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chefpeon

Pate a Choux - The Topic - Ask Questions Here.

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Ok, so I've been doing this pastry chef thing for 14 years, and I'm pretty good at it. I believe I've mastered some things.....but others....well, I haven't figured out yet.....well, I have, but I know they could be BETTER!

Two things that come to mind are a good genoise and pate a choux. I make an ok genoise, and do all right with pate a choux.....I mean, they always "work", but I don't consider them GREAT.

I'm aiming for GREAT. I'll leave the genoise for another thread. I wanna talk paste here!

I have tried SO MANY recipes for the stuff. Some say, don't use any milk, and they will be nice and crisp. True, but they don't taste very good. Some say all milk, but you lose your crispness there. I've found that using some of water and milk is the best bet. So far anyway. Some say to use butter, and I always have, but I had one PC I knew swear by oil, and I tried that. I had nice crisp hollow shells, but again, taste wasn't there. I recently read in "Baking Illustrated" that you can get a lighter shell by using one white for every two eggs. I tried that, but it didn't seem to make much difference. I've also experimented with using bread and all purpose flours. I think I like all purpose better....the bread gives good structure, but the toughness and chew is unappealing.

I also know that good pate a choux isn't all about ingredients.....methodology is a big part of success. Here's what I do, method-wise, and you all can give me your opinions on how I go about it......

1. I bring my water, milk, sugar, salt, and fat to a big ol' rollin' boil.

2. I add the flour all at once and cook and stir for about 3-4 minutes. I've been told that the longer you cook it on the stove, the more moisture cooks out, and the more moisture you cook out, the more eggs you can add, and the more eggs you can add, the puffier your shells get. Supposedly.

3. I put my big ol' pasty flour ball on the mixer, and mix it up til it cools down a bit.

4. I add my eggs, a few or one at a time, scraping the bowl often, until the mixture is glossy, and thick.....pipeable, but won't lose it's shape sitting on the pan.

5. I pipe and bake them right away, so no skin has a chance to form on the choux, preventing maximum puff.

6. Depending on what oven I am using, I double pan if necessary.

7. I put the choux in at 425 for about 15-20 minutes. I do not open the oven door during this time. After that initial period, I open the door and rotate my pan if my oven has obvious terrible hot spots. Then I reduce temp to 375 and let em go for about 45 more mins.....after that, I turn the oven off, and crack the door. I never have a problem with underbaking....I've mastered that part for sure.

I know I'm doing everything "textbook perfect" (maybe). I'm still not satisfied. I have a recipe that I know is close to perfection taste-wise and mouthfeel-wise....but puff-wise, it's just not there. When I go to pipe filling in the suckers, I know they aren't hollow enough....I have to poke about 3 holes in the bottom and pipe the pastry cream in different spots in between all the "webbing". Very frustrating and time consuming.

Here's the most irritating thing......one time I worked with this other PC in a wholesale operation. She really knew her stuff....everything she touched was perfect. ESPECIALLY her choux. God, she did beautiful choux!!! I finally swallowed my pride one day and asked her to walk me through exactly what she did when she made it. She was so nice, and she showed me. We did a double batch, side by side. I did it right along with her and did everything she told me. When our choux came out of the oven, it was pretty obvious which one was mine and which was hers....mine were not as puffy....not by a lot, but there was a difference. She looked at me and said, "I don't know what to tell you......maybe you have bad "choux karma". We laughed.....but dammit!

You guys, DO I HAVE BAD CHOUX KARMA????

One more thing.....how do you all feel about using baker's ammonia? I never have. I've always felt it would be like "cheating".....that I should be able to use only eggs and get the result I want. Besides, it just seems "wrong" to put something that smells SO HORRIBLE into something you eat. Even though it evaporates out......yecch!

Maybe it was my initiation to baker's ammonia by my pastry instructor. He did this to every new student. He'd say, "Hey! You ever smelled Chinese Sugar?" And, of course, we'd say "No." Then he would open the bucket (a plain bucket, mind you), and say, "Here! Smell!" The student would then stick his head in the bucket and get a fun surprise!!!!! It was then that I learned that it was also referred to as "smelling salts"......OK! NO WONDER it wakes people up!! I get it now!

