pate a choux

Daring Bakers: Paris-Brest

I was thrilled when I saw this was the challenge for November!  I was less thrilled at my results, but still enjoyed this challenge and can’t wait to try my hand at Paris-Brest another time.


The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Since things have been pretty crazy for us, as I am sure they have been you any of you celebrating Thanksgiving today, I am keeping this post short.

My most favorite part about this was making the incredible praline and creme mousseline.  I could’ve eaten the caramelized hazelnut and almond butter on just about anything.  A spoon is perfect.  That goes into a pastry cream and then you mix that with butter.  Few things could be better, in my opinion.  But then you pipe that amazing goodness onto pâte à choux rounds and things get super delicious.

parisbrest10 parisbrest9 parisbrest11 parisbrest5 parisbrest4

The pâte à choux didn’t seem to rise very well.  Not sure what I did wrong there.  I also didn’t have enough dough to make the 6 in the size called for in the recipe.  I would make mine smaller next time, and try piping with a larger tip.


Even though my pâte à choux weren’t great, this was a delicious dessert that would be quite impressive to serve.  I’ll definitely be trying this one again!  Thanks, Luisa!



Pâte à Choux


  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons whole milk
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/3 cup cold butter
  • ¾ cup plus 4 teaspoons cake flour
  • 3 medium eggs, beaten
  • two handfuls of slivered almonds
  • egg, beaten, for the brushing


  1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F and sift the flour.
  2.  In a nonstick saucepan pour in the milk, water, sugar and salt. Add the butter in small pieces and put on medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and bring to a boil. Add the flour in one shot to the boiling liquid. Stir vigorously with a wooden spatula. Cook on the stove on a very low heat for a few minutes, until the dough becomes firm, smooth and homogeneous. The dough must be dry and detach from the bottom of the pan easily.
  3. If you have a stand mixer pour the mixture into its bowl. With the K beater stir the mixture on low speed for a few minutes, until it cools down a little. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well on medium speed. Before adding the next egg make sure that everything is well blended. This way, the air will be incorporated into the dough and when baking it will make puff the Paris Brest which won’t deflate out of the oven.
  4. If you don’t have a stand mixer proceed mixing the eggs directly in the pan where you cooked the dough, after allowing it to cool down. Work the egg with the wooden spatula until all the egg is incorporated before adding the next one. The dough should be smooth, like a thick cream.
  5. Cover the baking sheets with baking paper or a silpat mat. If you use baking paper you can trace some circles of 4¾ -inches (12 cm) to help you out piping the circles. I use a silpat mat that already is specially designed to help out piping, that could be helpful too. To pipe the Paris-Brest use a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch (10 mm) plain nozzle and pipe two circles, the outer one of the diameter of the circle you drew. Pipe a third circle on top, using the star-shaped nozzle. If you don’t have one use a fork to trace some lines on its surface, this will help the choux pastry to rise properly. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with slivered almonds.
  6. Bake in a moderate oven 350°F for about 23-25 minutes, in a static oven. To get rid of any moisture in the oven you can keep the door slightly open. This way the dough will dry out completely during baking. The Paris-Brest should be golden brown, with a uniform color. Let cool completely.



  • 1/3 cup (2 ounces) whole almonds
  • 1/3 cup (2 ounces) whole hazelnuts
  • 6 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water


  1. Put the sugar into a non-stick pan, over medium heat. Add water and bring to a boil.
  2. When the sugar reaches 250°F/121° C (without thermometer you will need to reach the stage at which the sugar begins to boil and the syrup starts to become more and more dense), add the nuts all at once. Mix well with a wooden spoon to coat all the nuts in the sugar. At this point, the sugar will start to sand, i.e. crystallize again. Continue to stir. The sugar will melt a second time, this time caramelizing.
  3. Once all the nuts caramelize, remove the pan from the heat.
    Pour the entire contents of the pan on a heat-resistant silicone mat or a piece of parchment.
  4. Let cool completely. Break into smaller pieces and grind in a food processor until a thick paste forms.
  5. Set aside or put in an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Creme Mousseline


  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoon (45 ml) (2/3 oz) (20 gm) cake flour, sieved
  • ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 3 oz praliné
  • 1 vanilla pod, sliced open length wise


  1. In a small saucepan bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla pod. Put aside and let cool for about 10 minutes. In a bowl whisk the eggs yolks and sugar until they become white.
  2. Add the flour and whisk until all mixed through.
  3. Mix half of the milk in the egg, until all uniform. Pout into a small pan and put on medium heat. Add the remaining milk.  Cook until the cream thickens, stirring the cream continuously. When thick transfer into a bowl and cover with cling film touching the cream. Chill until cool, an hour or two.
  4. In a bowl mix the softened butter with the praliné. Add to the cooled cream until homogeneous.


