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cream puffs

Today I’m teaching you how to make choux pastry (pâte à choux) with about 100 pictures to show you how it’s done. If you’re not digging all the step-by-step photos, video tutorial, and explanations, scroll down to the recipe to get started. 🙂

overhead image of choux pastry after baking

By popular request, we’re tackling a French pastry dough: choux pastry, pronounced shoe pastry. Or, in French, pâte à choux. I learned how to make choux pastry in the French baking class I took earlier this summer. We spent an afternoon diving deep into this versatile classic and I’m sharing everything I learned with you today.

“Choux” means cabbage. So, in other words, cabbage pastry. Why is it called “cabbage” you ask? The name comes from the resemblance the pastry has to tiny cabbages. When baked, the pastry puffs up with little crinkles and ruffles– pictured above. Little cabbages! But instead of cabbage pastry, let’s simply call it choux pastry.

Like other French pastries such as croissants or even croissant bread, choux has the reputation for being difficult, but– as I witnessed with several other bakers in our French pastry class– it’s surprisingly simple. Master this easy recipe and you can make many pastries most bakers are scared to try. Pipe logs and fill with pastry cream for eclairs, pipe dollops and sandwich with whipped cream or ice cream for cream puffs and profiteroles, mix it with cheese and herbs for savory gougères, deep fry it for churros, French cruller donuts, choux beignets, the list goes on.

Choux pastry is a wonderful recipe to master because if you stick to the 1 basic recipe below, the door to DOZENS of other pastries is wide open.

cream puffs
Ingredients for choux pastry

Today I’m showing you how to make sweet cream puffs and profiteroles. Later this week, I’ll show you how to make eclairs. (Update: here is the eclairs recipe!) Feel free to use this basic choux dough in any of the pastries listed above!

TWO SIMPLE RULES FOR CHOUX PASTRY

  1. stick to the ingredients and measurements
  2. don’t open the oven while it bakes

The 7 ingredients are staples that you likely have in the kitchen right now: butter, water, milk, sugar, salt, flour, and eggs. Some recipes use all water instead of milk + water, but I find the combination yields a slightly softer and richer pastry. Not many choux pastry recipes call for sugar, but only 2 teaspoons provide a little flavor. The bulk of the pastry dough is eggs. Eggs provide some leavening, allowing the pastries to puff up when baked. The centers are soft, light, and airy. The exterior is golden and crisp. A beautiful marriage of textures!!

choux pastry dough in a saucepan

Choux pastry comes together in about 10-15 minutes. Most of the ingredients are cooked together on the stove; this initial cooking causes the starch in the flour to gelatinize, which will help the pastry hold onto steam and puff up. The Spruce Eats has an interesting article explaining the science of choux pastry if you’re into that!

choux pastry dough in a saucepan

After the choux pastry dough is gently cooked on the stove, transfer to a mixing bowl and add AROUND 4 beaten eggs. That’s the finicky part– the number of eggs in choux pastry isn’t really consistent between batches. Humidity, the exact size of egg, or an accidental extra 1/2 teaspoon of flour creates inconsistencies. 4 beaten eggs is an ideal starting point, though. Only add as much as you need to create a shiny, thick, and smooth dough with a pipeable consistency. I usually leave a few teaspoons of beaten egg behind, which can be used with the egg wash.

Beaten eggs in a glass measuring cup

The yolks in the eggs bring most of the flavor and color to choux pastry:

choux pastry dough in a stand mixer bowl
choux pastry dough in a glass bowl

At this point, our choux pastry dough is complete! Yes, that’s really all you need to do before shaping/baking it. Cook 6 ingredients on the stove, then beat in the eggs.

Now let’s make our cream puffs or profiteroles.

CREAM PUFFS

Filled with flavored whipped creams. Today I’m using homemade vanilla whipped cream, aka Crème Chantilly. Top with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar or a spoonful of chocolate ganache.

PROFITEROLES

Filled with ice cream and frozen. Topped with chocolate ganache. Profiteroles were my FAVORITE!!! We used butter pecan ice cream and coffee ice cream.

Choux Pastry Video Tutorial

Watch me make the choux pastry and shape/bake into cream puffs and profiteroles:

Do you have a better understanding of the process after watching the video tutorial? Not too scary at all, right? You totally got this!

brushing water onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper

ONE TRICK I LEARNED

And it makes a huge difference in (1) how much the pastry puffs up and (2) how delicious the pastry tastes. Bake the pastries on parchment paper, the BEST nonstick surface for this choux pastry dough. But before you pipe the dough onto the parchment paper, moisten it with water. You can see me doing this in the video tutorial above.

