Choux Pastry (Pâte à Choux) is a simple, buttery French pastry dough that's used to make so many different kinds of pastries. The dough puffs while baking creating airy hollow little centers that are perfect for filling with anything your heart desires.
Want to know the best part about this versatile pastry dough? Choux pastry is super easy! Yes, I know it has a reputation for being difficult, but it isn't true, I swear. This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process and after making it once, you'll be a pro and can toss the guide aside.
"I've tried to make Choux pastry a few times in the past and it never came out right. I decided to try again, using this recipe, and it came out perfectly! Thanks so much for a great recipe!"-Natalie
What is Choux Pastry?
The French translation of "choux" is cabbage. So, if we're going to be literal here, I'm teaching you how to make cabbage pastry.
Thankfully, the name is reflective of the finished product not of the ingredient list. When baked, pâte à choux bakes up with little folds and crinkles that resemble little cabbages.
Like many French Pastries, choux pastry is both revered and feared. I feel that the reverie is justified and the fear of making it is not.
Master choux pastry and you can make an endless variety of impressive pastries filled with whatever your heart and imagination desires. And you CAN, in fact, master this French pastry dough because even though it has a reputation for being difficult it's actually not.
- Start to finish, the dough only takes about 15 minutes to make and requires only a handful of ingredients.
- The details and photos in this step-by-step guide and choux pastry recipe are there to ensure success for everyone, even if you've never made it or have not had success with it in the past.
- But, seriously. Once you've made a batch, you'll wonder why this simple pastry dough has a reputation for being difficult at all.
Ingredients Needed to Prepare this Recipe
Making choux pastry requires just 6 common ingredients, plus tap water.
- Unsalted butter. Unsalted butter is preferred in this recipe because it allows you to control the amount of salt in the dough. If you do use salted butter, omit the added salt in this recipe.
- Large eggs. Eggs add flavor and are what cause choux pastry to puff up in the oven while it bakes.
- All purpose flour.
- Granulated sugar. Most recipes for choux pastry do not include sugar, but just one tablespoon boosts the flavor of the dough considerably. And, when given the chance to add flavor, I always take it.
- Whole milk + water. You can make choux pastry with only water, but I prefer to use a 50/50 combination of water and whole milk. That little bit of milk gives the dough a more tender texture and a richer flavor.
- Salt. Salt adds flavor, but you want to be careful to not add to much. ¾ teaspoon is the perfect amount if using unsalted butter. If using salted butter, leave it out.
See the recipe card below for precise quantities.
Step by Step Photos and Instructions
#1. Add the butter, water, milk, salt, and sugar to a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring frequently.
#2. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the flour all at once.
Stir vigorously until the flour is completely incorporated and the mixture forms a thick ball of dough.
#3. Cook the dough for about 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. As you stir, use the back of your spoon to mash the dough against the side of the pan.
Cooking and stirring the dough builds structure and keeps the dough from tasting "floury".
#4. Time to add the eggs! Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl or measuring cup.
Dump the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. OR - use a mixing bowl and a handheld mixer.
Tips for adding the eggs to choux pastry dough:
- Allow the dough to cool for about 5 minutes before adding the eggs. This makes it easier to incorporate the eggs into the dough without scrambling.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk to combine. This makes it easier to add them to the dough bit by bit.
- With the mixer running on medium-low speed, slowly add the eggs in 4 or 5 separate additions. With each addition, be sure to fully incorporate the eggs into the dough before adding more.
- When you first begin to add the eggs, the dough might look a bit curdled. Just keep beating and it will come together.
- Add the last bit of beaten eggs very slowly, watching the dough carefully. When the dough looks shiny and thick enough to pipe and hold its shape, stop adding the eggs.
It's important to add only as many eggs as you need to create a thick, shiny dough that holds its shape. I almost always have a tablespoon or so of beaten egg leftover.
If making something like profiteroles or eclairs, you can save the leftover egg for the egg wash that's brushed over the pastries before baking.
At this point, the dough can be used immediately or kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
How to Bake Choux Pastry
The dough is now ready to be baked into shells that can be used to make eclairs, cream puffs, or profiteroles!
Step #1: Sprinkle the parchment with a bit of water. This creates a more humid environment for the pastries as they bake, helping them rise as much as possible and not dry out.