:laugh:

Any input you all have on this is very much appreciated!

:wub: Annie

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I bake pate a choux at 375 for the entire baking period and always use half milk half water and always butter.

I wonder if you're piping properly. Are you making flat disks or round balls. I pipe at an angle (as the French say "coucher") and not up and down, to make the best ball shape with NO POINT. And I always egg wash and fork before baking.

I'm a nut about pate a choux and have always had excellent results. I think piping can make all the difference. Also, pate a choux should be piped in close staggered rows for best results.

  • Like 1

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I went through a phase of trying different recipes. My favorite recipe is from Herme', he uses a milk/h2o combo. It hollows out beautifully, has good flavor but the exterior is dull not shiney....that doesn't thrill me, but I like it enough to have abandoned my family recipe that does also hollow perfectly and has a nice shine. Do you have this recipe or do you need me to post it so you can see it?

One thing I noticed in your method is you cool it, before adding eggs. I don't, never do......and really don't believe there is any reason to do so. My reading on the topic even accepts dumping all the eggs at once (provided were talking about a normal sized batch-like 2 doz. eggs or less). I've also read that some big time pro.'s say you can freeze the dough piped out and raw, then bake. Instead of baking and then freezing-but I've yet to do that.

Another thing different in your method is your oven temp.. I agree 375 the whole time is perfect. But since I only have one oven available typically I go with 350 so I can bake other items at the same time. I don't prop the doors open like you do either.

I also flavor my paste often. You can add with-in reason a fair amount of zest, flavored oils, emulsions, extracts, chocolate bits, finely chopped nuts etc... and it will work just the same.

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Lesley

I definitely don't pipe my choux straight up and down.....always at an angle and in staggered rows....I know I'm doing that part right!

I think perhaps I will try baking them at 350 to 375 instead of the "425 for 20 minutes" method.

Perhaps at that high a temp, my shells are setting before achieving maximum puff. I had always been taught (told) that you needed that initial push of heat to get the eggs to steam and expand the dough.

I know what you mean by "egg wash", but what does it mean to "fork"?

Wendy

No I don't have Herme's recipe.....if you wanted to post it for me, that would be great!

:wub:

I always thought you had to cool your paste before adding your eggs....otherwise the hot paste might cook the eggs.....that's what I was taught in school from day one. Get your paste below 140 degrees then add your eggs. You all don't believe this is true? Gosh, now I'm confused....

:wacko:

Thanks for all your help!

I'm gonna turn my oven down.....see how that works!

:wub: Annie

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In school we were told to NOT let the flour and liquid mixture cool at all before adding the eggs. If it isn't hot the eggs will cool it too much and you won't get the proper emulsion.

We also froze the piped raw dough and they puffed up fine when baked. My notes say we used a 325 F deck oven for 335-40 minutes for small puffs.

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I have tried both method with the cooled panade and the hot panade and the differences were minimal. I do the hot panade thing but really, I don't see that as a major cause here.

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Here's the recipe from Herme', it's from Dorie Greenspans book "Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Herme'".

1/2 c. h2o

1/2 c. milk (whole)

8 tbsp. butter

1/4 tsp. sugar & salt

1 c. ap. flour

5 eggs

Dirrections are typical. Other notes: he dirrects you to pipe this while warm and either bake it now or freeze it raw. They can be frozen for 1 month. Bake frozen puffs straight from the freezer, don't defrost. His temp. isn't written with the recipe it's under Mint Profiteroles with Hot Chocolate Sauce.....lets see....

Ah he uses a 375f oven and does the prop open the oven door trick you mentioned. He bakes for 7 minutes, then props door open and continues to bake for another aprox. 13 min. (I've never followed that and they work fine with the door closed, but I'd love to hear your review if you follow his exact instructions)

This recipe is what I was taught from my Mother, it's got a shinier finish then Herme's.

