This time of year we’re all looking for easy, versatile dishes to satisfy a crowd, and choux pastry is a great one to start with. Choux (pronounced “shoo”) pastry is a thick batter that’s cooked on the stove top and then fashioned into a variety of shapes using a pastry bag. After baking in a hot oven, the choux is transformed into delicate shells, the base for gougères, profiteroles and éclairs.
For a savory appetizer, add grated cheese and minced herbs into the pastry dough. For dessert, split each baked pastry open and fill with ice cream or whipped cream, then drizzle with chocolate sauce.
1/2 cup whole milk
1 cup water
6 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
|Boil the liquid|
Position 2 racks evenly in the oven, and preheat to 425 degrees. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper or aluminum foil. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the milk, water, butter and salt and bring to a full boil.
|Add the flour all at once|
When the butter melts, remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until blended.
|Cook the mixture|
Return the pan to medium heat and continue stirring until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Remove from the heat and let cool for 3 to 4 minutes, or until about 140 degrees when tested with an instant-read thermometer.
|Add the eggs|
Crack the eggs into a small bowl and check for shells. Add about 1 egg and beat with a wooden spoon until incorporated. Stir in the remaining 3 eggs, about one at a time, beating vigorously after each addition so that the batter returns to a smooth paste. let the paste cool for about 10 minutes.
|To shape puffs:|
Fit a pastry bag with a 5/8-inch plain tip and fill the bag with the paste. For each puff, pipe about 1 tablespoon of the paste onto the prepared pan, forming a mound about 2 inches in diameter. Space the mounds at least 2 inches apart to allow for expansion.
|To shape logs:|
Fit a pastry bag with a 3/4-inch plain tip and pipe out logs 4 inches long and 1 inch wide. Space the logs at least 2 inches apart to allow for expansion.
|Bake and vent the pastries|
Bake the puffs or logs for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and continue baking until golden brown, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and immediately prick the side of each puff or log with the tip of a paring knife. Return the pastries to the turned-off oven, leave the door open, and let them dry out in the oven to 1-0 to 15 minutes. Let the pastries cool completely on the pans on wire racks before filling. Makes about 15 large puffs or 10 logs.