One of my absolute favourite French pastries to make is choux pastry. So easy (sssh!) and so versatile because you can make either sweet or savoury iterations – the possibilities for filling and topping choux puffs or éclairs is endless!
From the moment we made gougères for Week 1 of French Fridays with Dorie, I was hooked… Note that I had made profiteroles before with some success but Dorie’s recipe resonated with me – it makes what can be a complex process for some people very simple. Over the years, I’ve made a few versions of Dorie’s choux pastry – both sweet and savoury… Savoury, goat cheese-filled puffs, (hey, I’ve even taught three kids how to make those!), I’ve made fancy Paris-Brest, and even choux version of lamingtons
It’s such an easy recipe that kids can make it (and beautifully!)
I spent last weekend with my good friend Monica at her Cotswolds retreat – Orchard Cottage – and we cooked and baked up a storm most days. This was one of the recipes I chose to teach her, based on the beautiful strawberries we were surrounded by – British strawberries for the win, right now! We were chatting about making some kind of strawberries and cream dessert and all of a sudden, I thought, why not make a choux version of strawberry shortcake. I recently made a lightened-up version of strawberry shortcake for Tuesdays with Dorie and wondered how this would work in a choux. It turns out that it works perfectly!
- 1/2 cup water
- 57g (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4-6 small pieces
- pinch salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose (plain) flour (measured using the scoop and sweep method)
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 large egg beaten at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 1 cup whipping (35%) cream
- approximately 1 cup chopped strawberries
- 1/2 cup icing sugar, sifted
- 1-2 tablespoons milk
- (optional) freeze-dried strawberry pieces for decoration
- Preheat oven to 375˚F/ 180˚C.
- Prepare a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Bring the water, butter and salt to the boil in a heavy pot.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low and add all the flour at once.
- Stir the dough vigorously with a wooden spoon – it will come together fairly quickly, but keep stirring over the low heat until it forms a smooth, shiny ball of dough. Altogether you will cook this flour mixture for about 2 minutes. There will be a slight crust on the bottom of the pan.
- Place the dough in a clean glass or metal bowl and use a wooden spoon to break up the mixture a little to release the steam. Keep doing this for a couple of minutes so the dough loses some of its heat.
- Add one egg and, using a wooden spoon, stir even more vigorously than before – don’t worry, your dough will separate and look like it’s ruined but have faith and continue to stir until it comes together again into a smooth shiny dough. Add the second egg and mix until the dough has come together again.
- Now add about 1/2 of the beaten egg to the mixture and mix until the dough is elastic and smooth.
- Scrape the dough into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip and, piping from the top to form a shape not unlike a Hershey’s Kiss pipe the dough onto the prepared baking tray (rounds of about 4cm in diameter), leaving about 4cm in between each puff.
- Your dough balls will have peaks on top – use your finger dipped in water to smooth these over.
- Mix the rest of the beaten egg with the milk and brush the tops of the puffs with this egg wash.
- Bake for 25 minutes, checking on the puffs 1/2 way through the cook time to perhaps turn the trays from front to back to ensure even baking.
- Remove from the oven and transfer the puffs to a cooling rack.
- Whip the cream and fold through the strawberries. Refrigerate until you are ready to use this.
- When you are ready to fill and top the puffs, mix the icing sugar and milk (you may not need all the milk) until you have a thick liquid that is smooth and glossy.
- Cut the puffs in half with a serrated knife.
- Spoon the strawberry cream into the bottom of each puff.
- Dip the top half of each puff in the glaze, shaking off the excess and place on top of the cream-filled half (alternatively, you can place the top half on the cream-filled half and spoon the glaze over the top of each puff).
- Sprinkle with the optional freeze-dried strawberry pieces.
- Serve immediately.