Choux paste is a pastry used for making desserts such as cream puffs and eclairs. Choux means "cabbage" in French as cream puffs, also called profiteroles, made from the pastry look similar to tiny cabbages. Although choux paste is primarily associated with sweet desserts, it may also be filled with savory fillings such as cheese, chicken or meat mixtures to serve as hors d'oevres, or appetizers.
The ingredients for choux paste are water, butter, sugar, salt, flour, eggs and vanilla. The water, butter, sugar and salt are brought to a boil in a saucepan. Next, the flour is added and cooked for about 10 minutes. At this point, the mixture should be allowed to cool slightly before each egg is beaten in one at a time -- either by hand with a whisk or with an electric mixer. The vanilla is stirred in last.
The finished choux paste dough should be thick, smooth and shiny before it’s placed into a pastry bag fitted with a pastry tube. A pastry bag holds the dough so it can be squeezed out through the pastry tube, a cone-shaped metal decorative tip, to form a textured ridged pattern. Cream puffs and eclairs can be made into any desired size from the piped choux paste – the size of the pastry depends on the size and type of pastry tube, or tip, used. Some pastry chefs prefer to spoon the choux paste onto a baking sheet rather than pipe it on using a pastry bag and tube.
Eclairs are rectangular, while cream puffs are round. The piped or spooned choux paste shapes are baked in a fairly hot oven until they are no longer moist. Baked eclairs are commonly filled with vanilla custard. Cream puffs, or profiteroles, may be filled with whipped cream or ice cream and topped with chocolate and caramel sauce. The top portion of the round, airy cream puff can be sliced off so that the rest can be filled before the top slice is replaced.
Gougeres are choux savory pastries that are also prepared by first slicing the top section off of the cream puff. In this case, the filling is a cheese, chicken or meat mixture. Gougeres may be served as appetizers or to garnish a main dish.