With dozens of applications, pâte à choux is one of the most versatile recipes of the pastry chef. The eggy dough, which puffs into moist, air-filled balls, is the basis for éclairs, profiteroles, cream puffs and many more classic sweet pastries, as well as savory items like gougères and pommes dauphine (airy mashed-potato balls). The recipe for choux looks simple (cook flour with water and butter, then beat in some eggs), but success depends on understanding its nuances. For help, we turned to fifth-generation master baker Eric Kayser, who says that choux-based pastries are among the best-selling items at La Maison Kayser, his bakery with 80 locations around the world (he opened his first US branch in New York City last August). According to Kayser, the secret to mastering choux is to pay close attention to the consistency and texture of the dough as you’re making it. “It should slowly hang and stretch from the spatula in thick ribbons,” he says, stressing that it may be necessary to add more or less egg to achieve the right texture. Once you master the basic choux dough, try some of Kayser’s favorite ways to use it: cream puffs, chouquettes (puffs topped with pearled sugar) and cheesy gougères.
Tip: “Eat your choux the same day, the sooner the better,” advises Kayser.