  1. Fill a piping bag with creme mousseline.
  2. Halve pate a choux and pipe creme mousseline around the bottom layer then cover with the top.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.



Pâte a Choux Funnel Cakes

It’s fair season!  Unfortunately it’s looking more and more likely that we won’t be able to make it to the State Fair of Texas up in Dallas this year.  But that isn’t going to stop me from bringing the fair home!


Let’s be honest, everyone looks forward to going to the fair to enjoy some fried food.  Corn dogs, fried oreos, fried maragritas, and of course funnel cakes.  My fondest memories of funnel cakes are not actually enjoying them at the fair but at Schlitterbahn after a day in the water and sun with my summer league swim team.  I’d go get one just as the sun was beginning to dip down and they were about to close down for the day.  Something about the hot crunchy dough pieces covered in a thick layer of powdered sugar still makes me smile.


I’ve never made funnel cakes before.  I don’t have a deep fryer and don’t really like to fry food in my kitchen.  It makes a mess and then there’s the issue of dealing with all that oil when you’re done.  Surprisingly these didn’t spatter and create a mess and I found these great tips for how to dispose of or save your cooking oil.  There might just be more frying in my future.

The dough is pate a choux, the same dough used to make cream puffs and eclairs.  It is an eggy dough that bakes up nice and puffy.  It sounds fancy, but isn’t at all complicated.

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Instead of a funnel a plastic bag is used to pipe the dough into the oil.  Cut a smaller hole than you think you need from the bag.  You can always cut a bit more if you need, but if you cut it too big you’ll have to transfer the dough to a new bag and start over.  That happened to me.




While I had grand plans to make all of these the same size I wound up with a wide variety of sizes and shapes.  But they all tasted equally as delicious!  These are best eaten immediately so be sure to have some hungry folks (toddlers are good funnel cake eaters!) to help you enjoy these tasty treats.


Pâte a Choux Funnel Cakes

From Alton Brown


  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 stick butter (6 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup eggs, about 4 large eggs and 2 whites
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Powdered sugar, for topping


  1. In a medium sized saucepan bring water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil over high heat.
  2. Once it boils add the flour and lower the heat to medium low.  Stir with a wooden spoon until dough forms a ball and a film forms on the bottom of the pan.  Remove from the heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Let cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. With mixer on low speed add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to wait until the egg is incorporated before adding the next.
  4. Once all the eggs have been added transfer dough to a large plastic bag.
  5. Heat oil in a saucepan, about 1 1/2 inches deep, to 350-375°F.
  6. Cut a small corner from the bag and pipe dough out in a circular/swirling pattern, making the cake as big or as small as you like.  Let cook for a minute or two, depending on the amount of dough used, then flip and cook until desired doneness.  I like mine a little darker, but you may prefer them lighter.
  7. Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels before dusting with powdered sugar.
  8. Repeat with the rest of the dough, making sure your oil is kept between 350 and 375°F.  Too cool and the dough absorbs too much oil, too hot and it burns.  Increase and lower the heat as needed to keep it in the sweet spot.

Valentine’s Cream Puffs

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I made these as a last minute Valentine’s dessert.  And by last minute I mean I thought about doing them last night and made them this morning.  The great thing is that they turned out!  Not in the perfect heart shape I was hoping for, but love isn’t perfect.  So, I’m going to pretend that it was intentional and I meant it as a metaphor for life.  Love isn’t always perfect, but it is delicious! 

If you haven’t made cream puffs before, you really should try it.  They aren’t that difficult or time consuming, you can fill them with a variety of tasty things, and they are impressive.  You can tell people you made pâte à choux, which sounds fancy and hard, but only because it is French.