Step #3: Dip your finger in water (to keep it from sticking to the dough) and smooth out the tops of the pastries, especially the little flip that can happen as you pull the pastry bag away from the pastry.
Step #4: Brush the dough with a bit of egg that's been whisked with about a teaspoon of water.
Step #5: Bake! If making large pastries, bake them at 375 °F (190° C).
If making mall pastries, bake them at 400° F (204° C).
Two important tips for baking choux pastry:
- DO NOT open the oven while the pastries bake because this could cause them to collapse.
- Bake until the pastries are a rich golden brown and appear to be completely dry. If they look even slightly wet, let them bake a bit longer. If the dough is not baked through, they will collapse when you take them out of the oven.
It's important to use an electric mixer to make choux pastry dough. Beating the eggs into the dough by hand is extremely difficult. Use either a Stand Mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a hand held electric mixer.
I also like to use a heat proof spatula to stir the dough while cooking it in a saucepan because it allows you to scrape along the edges of the pan. This ensures that no little pieces of dough are stuck in the crevices and prone to burning.
Other useful equipment includes:
How to Store Choux Pastry Dough and Baked Pastries
Choux pastry dough can be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Once baked, unfilled pastries made with choux pastry dough can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 24 hours or in the refrigerator for 5 days. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
The length of time pastries will last after they've been filled depends on the type of filling. Pastry cream or cream cheese filled profiteroles will keep well in the refrigerator for a day or two. Fillings that include a high percentage of liquid, and those that contain meats or seafood do not last as long and should be eaten within a few hours.
To freeze pastries BEFORE baking, follow the recipe instructions to make the choux pastry dough then pipe the pastries onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and put the baking sheet in the freezer. Let the profiteroles freeze for an hour or two. Then, remove the balls of dough from the baking sheet and put them in an airtight container.
Separate layers of profiteroles that are stacked on top of one another with parchment paper. Unbaked frozen profiteroles will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer. To bake, simply place the frozen balls of choux pastry on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake according to the recipe instructions below.
To freeze pastries AFTER baking, allow them to cool completely at room temperature. Then, put them in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before filling and serving.
You can also freeze filled profiteroles - IF the filling lends itself to freezing. Not every kind of filling will freeze well, especially those with meat, seafood, or vegetables. In general, whipped cream and cream cheese fillings do not freeze well.
Other kinds of fillings, like my favorite pastry cream recipe, will freeze well. In general, if the filling will freeze well on its own, it's fine to freeze profiteroles that contain that filling.
When freezing filled profiteroles, I like to wrap them individually in plastic wrap, then put the wrapped profiteroles into an airtight container.
The average number of eggs for this choux pastry recipe is 4. However, it's super important to not add more liquid to the dough than it can handle.
How many eggs you need depends on several different factors, such as climate and altitude, humidity, the brand of flour you are using, if the flour was too tightly packed when you measured it, and how large each of the eggs are.
The best way to control the amount of eggs you add to the dough is to whisk them all together and then add them to the dough bit by bit, stopping when the dough is thick and shiny and can hold its shape.
Profiteroles and cream puffs are the same shape - small and round. The only difference is that cream puffs are generally filled with whipped cream or pastry cream and profiteroles are stuffed with literally anything, sweet or savory.
In the United States, profiteroles are often filled with ice cream and topped with chocolate ganache or another dessert sauce.
My favorite way to eat profiteroles is to stuff them with vanilla ice cream and drizzle them with red and white wine pear poaching sauces that are left over after making this Pear and Almond Tart.
The only difference between eclairs and profiteroles or cream puffs is the shape. Eclairs are oblong, shaped kind of like a hot dog bun.
French cream puffs and Italian Maritozzi are very similar pastries! Both are sweet pastries filled with cream. The main difference is the pastry itself.
The pastry used to make Maritozzi is very similar to brioche. It's soft, rich, and bready, whereas choux pastry is light, airy, and eggy. Both are delicious! Check out this Maritozzi recipe for more about how to make them.
More French Pastry Recipes:
For an extensive list of sweet and savory filling and topping ideas for profiteroles, check out this profiteroles recipe.