Why? Think of cheesecake. We bake cheesecakes in a water bath, right? Cheesecake, like choux pastry, is egg-heavy. Eggs need a moist and humid environment in the oven to (1) properly rise and (2) avoid drying out and burning.

Water moistened parchment paper = perfectly puffed up pastries with a deliciously light center and crisp exterior. Pastry perfection.

piping choux pastry onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper

For cream puffs and profiteroles, use Wilton 1A piping tip. Pipe 2-inch mounds about 3 inches apart. (Watch the video above for a good visual.) You could also use a zipped-top bag and cut off the corner for easy piping. Using a water moistened finger, smooth down the peaks and lightly brush each mound with egg wash.

choux pastry before baking

These mounds bake into this golden puffy pastry! 

choux pastry after baking
homemade whipped cream in a stand mixer bowl with whisk attachment

Split open the baked and cooled pastries, then fill with homemade whipped cream, lemon curd, jam, pastry cream, a combination of these, or your favorite filling!! You can also poke a hole in the pastries and pipe the filling inside.

Check out these beautiful hollow pastries, thanks to the steam created from the moisture inside and outside the baking dough!

spooning whipped cream filling into baked cream puffs
zoomed in image of a cream puff

And for profiteroles, ice cream with a generous shower of chocolate ganache. I teach you how to make these pictured cream puffs and profiteroles in the recipe notes below.

pouring chocolate ganache onto profiteroles
profiteroles on a white cake stand

See Your Choux Pastry!

Many readers tried this recipe as part of a baking challenge! Feel free to email or share your recipe photos with us on social media. 🙂

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zoomed in image of a cream puff

How to Make Choux Pastry (Pâte à Choux)

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: 16 puffs 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: French

Description

Choux Pastry can be used in anything from cream puffs, profiteroles, and eclairs to churros, croquembouche, French cruller donuts, choux beignets, and gougères! It only takes about 10 minutes to prepare and the options for filling and shaping are endless.


Ingredients

Scale

Choux Pastry

  • 1/2 cup (115g; 8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) 2% or whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk or water

Equipment


Instructions

  1. Watch the video in the blog post above; it will help guide you through the next few steps.
  2. Make the choux pastry dough: Combine the butter, water, milk, salt, and granulated sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the butter has melted. Bring mixture to a simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat to low and add the flour all at once. Stir until the flour is completely incorporated and a thick dough clumps into a ball. Mash the dough ball against the bottom and sides of the pan for 1 minute, which gently cooks the flour. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or, if using a handheld mixer, a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool down for a few minutes before adding the eggs in the next step.
  3. Read this step in full before starting. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the eggs in 3-4 separate additions mixing for 30 seconds between each. The mixture will look curdled at first, but will begin to come together as the mixer runs. Pour in the final addition of beaten eggs very slowly. Stop adding when the choux pastry has reached the desired texture: shiny, thick, and smooth with a pipeable consistency. I usually leave a few teaspoons of beaten egg behind, which can be used with the egg wash.
  4. Your choux pastry dough is complete! You can use it immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  5. For cream puff and profiterole shells: Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Lightly brush the parchment with water, which creates a humid environment for the pastry shells allowing them to puff up without drying out or burning.
  6. Transfer choux pastry dough to a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1A piping tip. Pipe 2-inch mounds about 3 inches apart. Watch the video in the blog post above for a visual. You can also use a zipped-top bag and cut off the corner for easy piping. Using a water moistened finger, smooth down the peaks and lightly brush each with egg wash.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes then, keeping the pastries in the oven, reduce oven to 350°F (177°C) and continue to bake for 10-15 more minutes until golden brown. Do not open the oven as the pastries cook, as cool air will prevent them from properly puffing up. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before filling.
  8. Split open pastries and fill with homemade whipped cream, lemon curd, pastry cream, jam, a combination of these, or your favorite filling. You can also poke a hole in the pastries and pipe the filling inside. For my pictured cream puffs and profiteroles, see recipe notes.
  9. Cover and store leftover filled pastries in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Cover and store unfilled pastries at room temperature for 1 day, in the refrigerator for 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before filling and serving.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: Prepare choux pastry dough through step 3. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before shaping and baking.
  2. Special Tools: KitchenAid Stand Mixer | 5-qt Tilt-Head Glass Mixing Bowl | Glass Measuring Cup | Wooden SpoonSaucepan | Baking SheetWilton #1A Round Piping Tip | Reusable Piping Bags or Disposable Piping Bags | Pastry Brush
  3. Cream Puffs (pictured): Crack open each cooled pastry shell and generously spoon homemade whipped cream (it’s vanilla flavored, so it’s called Crème Chantilly) inside each. Top with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar or drizzle of chocolate ganache (ganache instructions below).
  4. Profiteroles (pictured): Crack open each cooled pastry shell and fill with a scoop of your favorite ice cream. Freeze for 1 hour or up to 1 day. Top with chocolate ganache. For the chocolate ganache, finely chop two 4-ounce semi-sweet chocolate bars and place in a medium bowl. Heat 1 cup (240ml) heavy cream in a small saucepan until it begins to gently simmer. (Do not let it come to a rapid boil– that’s too hot!) Pour over chocolate and let it sit for 2-3 minutes to gently soften the chocolate. Slowly stir until completely combined and chocolate has melted. Allow to cool for 3 minutes before pouring over pastries.