I used a pâte à choux recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  The recipes in this cookbook are different than most, but once you read through it and see how it’s all laid out, they are actually quite easy to follow.  I retyped it below in the usual form of ingredients followed by directions.  Julia uses a side-by-side form that I really do like.  If you have the book, turn to page 175!  I had no issues with these puffs.  I made mine on the larger side, so there is some extra cooking time involved.  I’ll include directions for little and big puffs below.

You can use ice cream, whipped cream or pastry cream as a filling for your finished puffs.  The recipe I used for pastry cream was quite thin, so I couldn’t pipe the filling into the puffs like I’d planned.  Here is a good pastry cream recipe.  I cut the top off of the puff and spooned the cream into the center and placed the top back on.  This is an easier and less messy method anyway, so I’m glad I was forced to do it this way.  For a really simple dessert, just slice the puffs in half and fill with a little scoop of your favorite ice cream, drizzle with chocolate sauce, and you have profiteroles.  Again, fancy sounding but so very simple.

If you fill these with pastry cream before you plan to serve them, refrigerate the puffs and do not dust with powdered sugar.  Dust with sugar and drizzle with chocolate right before serving.  If you’re using ice cream or whipped cream, fill right before serving.  Enjoy!

Piped Puffs
Center of Cooked Puff
Baked Puffs
All of these hearts are a little different (and some don’t even look like hearts at all!)
Filling the Puffs with Pastry Cream

Pâte À Choux


  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 egg beaten with 1/2 teaspoon of water for glazing the puffs


  1. In a heavy 1 1/2 quart saucepan, bring water, butter, sugar and salt to a low boil, stirring, until butter is completely melted.
  2. Remove from the heat and immediately add all the flour.  Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend thoroughly.  Then beat over moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes until mixture pulls from the sides of the pan, forms a mass, and begins to leave a film on the bottom of the pan.
  3. Remove pan from heat and make a well in the center of the paste with your spoon.  Break an egg into the center and beat it into the paste for several seconds until it has absorbed.  Continue with the rest of the eggs, one at a time.  The third and fourth eggs will be absorbed more slowly.  Beat for a moment more to be sure it is well blended and smooth.
For the hearts (10-12 puffs)
  1. Preheat oven to 425F and set oven racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  2. Fill a pastry bag (or ziploc) with a 3/4 inch diameter tip (or cut an opening in your bag) with the choux paste.
  3. Pipe the outline of a heart onto the pans lined with parchment, then fill in the center.  Hearts should be about 2 inches in diameter and no more than 3/4 inch high in the center.  Space them about 2 inches apart.
  4. Dip pastry brush in the beaten egg and water, letting the excess drip off.  Slightly flatten the top of each puff with the side of your brush.  Be careful not to let the egg drip down the sides, or the puff will not rise as high.
  5. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.  Then, reduce the temperature to 375 and bake for an additional 8-10 minutes.  Puffs will be golden brown, and firm and crusty to the touch.  Turn off the oven.
  6. Remove from the oven and cut a 1-inch slit in the side of each puff.  Return pans to the oven and let sit for 10 minutes with door ajar.
  7. Test one puff by opening it and making sure the center is not wet or uncooked.  If it is, remove the uncooked portion from that and all the other puffs.  Allow the puffs to cool completely on wire racks.

For small puffs (35-40 puffs):

  1. Preheat oven to 425F and set oven racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  2. Fill pastry bag (or ziploc) with a 1/2 inch diameter tip (or cut an opening in your bag) with the choux paste.
  3. Squeeze the paste onto baking sheets lined with parchment, making circular mounds about 1 inch in diameter and 1/2 inch high, spacing about 2 inches apart.
  4. Dip pastry brush in the beaten egg and water, letting the excess drip off.  Slightly flatten the top of each puff with the side of your brush.  Be careful not to let the egg drip down the sides, or the puff will not rise as high.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes until puffs are golden brown, firm and crusty to the touch.  Remove from the oven, pierce the side of each with a knife.  Turn off the oven.  Set back in the oven for 10 minutes with the door ajar.  Then cool puffs completely on a wire rack.