1 stick butter or margerine

1 c. h20

1 c. ap flour

4 eggs

350f oven.

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You brush the choux with eggwash then you mark lightly with the back of a fork. This way when the dough develops, it rises evenly and does not burst. This is especially important for eclairs, but I religiously do it for all pate a choux shapes.

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1. I bring my water, milk, sugar, salt, and fat to a big ol' rollin' boil.

2. I add the flour all at once and cook and stir for about 3-4 minutes. I've been told that the longer you cook it on the stove, the more moisture cooks out, and the more moisture you cook out, the more eggs you can add, and the more eggs you can add, the puffier your shells get. Supposedly.

3. I put my big ol' pasty flour ball on the mixer, and mix it up til it cools down a bit.

4. I add my eggs, a few or one at a time, scraping the bowl often, until the mixture is glossy, and thick.....pipeable, but won't lose it's shape sitting on the pan.

I couple of points here (I'm a former pastry chef).

You need to cook your panade more. Turn the heat down, and stir it around until it is a ball. Keep stirring (and breaking up the ball, so all of the mixture gets in contact with the hot pan), on low heat until a thin layer of cooked flour adheres to the bottom of the pan. What you're doing it cooking the flour (gelatinizing the starch), thus combining the flour and liquid. It's more work, and I've broken dozens of spoons doing it, but I promise, it'll give you the results that you want.

You can let it cool a little in the mixer bowl, but only a little. Don't add your eggs one at a time, mix up all your eggs in a bowl and ladle them in in 3 parts, each part just after the previous addition is mixed in. Scrape down the bowl only after each addition.

The rise doesn't come from egg whites vs eggs, it's from the pre-cooked flour rising away from the moisture in the batter.

Also, when it's baked, are you cutting a vent in the bottom of each pastry and letting them dry out in the turned off oven? Makes them nice and crispy.

Hope this helps! :wink:


“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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Shirley Corriher in her Cookwise book suggested adding a bowl of hot water into the oven when you put the piped pate a choux into the oven. The water moisture helps to allow the surface of the pastry to stretch further to achieve more puff. I tested this out last week, but didn't really notice any difference.

She also suggested bread flour because the additional gluten in bread flour provides a firmer structure. I've baked with both bread and all-purpose flour, and do notice slightly better height achieved with the bread flour. But as one writer commented, the texture is a little hard. But some people prefer their puffs crisp and a bit on the harder side.

I've also baked them with the oven door open during the second part of the baking supposedly to dry them out. But I find that by switching off the oven and leaving them in the oven will dry them out. But be careful about leaving them for too long, because they can end up being too dry. Oh, and making the slit first to release the steam within the puffs first is absolutely essential.

Good luck!

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Oh, and making the slit first to release the steam within the puffs first is absolutely essential.

Uh, no it's not.

I have never done this and have always made great pate a choux (I can't say this about absolutely everything, but I can about pate a choux). And I wouldn't bother with the bowl of water or bread flour either.

What hasn't been mentioned here is that it is absolutely essential to get enough eggs in the batter. For every cup of liquid used to make the base dough, you should later be incorporating at least 4 large eggs.

As for cooking, the choux are cooked when they no longer crackles when held next to your ear. And because I usually freeze it cooked, I prefer to overcook it slightly, because it will become less soft when defrosted.

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Oh, and making the slit first to release the steam within the puffs first is absolutely essential.

Uh, no it's not.

I have never done this and have always made great pate a choux (I can't say this about absolutely everything, but I can about pate a choux).

It can be very useful to make a vent in the pastry so it can dry out a bit better. Especially if the person is not as adept at making pate a choux as you are.


“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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I don't cut any vents either, boy that seems like a pain. NO, it's not needed at all. Bread flour-yuk, propped open doors, leaving in turned off oven, etc.... All this playing around isn't really necessary.

Choux is not an advanced pastry skill at all.

In my experience though, they always soften during defrosting (regardless of how their baked in the first place)...so I briefly re-crisp ones I've frozen before using.

