Continue with the remaining 2 eggs. While the dough is mixing, make an egg wash by combining the egg, water and a slight pinch of salt. Set aside.
Place the pâte à choux into a pastry bag fitted with 1/2" plain tip. Pipe mounds approximately 1 1/2" in diameter. Wet your index finger with cold water and smooth the tops of each piece of piped dough. Brush lightly with egg wash (you’ll have a lot left over).
Bake until golden brown and puffed, about 22 - 24 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely.
Finely chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl with the butter over a bain marie with an inch or so of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl isn’t touching the water. As it melts, stir to thoroughly combine. Remove from heat and cool for a minute or so.
Take each pastry puff and dip the bottoms into the chocolate, scraping against the bowl to remove excess. Place them with the bottoms up on a baking sheet. Chill until set.
Whip the heavy cream with the sugar and vanilla to soft peak. Dollop with the jam and use a small spatula or knife to swirl.
Using a serrated knife, cut the tops off the pâte à choux and place on a baking sheet. Dust with powder sugar. Place a dollop of whipped cream in the bottom and replace the tops. Serve immediately.