Pâte à choux

Cream puffs are easy and fun to make, and may be used in so many ways — filled with whipped cream; filled with ice cream and topped with hot chocolate sauce (profiteroles); made in log shapes rather than mounds and filled with chocolate or coffee pastry cream and iced (eclairs), etc. And that is just the desserts. Savory cream puffs make an elegant cocktail-hour snack when filled with crab salad or baked with grated cheese on top.

This recipe makes about 36 dessert cream puffs, which may well be more than you need. But they freeze well – and may be easily defrosted and reheated on another occasion. For savory cream puffs, omit the sugar.

1/2 cup (10 cl) water
1/2 cup (10 cl) milk
1/4 pound (110 g.) butter
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (140 g.) flour
5 eggs

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7 (425 F, 220 C). Prepare a baking sheet: cover with parchment paper or, if that is not available, grease with butter.

Combine the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a large saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat, pour in the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture is well blended.

Place the saucepan back over medium heat and continue beating with the wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. Remove from heat.

Make a well in the middle of the mixture and break an egg into it. Mix thoroughly with the wooden spoon until the egg is completely incorporated into the dough. Repeat one by one with the other four eggs. Now your dough is ready, and should be used while still warm.

On the baking sheet, place a spoonful of dough about the size of a large walnut to form each cream puff. Do not place them too close together, for they will double in size. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Be careful: if you remove the puffs too soon, they may collapse. Allow to cool before serving.

This recipe will make puffs about 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. For smaller cocktail puffs or larger dessert puffs, half or double the amount of dough in each mound, and adjust the baking time accordingly.

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