What are Choux Pastries?
Choux pastries are twice-cooked, usually sweet, French pastries. They are golden brown in color with a crisp texture, and often filled with cream-based fillings. Examples include éclairs and cream puffs, though the dough is also frequently fried to make beignets. There is no leavening agent in choux pastry. Instead, these pastries rely on the steam produced during baking to puff up. The texture of the finished product is crispy on the outside with a moist interior that is similar to that of scrambled eggs.
Pantanelli invented choux pastry in France in 1540. He then followed the royal court, making his half-circle pastries and spreading the dessert across France. They were adapted by a fellow baker and made round. These round pastries were said to resemble cabbage, and since choux means cabbage in France, they were renamed. Italians also took this pastry and made many adaptations on it.
Choux pastry has a reputation as being fairly easy to make, but incredibly hard to master. The basic ingredients in choux pastry are flour, butter, eggs, and water. The butter is melted on the stove, then the flour is added, and lastly, the eggs and water are beaten in. This is allowed to cook on the stove and is then frequently placed into pastry bags. The dough is either piped into molds, or can be made into any shape. French restaurants will sometimes serve this dough shaped as a swan at the end of a meal. After it is cooked, chefs typically fill the dough with custards and other cream-based products. Sometimes they cut the pastries in half and remove the interior of the dough to allow more filling. Choux pastry should be served as soon as it is made because it will loose the crispy texture quickly.
There are several variations on this dough. While traditionally, choux pastry is served as a dessert, it can also be filled with cheese and served as a savory dish. The dough can also be fried, making beignets and funnel cakes. Italians often stack up cream puffs, and drizzle them in chocolate as a dessert.