Choux pastry is one of those things which is just hella delicious but I always forget about it as a fancy dessert option. The main times I’ve made it have been for large family gatherings and for my GCSE food tech project in which I made choux bun/cupcake hybrids which looked like swans once a week for 2 months (..don’t even ask). I think they’re a bit like soufflés in how they seem really fancy and difficult to make but they’re actually not too hard if you’ve got the right tricks!
If you’ve never made choux pastry before, the method will seem a little weird. We boil butter and water in a pot, dump in flour and stir stir stir it up until you get a ball of doughy mixture. While it’s still warm, we then slowly beat in some eggies. You’ve gotta work the arm muscles here guys and beat all that egg in to get a silky, wet dough. It’ll be very soft – unlike any other pastry dough you’ve made, more akin to an enriched bread dough really.
Plop that dough onto a baking tray. Usually people pipe it using a pastry bag (or a sandwich bag with the corner cut off – if you do this you want quite a wide hole to pipe out of). I opted for the lazier method of using a cookie scoop! If you have any peaks that you wish to get rid of, just use a damp finger to flatten it down so you have a perfect dome of dough.
Now here’s the trickier part – you need to have a nice hot oven before the pastry goes in so we set the temperature a little higher than is really needed at 220C. As soon as the dough goes in, we turn the temperature down, bake for some time to get that steam building so the buns get nice and tall. The key with choux pastry really is the eggs – all that moisture gets released on baking and makes the dough expand so much that you’re left with a perfect cavity in the middle! Now we lower the temperature again to help dry the buns out so they maintain their shape once out of the oven.
Once baked, cut em open to get any remaining steam out – again to ensure the buns don’t collapse. And hey look at that, the cavity is PERFECT for filling with flavoured whipped cream! I went for a pale purple cream flavoured with blackberries. Other fruits are of course an excellent choice but I’m also a huge fan of coffee whipped cream in there (or even coffee ice cream mmmm).
The finishing touch – a brief dunk into shiny chocolate ganache and a sprinkle of chopped hazelnuts. The perfect dinner party dessert!
- 50 g (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into ~1-inch cubes
- 125 g (1/2 cup) water
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 40 g (1/3 cup) plain flour
- 35 g (1/3 cup) wholemeal (whole wheat) flour
- 2 eggs
Filling and Ganache:
- 200 g (7oz) blackberries
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 250 ml (1 cup) double cream
- 3 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 100 g (3.5oz) dark chocolate, broken into squares
- 20 g (heaped tbsp) unsalted butter
- 2-3 tbsp finely chopped hazelnuts
- Preheat the oven to 220oC (430oF), line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Make the choux pastry:
- In a medium pot, heat the butter, water, salt and sugar over a medium heat until the butter has melted and the water is boiling. Take off the heat and immediately dump in the flours then stir vigorously to get a thick paste. Keep stirring until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the pot.
- Let the mixture cool for a minute or two. Meanwhile crack the eggs into a small bowl or jug and beat together with a fork. Drizzle a bit of the beaten egg into the pot and beat it in until smooth. Repeat until you’ve mixed in all of the egg.
- Scoop the mixture into a piping bag without a tip (or use a mechanical ice cream scoop or a tablespoon). Pipe or scoop the mixture onto the baking paper into ~3cm wide blobs (you should get about 10-12 of them), spacing them about 2-3cm apart. Use a wetted fingertip to smooth the tops of each blob.
- Whack the choux into the hot oven then turn the heat down to 200oC (400oF). Leave to bake for 18-20 minutes – they should have puffed up but will still be soft. Turn the oven down to 180oC (350oF) and leave for another 10-20 minutes until the buns are slightly darkened on top and feel dry. As soon as you take them out the oven, cut each bun in half horizontally to let the steam out. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile make the filling:
- Blend 150g of the blackberries with the sugar and pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds – discard the seeds and keep the juice. Whisk the 150ml of double cream until you get soft peaks. Gently fold in the blackberry juice and yogurt.
For the chocolate ganache:
- Heat the remaining double cream and the 20g of butter in a small pot over a medium heat until gently steaming. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate to the pot. Set aside for 5 minutes so the chocolate melts then stir until smooth.
- Fill the base half of each choux bun with blackberry cream. Top with a halved blackberry (from the reserved 50g). Dip the top half of the bun in the chocolate ganache then sandwich onto the filled base. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts and either serve immediately. (You can make the buns ahead of time and top with the ganache and hazelnuts but DON'T fill until just before you serve or they'll go soggy!)