My recipe this week also calls for pȃte à choux or choux pastry, which will be used again and again, so I am filing it here under a 'basic recipe' post. This doesn't feel like a pastry in the traditional sense, but is rather a mixture of milk, water, and butter that is thickened with flour. It is the basis of chocolate éclairs, profiteroles, and also the ubiquitous chouquettes.
Chouquettes are tiny puffs of choux covered in giant grains of sugar, and eaten for breakfast, or as a four o'clock snack. The bakery opposite my apartment always has a tempting stack of them in a basket on the counter, pleading with you to take a couple home with your daily bread. I regularly oblige. The neutral, creamy flavour of the little balls of air is sweetened perfectly by the perles du sucre, which look beautiful too.
I remember Mrs. Cook—real name—my High School cookery teacher, talking of the mysteries of choux and propagating the myth of its difficulty. As always with French pâtisserie, if you respect the method and quantities, it's really not hard. Try the recipe below and you will see, that it's a quick and easy way to impress your friends and family. When you have finished reading, scroll down for a surprise.
Pȃte à chouxActive time: 10 mins
Total time: 10 mins
125 ml / 1/2 cup milk
125 ml / 1/2 cup water
100g / 1 stick butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
150g / 1 cup plain flour
1. Put the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil.
2. Remove from the heat and add the flour all in one go; stir with a wooden spoon until it is combined.
3. Return the pan to a medium heat and stir until the mixture forms a ball and comes away from the pan, about 1 minute.
4. Leave to cool for about 1 minute and then add the eggs individually and stir them into the mixture with a wooden spoon. Don't worry if it looks like the mixture has curdled at this point. Just keep stirring and the egg will miraculously disappear into the mixture. When all the eggs are combined, voilà, the pastry is ready to be used.
ChouquettesActive time: 10 mins
Total time: 30 mins
pȃte à choux (see recipe above)
1. Prepare a pȃte à choux. Using a piping bag, pipe small balls of the pastry onto a lightly greased baking sheet. The amount of choux pastry above should make about 24 balls of 2cm / 1 inch diameter.
2. Sprinkle the balls with pearl sugar. If it doesn't stick, press a few grains on by hand.
3. Bake at 180°C / 350°F for about 20 minutes. Leave to cool on a wire rack and then enjoy.
TIP: If you can't find pearl sugar, then wait until the puffs are cooked and cooled and then sprinkle them with confectioner's sugar.