Choux Pastry or pate a choux pastry is classic French pastry dough that is used to make special pastry dishes like éclairs, crullers, beignets, croquembouches etc.
According to legend, the dough was first invented by French chef Panterelli in the year 1540. He was the chief baker at the courts of Catherine De Medici. When Catherine was forced to leave Florence along with her court, her chef wanted to make a pastry which could be made quickly while traveling. As a result, he came up with the idea of heating butter and water with flour to make pastry dough with a high water content. He then used the dough to make small cakes called as Pâte à Panterelli. Over time, the name of these small cakes changed to Pâte à Popelin or Popelins. Other chefs like Avice adopted the recipe to make choux buns which were baked, split open and stuffed with sweet or savory fillings. However, the exact method of making choux pastry was not well known until the recipe was published by the French chef Anotoine Careme in 1815, in his famous cookbook Pâtissier Royal.
How to Make Choux Pastry?
Choux pastry is prepared by melting water, butter and salt in a pan. The butter is melted and flour is added to the hot mixture. It is then mixed with the water and butter mixture till it forms a solid ball called panada which pulls off the walls of the pan. To this warm soft dough, egg yolks are added one at a time and mixed well. Eventually, the mixture forms a soft, silky and shiny mixture which is semi-liquidy. The liquid is filled into a piping bag, piped on to a baking sheet and then baked into different shapes.
Choux pastry does not use a leavening agent. The high water content in the pastry creates steam which acts as a leavening agent to puff up the dough. Traditionally, cooks recommend slicing open the puffed choux buns to allow steam to escape.