Adapted from Baltimore Chef Shop, where I took my pastry class 🙂

Keywords: Choux Pastry, Pâte à Choux

one cream puff topped with chocolate ganache

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Hi Sally. It’s been a while since I’ve been here but boy am I happy to be back. This is the recipe I’ve been looking for. I’ve seen others but you’re the only one I truly trust!! I just made 2 batches of lemon curd and a batch of vanilla pastry cream. I already used one batch of curd on a Pavlova but wasn’t sure what to use the 2nd one on. Putting it in choux didn’t even cross my mind (thanks for that suggestion) but I knew I’d need a choux recipe for the pastry cream and thankfully you have one. As usual when I’m attempting to do something for the first time I’m a bunde of nerves but I know with your detailed instructions and should I have any questions, you’ll be there to help/answer. That’s one thing that sets you apart from so many other online bakers. Thank you for all of the recipes and support you’ve given me, as well as many others here. I’ll come back to let you know how well they come out…

  2. Thank you so much for this easy to follow Choux recipe. I tried to these last Christmas from a different website but they looked terrible! I tried this today cause I really wanted to master it and these came out so much better. Beautiful rise and I filled them with pastry cream. Delicious! I can’t wait to try out your other recipes!

  3. I made these with the creme Chantilly for my French club, and everyone said how great they were! I loved them, they just didn’t seem as “puffy” as I was expected. They were sort of like a biscuit density. What could I do better?

  4. Lovely recipe, just made it with my 8 year old son & couldn’t be more pleased with how they turned out. We used your homemade vanilla whipped cream recipe with it. Thank you! We will definitely be making again!

  5. This is my go-to recipe for making profiteroles. It is so easy and turns out perfectly every time. Thanks for the tip about brushing water on the parchment-lined baking sheet. That does make a difference.

  6. Can you make the pastry ahead of time and freeze them? I need to make cream puffs in a week; but, would like to make the pastry ahead of time and then fill them the day of the event. Does the baked pastry freeze well?

      1. Thanks for the reply! I was thinking more of piping, baking them and then freezing instead of just freezing the dough and baking later; but, I have done a bit of research and found that many say they become soft after freezing. The general preference, I found, is to freeze the dough that’s been piped (as you mentioned in the recipe) and then just thawing and baking. I’ll go that route then – unless you’ve actually frozen the baked product and found it to still have a good texture.

  7. Thank you so much! This recipe worked out perfectly!
    I did not have butter, so substituted it for WoodenSpoon White Margarine, the mixture was not as thick as yours.
    My gas oven also gave a few problems, mostly baked at 350+ with a few minutes close to 400.

    Amazing recipe! Fantastic tips! Will definitely be back ASAP.

  8. This was my first time making choux pastry and this recipe was great! I ended up making mine smaller than suggested (think 1″ diameter piped, 11/2″ baked) and cut most of the baking time off of the higher temp. If anybody else tries making these the same size I would recomend taking the time off of the time at 350 instead as mine were just a tad on the doughy side. Again, great recipe that really is as easy as all of the other comments say.

  9. I’m dairy intolerant so I made mine with vegan butter and soy milk. They turned out great! My first attempt at piping, so they aren’t as beautiful as yours, but they taste wonderful with almond milk whipped creme. I’ll definitely keep trying this recipe until I’m better at it. Thank you!

  10. Hi Sally! I noticed other choux pastry recipes I’ve seen have you puncture the pastry immediately after baking to release air. Do you know what the reason is for that? And why is it not necessary for these?

    1. Hi Lydia, Every recipe is a bit different. Here as soon as you remove the pastries from the oven there’s still steam inside, and when you let it all escape before the pastry has cooled your dough might deflate. Other chefs argue that piercing them immediately after baking helps to dry out the inside. I did not find it necessary for this recipe but if you try it and your insides are still moist you can certainly try this method and see if it helps!

