If you’ve ever eaten éclairs, cream puffs, gougeres (cheese puffs), or beignets (fritters), you’ve eaten pâte à choux (paht-ah-shoo). It means “cabbage paste” in French.
This twice-cooked paste is probably the most versatile dough used in cooking and pastry making. Pâte à choux can be savory or sweet. It can be baked, poached, or fried. It can be piped into various shapes, including my favorite, swans.
A lot of the appeal in making pâte à choux comes from the ease with which you can make a great variety of elegant pastries with it, including Gateau Saint-Honoré, or Croquembouches, stacks of profiteroles glued together with caramel. And what kid wouldn’t love to make pets de nonne (nun’s farts)?
It achieves its puff not through leavening but through steam deriving from its high moisture content, like popovers. The cavities that result can conveniently be filled with anything from chicken salad to chocolate mousse, while the exterior remains crisp.