- ½ cup (113g/ 4oz) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- ½ cup (118ml) water
- ½ cup (118ml) whole milk
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon (12.5g) granulated sugar
- 1 cup (120g) all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- Add the butter, water, milk, salt, and sugar to a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Bring mixture to a full boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the flour all at once.
- Stir vigorously until the flour is completely incorporated and the mixture forms a thick ball of dough. Cook the dough for 1 minute longer, stirring constantly and using the back of your spoon to mash the dough against the side of the pan.
- Dump the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (You can also use a handheld mixer to make choux paste if you don't have a stand mixer.)
- Allow to cool down for about 5 minutes before proceeding.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk to combine. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, slowly add the eggs in 4 or 5 separate additions, being sure to incorporate one addition before adding the next. The dough might look a bit curdled at first; just keep beating and it will come together.
- .Add the last bit of beaten eggs very slowly, watching the dough carefully. When the dough looks shiny and thick enough to pipe and hold its shape, stop adding the eggs. I almost always have a tablespoon of beaten egg leftover which you can save for an egg wash if making something like profiteroles or eclairs.
*At this point, the dough can be used immediately or kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
How to use Choux Pastry:
- Make profiteroles
- Make eclairs
- A slightly modified version of this choux pastry recipe is used in this recipe for French Crullers.
*See notes above the recipe card for information about how to store and freeze choux pastry dough and baked choux pastries.
Sweet fillings for Baked Profiteroles/ Cream Puffs:
- Ice cream. While vanilla is always a favorite, you can fill profiteroles with any flavor ice cream you like.
- Pastry cream. My favorite tried and true pastry cream recipe makes a silky smooth, deliciously rich and creamy filling for profiteroles.
- Whipped cream. Lightly sweetened whipped cream is a delicious filling for profiteroles that's also super quick and easy to make. Simply use an electric mixer to whip 1 ½ cups of heavy whipping cream with 2 teaspoon vanilla extract and ½ cup powdered (confectioners) sugar until the cream is thick enough to pipe or spoon into profiteroles.
- Fruit curd. Fill profiteroles with any flavor of fruit curd, from a jar or homemade.
- Fruit curd + whipped cream or pastry cream. Gently fold some fruit curd into whipped cream or pastry cream. Or, fill profiteroles with a dollop of fruit curd and then top it with some whipped cream or pastry cream.
- Fresh fruit + whipped cream or pastry cream. Fill profiteroles with a bit of whipped cream or pastry cream then top with slices of fresh fruit or berries.
Savory Fillings for Baked Profiteroles/ Cream Puffs:
- Chicken, egg, or seafood salad. Profiteroles are best with creamy fillings, which makes chicken, egg or seafood salad a delicious choice for savory profiteroles.
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese. Use and electric mixer to beat some room temperature cream cheese with a pinch of salt and pepper until aerated and fluffy.
- Add any or all of the following: minced roasted garlic, crushed red pepper, fresh herbs, lemon zest, horseradish. Fill profiteroles with a dollop of cream cheese and a few pieces of smoked salmon.
- Creamy garlic and herb filling. Use an electric mixer to beat equal amounts heavy whipping cream and cream cheese plus a tablespoon or two of butter until the mixture is thick enough to hold its shape. Then stir in some minced garlic (preferably roasted or sautéed in oil until golden brown) and fresh herbs. You could also stir in some grated cheese. Parmesan is a great option for this filling.
- Cream cheese and veggie filling. Use and electric mixer to beat some room temperature cream cheese with a pinch of salt and pepper until aerated and fluffy. Then add any kind of finely minced or grated vegetables, raw, cooked, or pickled. My favorites include: sun dried tomatoes, marinated artichokes, olives, capers, and pickled red onions. Also toss in a few tablespoons of minced fresh herbs.
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Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet (3 Pack)
KitchenAid 6 Qt. Professional 600 Series Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer - Onyx Black
Cuisinart Power Advantage Plus 9-Speed Handheld Mixer with Storage Case, White
Ateco 11/16" Plain #809 Pastry Tube
Ateco Disposable Decorating Bags, 18-Inch, Pack of 100
Nutrition Information:Yield: 18 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 48Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 43mgSodium: 110mgCarbohydrates: 6gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 2g