Mastering choux pastry
by Sarah Randell
We heard on the grapevine that the Great British Bake Off hopefuls are mastering choux pastry this week. As unashamed GBBO groupies, we wanted to join in the fun, so we made a few batches of choux buns to turn into profiteroles in our test kitchens today.
If you haven't made choux pastry before, don't be put off. It's one of the easiest pastries you'll ever make (there's no rolling out for a start). Just follow our top tips for guaranteed success:
1. Weigh all your ingredients carefully – you need to be accurate.
2. Add the flour to the liquid as soon as it comes to the boil – no wandering away from the hob!
3. For buns as crisp and golden as can be, bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven, turn them over and prick the bottoms with a cocktail stick before returning to the oven to continue baking.
4. Cool on a wire rack. The crisp texture of the buns makes them easy to fill and contrasts deliciously with the creamy filling.
Here's my favourite profiterole recipe – give them a try and let us know how you get on. In the meantime, we're off to scoff ours!
WHITE CHOCOLATE AND VANILLA PROFITEROLES
We finished the profiteroles with a flourish of crushed crystallised rose petals and pieces of gold leaf, both available from Jane Asher.
- FOR THE CHOUX BUNS:
- 150g plain flour
- 2 tsp caster sugar
- 100g butter, cut into small pieces
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- FOR THE FILLING:
- 500g crème fraîche
- 2 vanilla pods, split in half lengthways and seeds removed
- TO DECORATE
- 2 x 100g bars Swiss white chocolate, broken into squares icing sugar, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 220°C, fan 200°C, gas 7.
- Sift the flour and a pinch of salt on to a square of baking paper that has been folded in half and opened again (this will make it easier to add the flour to the liquid quickly).
- In a medium pan, gently heat 300ml of water, the sugar and butter.
- Once the butter has melted, increase the heat and, as soon as the liquid comes to the boil, shoot the flour from the folded baking paper into the pan and take the pan off the heat.
- Using a wooden spoon, quickly mix the flour into the liquid, beating vigorously until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.
- Gradually beat in the eggs, making sure each addition is fully incorporated into the dough. You will be left with a thick, glossy paste. Leave to cool a little.
- Using half of the dough, roll 20 heaped teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and place on baking sheets lined with baking paper.
- Leave enough space between each ball for the pastry to rise and expand.
- Bake the choux buns for 20 minutes (it’s best to bake one tray of profiteroles at a time), then remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 200°C, fan 180°C, gas 6.
- Quickly turn the buns over and prick each one with a cocktail stick to allow the steam to escape.
- Return the buns to the oven, bottoms up, and bake for a further 5-7 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
- Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Bake the remaining choux pastry in the same way – remember to turn up the oven to 220°C, fan 200°C, gas 7 before you start again.
- Leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Using a sharp knife, halve the cooled choux buns.
- Mix the crème fraîche with the vanilla seeds and, using a teaspoon, fill the bottom half of each bun. Put the lids back on.
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water and, using a flat-bladed knife, spread a little melted chocolate over the top of each profiterole.
- Leave to set for an hour or so.
- Pile the profiteroles on to a plate and dust lightly with icing sugar.
Once filled and decorated, you can store the profiteroles in a cool place (not the fridge) for a few hours before serving