Pâte à Choux Pastry + Simply Sweet Chouquettes
Pâte à choux (pronounced “pah-ta-zhoo”) is what one might call the universal French dough. From only four main ingredients — butter + liquid (water or milk) + flour + eggs — comes the basis for many types of pastries.
There are the famously French éclairs and profiteroles, and the more American cream puffs and crullers. Gougères take the dough in a savory direction, and the towering croquembouche in its spun sugar cage is an edible masterpiece. But it’s sweet little chouquettes that are my personal favorite.
Chouquettes are hollow puffs of choux pastry — think tiny naked cream puffs. Light and airy, with a delicate crackle of glittering pearl sugar on top, they are gone in a matter of three, maybe two, happy bites. Quel délice, what a delight!
Borrowing from the mind of Mme. Greenspan, my chouquettes take a structure-building protein bump from swapping the traditional two whole eggs for one whole egg + two whites. And because I rather like a crisp, barely golden puff, the liquid I turn to is straight up water. (Milk is often used 50/50 with, or entirely in place of, water, yielding a deeper color. These are softer, too, but I find the butter has the tenderness department pretty well covered.)
As forgiving and versatile as it is simple, pâte à choux is a foundation recipe to master, and these sweet little chouquettes are the perfect place to start.
Tell me… Do you have a favorite type of pastry?
- 1/2 cup water, room temperature (see HGN Notes)
- 4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- pinch of fine sea salt
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (see HGN Notes)
- 1 large whole egg + 2 large egg whites, room temperature (see HGN Notes)
- 1 Tbsp pearl or sanding sugar, optional
- Preheat the oven to 400° F, with a rack placed in the middle position. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper or baking mat.
- In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, bring the water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil, covered. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the flour all at once. Vigorously stir with a wooden spoon to completely incorporate the flour. Return the pan to low heat and continue stirring for about 1 minute, until the dough pulls away from the sides and forms a sticky ball around the spoon.
- Transfer the dough to a large, heat-safe bowl (or the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment). Immediately -- do not wait for the dough to cool -- add 1 egg at a time, and stir with your wooden spoon (or turn the mixer to low speed) until completely incorporated; add the second egg and repeat. When ready, the dough will be thick, shiny, smooth and sticky.
- Use a spoon to place balls of dough roughly the size of a golf or ping-pong ball on the prepared tray, spacing about 1-inch apart. (Alternatively, use a rubber scraper to transfer the dough into a plain-nozzle piping bag and pipe out small balls of the same size.) Dip a finger in some water and smooth the top of each ball to avoid over browning of any spikes. If desired, sprinkle the tops with pearl sugar.
- Bake 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° F and bake another 30 minutes, until the chouquettes are puffed, golden and crisp. Remove the tray from the oven. Carefully pierce the bottom of each with a skewer, and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.
- Serve the chouquettes warm or at room temperature. (We love them just as they are, but scroll down to the HGN Notes for alternative serving options!) Best enjoyed on the day of baking, leftover chouquettes can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days -- they will soften considerably.
1. Replace 50%, or up to 100%, of the water with milk. (The higher the fat content of your chosen milk, the softer and more brown your puff will be.)
2. Use 2 whole eggs instead of 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites. (This is more for structure; not so much browning.)
I hate to mess around with a classic too much, but have had success swapping half of the AP flour with Atta/whole wheat pastry flour. I haven't tried other types of flours, but imagine any that are lighter with a higher protein content might also be successful -- looking at you, GF sorghum flour.
+ Replace the pearl/sanding sugar on top with a raw sugar version, such as demerara or turbinado.
+ We like these faintly sweet little puffs just as they are, but you can gild the lily with fresh berries, fruit preserves or melted chocolate.
+ Take them to the next level by filling the hollow centers with a small scoop of ice cream, custard, sorbet, gelato, or unsweetened whipped cream + fresh fruit.
+ Turn sweet chouquettes into savory gougères by omitting the granulated sugar and pearl sanding sugar, then adding 1 to 2 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs to the dough after adding the eggs. Top with a small amount of grated cheese and/or a few cracks of black pepper before baking, if you like.
+ Serve as is or with crumbles of cheese, strips of prosciutto, savory dips like spinach artichoke or hummus, or any manner of 'antipasti'- or 'tapas'-like ingredients for stuffing inside!
Recipe adapted from French Revolution Food.
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