And I'm just a little confused about everyone talking about really drying them out. If their properly baked their crust is firm/dry and the center is still moist. I don't think I'd want to eat one that was cut and really dried out.

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Anyway if you cut a vent in them, the filling will seep out when piped in.

As for drying them out, really, the trick I mentioned about listening for the crackling noises to stop works. Way too many people undercook choux pastry. It should be a deep golden brown, certainly not pale.

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If you cut a vent, you fill from that hole, so there's no leaking. :wink:


Edited by lala (log)

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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Okay, I made Pate a Choux as my first ever pastry since apparently this is the one even idiots can't get wrong. Well, guess they were wrong. Instead of one large, hollow cavity in the middle and the dough increasing to 3 or 4x the size, mine only maybe wen't to 1.5x the size and was filled with a light, webbing like interior. Kind of like really rustic sourdough. They still tasted good but were useless for filling or decorating.

The recipe I used was an amalgam of Alton Brown, Joy of Cooking and Larousse Gastronomique and is as follows:

100gm of flour

1 tiny pinch of salt

1 tbsp of confectioner sugar

mixed in a bowl

50gm butter

250mL water

brought to a boil

flour was added all at once to the water and mixed until dough came together and was smooth to the touch. It seemed to me that mine was slightly softer than Alton's dough but he didn't play around with it too much so I'm not quite sure.

After that, beat in 2 eggs and 1 egg white until smooth, when a fork was lifted from the mix, a V shaped tear formed.

So far, I'm pretty confident that I've done things right.

Now, put into a piping bag and then pipe onto a silpat/silicone paper (btw: Is there any easy way to fill a piping bag or is it pretty much just spooning it in?). I tried both eclairs and cream puffs. Here is where I vary from the standard recipe. I didn't have silicone paper so I just used normal baking paper with oil brushed on top. The choux still stuck to the paper when it came out. I didn't have a large, round piping nozzle so I used my star shaped one. Could the cavities have caused it to not form properly?

I baked the eclairs for 15 mins at 220C(425F) and then dropped down to 180C(350F) for another 10 minutes to dry them out. I noticed at the end that there was a pool of liquid around each eclair that was soaked up by the paper, could this have affected it?

Also, I tended to pipe each tray right after I put the previous one in the oven so it was about 20 minutes between piping and baking. Could it have formed a skin on the choux that inhibited it from rising?

Any thoughts?


PS: I am a guy.

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How stiff was your dough when you put it in the piping bag? The dough should just hold its shape. From my clumsy calculations your recipe seems to have a bit too much water.

When you added the flour to the water\butter mixture, did you cook the dough until a thin film was sticking to the pan?

I usually beat mine in a standing mixer until it gets stiffish and glossy, not like cake batter, more like......marshmallowy for want of a better adjective.

Lastly, just out of curiosity, I've never added confectioner's sugar to pate a choux was it in one of the recipes? Presumably to make a sweet choux?

Also, was it raining or damp? This dough is really susceptible to variations in moisture level.

Kathryn


If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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sorry to post twice but I just re-read your 1st post. Did you brush the tops with an egg glaze after piping? If the glaze dripped down the sides onto the pan it could have acted like a 'glue' and made the choux stick.

I don't think the star tip would have a huge effect on air holes but I'm not a pro so don't have any facts to back me up.


If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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Well, the recipes ranged from 80/40(Joy) to 125/65(Alton) flour/butter all in 1 cup of water so I figured I would take the middle figure. To my understanding, the amount of water is not as important since you are evaporating it until you reach the right consistency. I mixed until there was a thin film then allowed it to evaporate just a bit more since it didn't feel really firm.

The sugar added a tiny bit of sweetness to the dough, but, IMO, not enough to be detectable in a eclair or custard puff. Maybe with a cream puff.

I didn't use any egg glaze.


PS: I am a guy.

