Pâte à Choux

Maybe because it has a French name, or maybe it's because it has a two step process, (first cooked on the stove top, then in the oven) but many cooks avoid this recipe. Make it once and you will be a convert. Cream puff pastry is versatile, and whether it is baked for cream puffs or eclairs, it freezes well. Since they defrost in minutes they can be stuffed with ice cream and topped with chocolate sauce fairly easily prepared for impromptu gatherings + special occasions.

Pâte à Choux (Cream Puff Pastry)

Recipe by Chef George Hirsch | from KNOW YOUR FIRE Cookbook, 1997 by George Hirsch with Marie Bianco 

1 cup of water

4 Tablespoons vegetable oil

3 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Combine the water, vegetable oil, butter, milk and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cook the mixture over low heat until it dries slightly and leaves the sides of the pan, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each one is fully absorbed before adding the next one.

Cover a baking sheet, preferably one without sides, with parchment paper.

Place the paste in a pastry bag with a round tip with a 1/2 inch opening. To make cream puffs, hold the pastry bag at a 45 degree angle touching a paper lined pan. Squeeze the bag. Continue forming the puffs 1 to 2 inches apart. To make eclairs, squeeze the bag as you pull it toward you, making 3 inch long fingers.

Place the choux in the oven, and after 5 minutes, lower the temperature to 375 degrees F. Depending on size, they will require 10 to 15 minutes total cooking time. NOTE: If the oven door is opened before they're almost finished baking, they will collapse, so don;t peek until 10  minutes have passed. To test for doneness, tap one on the bottom. It should sound hollow. Remove and cool on a rack.

How to fill cream puffs:

Wait until the puffs are cool and cut off the top third with a sharp knife. Fill the hollow bottom with a savory such as chicken or crab meat salad or sweet such as pastry cream or ice cream Replace the top and serve. If the filling is a sweet one, dust the cream puffs with confectioners' sugar or pour chocolate sauce over the top.