  11. I followed a different choux pastry recipe before, and it never came out good.
    This time, when I followed ur recipe, it came out PERFECT.
    Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe!!!

  12. My choux pastry turns out nicely puffed, etc. The only problem I have is that the pastry sticks to the parchment paper (I misted the paper). Do you have any idea why this happens?

  13. Excellent instructions and great dough for so many things. I can’t believe I made this from scratch! Sally, thank you! We enjoyed cream puffs last night, which are my mother’s favorite. She can’t bake anymore with her health, so I was thrilled to make these for her.

  14. Hello
    I tried the recipe twice, and the result was a good shape and color but it is not crunchy on the outside.
    What is the reason and is it necessary to wipe it with eggs before baking ??

    1. Hello Nora,
      I took two trays. I brushed one with egg wash and the other without.
      The tray without had empty centers but were weird looking and lacked crunchy shells. They also didn’t rise nicely.
      The other tray with egg wash turned out beautiful and perfect. You have to use egg wash for it to turn out its best.

  15. Hello!
    I’ve tried this recipe multiple times, and the profiteroles turned out amazing each time. However, are there any changes I need to make to the recipe in order to make eclairs??
    Thanks!

  16. The most amazing recipe that I have ever used! 100 % successful thanks for sharing this. I was not successful with any other recipe so far.

  17. Made them yesterday, I couldn’t believe I did it. I’m a good cook but a home cook, so I’m trying out things I haven’t done before, last week pavlova from your site which was divine and I will make again for sure, I served it with your recipe for strawberry topping, YUM. This week I tried this recipe, and am excited for lunch to taste it, it looks right! Thank you for all your posts, tips, and tricks!

  18. I love this recipe. Made it for a family reunion. Everyone was loving the taste. I Did a krokembouche with caramel drizzle, cream puffs with choc cream cheese and whipped cream filledtoo, and some custard filled too. And eclairs. Great reactions to all.

    1. Hi Erika! Yes, an egg wash bakes on the pastries to turn them a golden brown color. Same reason we use it on pie crust, too!

  19. I left my go-to choux behind in search of something better. I found it! I made the puffiest cream puffs of my life! Great tip with the steam, though it browned the bottoms a little quicker. Next time I’ll move my oven rack higher. Great recipe! I wish I could post a picture because they are clouds of perfection.

  20. I made these the other night – they taste amazing, but my puffs deflated. We still ate them, but I wonder what I did wrong?

    1. Hi Matt, I’m glad you enjoyed the taste! They may have been slightly under-baked. The steam inside is what helps them puff up, but it needs to be completely dry when you remove them from the oven. Even a little bit of moisture inside will cause them to collapse. Also be sure that you don’t open your oven door while they are baking so that you don’t let the steam escape.

  21. After trying a different recipe and failing, I decided to try yours and your explanation is so clear!! I was finally successful!! Even for a newbie like me, it was easy to understand and I was able to make them!! They are delicious!

  22. Hi! I tried this recipe (after failing with a less detailed one) and the dough consistency was MUCH better. However, my pastries seemed not to rise as much as in your video. I had one that did but the rest stayed mound shaped. Is it possible I overmixed the batter?

  23. Wonderful tutorial for choux pastry and easier than I thought. Using this time at home to conquer some new recipes. I filled them with ice cream!

  24. 1st time trying and viola perfect! Ty for such great recipe and tips for success! Awesome!

  25. So excited about the results! I never made choux before and it was so easy! And your pastry cream was incredible as I used it to fill eclairs which I’ve never made. I’m shocked at how professional they looked. It was a great treat for Easter. Thank you Sally. Your recipes, videos, and instructions never let me down!! You have definitely taught me how to bake!! Much appreciation!!

  26. First time I made these they were AMAZING! Second time I left the mixing the eggs with flour butter mix for 1.5 hrs and when I baked them they were like biscuits. Is this why I failed? Also I use my own eggs which can be a bit on large side… should I reduce the egg content? Honestly they were gorgeous first time! Thanks

    1. Hi Debra, Leaving the mixture out for that long before baking could certainly be the culprit. Especially since they worked so well for you the first time you made them!

  27. We love your recipe. It is simple and easy but with lots of tips. My 12 year old daughter can follow through the recipe on her own. We adjust the baking temperature on our second batch. They turned out beautifully. Thank you. I hope everyone enjoy baking during this pandemic.

  28. I have made cream puffs with this recipe multiple times and they’ve turned out perfect every time!

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