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I make basic pate a choux quite often and follow these proportions:

1 cup water

1/2 cup butter

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup flour (I find bread flour produces fine results)

4 large eggs (room temperature)

gallery_11814_353_1103951558.jpg

When I've used vegetable shortening (Crisco), the puffs rise higher but don't have that buttery taste.


Yetty CintaS

I am spaghetttti

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And no monsoon? Hmmmm. :raz:

You are right about the skin. It will form if the pastry cools down. There you are, the extent of my pastry knowledge for what it's worth.( Not much but better than a stick in the eye, as my father says)


If only Jack Nicholson could have narrated my dinner, it would have been perfect.

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With all the pros here, it's brave to venture a guess. I guess it can be a mental exercise... :rolleyes: But it does seem to me (1)the water proportion is high, although it does evaporate, I don't know if all of it will, and you did mention your dough is a little soft. also a little low on butter(2) I do not know why using an egg white. Whole eggs are usually used (3) the temp seems high. Perhaps 375-->325, that's what I use.

I tried to make my recipe to fit your proportion. It would come out like

3 whole eggs

100 g flour, same as yours

3/4 cup water (yours is 1 cup)

3/4 stick of butter, which is more than yours

the salt and sugar should not be crucial


"Mom, why can't you cook like the iron chef?"

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Sorry to be redundant, but after I posted it I saw Spaghetttti's (too many t's? :laugh: )post and just wanted to point out the proportions is the same. It actually goes like

flour: water: butter: eggs = 1 (in cup, not weight) : 1 (in cup, not weight): 1 (in stick): 4 (in # of eggs)

It is rather easy to remember this way, although actually I weigh everything on a scale so I have to convert it back to weight.


"Mom, why can't you cook like the iron chef?"

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Ok you all. I've had requests on other threads about what I consider to be the PERFECT pate a choux recipe. A few months back I started a thread on achieving the perfect choux because it was something I always had a problem with. I took everyone's suggestions and tried a lot of things.....different recipes, methods etc......and here's what I came up with. This works like

a dream for me.......please do try it, because I swear by it....it's awesome!

2 cups water

2 cups milk

8 oz. butter (2 sticks)

16 Tbsp. oil

2 tsp. salt

2 oz sugar

Combine all these in big saucepan or pot and bring to a ROLLING boil.

THEN ADD:

1 lb 8 oz all purpose flour

Add this all at once to above boiling mixture. Stir with big spoon or heatproof

spatula. It will form a big ball and clean the sides of the pot. Squish out the lumps

with your spat or back of your spoon. Stir and cook it for about 5 minutes. It's a

bit of a chore, but consider it your workout for the day. The reason you want to

cook it that long is to get a lot of the moisture to evaporate off. The more moisture

that evaporates off, the more eggs you can add. The more eggs you can add, the puffier your puffs get.

Now dump your big ol' dough ball into your mixer with the paddle attachment.

Mix it around a bit on 1st speed for about a minute or so to let it cool a bit.

NOW YOU'LL NEED APPROXIMATELY:

4 cups of eggs (this will vary)

Add the eggs gradually, letting it absorb into the dough before you add more.

Scrape bowl often. Before you add your last amount of eggs, look closely at your

dough....it's at this point that you decide whether you need less or more. I have always found I need more. The dough should be smooth and glossy and thick, but

not TOO thick. It should hold it's shape when piped out. If it starts to flatten and

spread when you pipe it out, you have too many eggs. If it's too thick and seems

kinda dryish and is hard to pipe, then you don't have enough eggs. Personally,

I think the trickiest part to pate a choux is the judgement factor on how many

eggs to add. I've done it enough now to know exactly the look and feel of it. It's

one of those familiarity things.

Have your oven ready at 375 degrees. Pipe out your choux on parchment lined sheet pans. I like to double-pan my choux so I don't get burned bottoms. Bake until puffy and dark brown. At that point I like to take my puffs out, slit the bottoms with a paring knife and stick them back in a turned off oven to completely dry out. The slits allow the steam to escape from the inside and also give you a nice filling hole when you're ready to fill them.

Hope you like this recipe as much as I do!


Edited by chefpeon (log)

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