Preheat oven to 400°. Place oven rack in top third of oven.
MAKING THE DOUGH:
In a 2-1/2 or 3 qt. heavy pot, on medium-low heat, simmer milk, water, butter, sugar, salt and pepper. Once simmering, turn off the burner and add flour all at once. Leaving it on the hot burner, beat the mixture with a wooden paddle or spoon until a ball forms and the dough pulls together. Let rest for 5 minutes, on the warm burner.
Add 1 egg; beat until it is thick and elastic. Dough will be sticking to the sides of the pot at this point and very elastic. Repeat with the next egg. Once the dough has thickened and is sticking to the sides and bottom of the pot, it's time to bake.
Scrap dough into a ball on one side of the pot. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper.
The Choux Pastry dough can be piped into almost any shape or size with a pastry bag or spooned out in simple shapes. Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2" plain round tip for smaller shapes and a 3/4" to 1" plain round tip for larger shapes. Before baking, pipe or spoon shapes 2" apart, to allow room for pastries to expand. If you do not have the proper size tip, you can cut the tip off a disposable pastry bag to the correct size. This can also be done with a large zip lock bag. It is a little harder to handle, but works just fine.
Miniature Éclairs: pipe logs 2-1/2" long and 1/2 to 3/4"wide or spoon and shape into logs.
Large Éclairs: pipe logs 5" long and 1-1/2' wide or spoon and shape into logs.
Profiteroles: pipe puffs 1" long and 1" high or spoon out scant TBSP.
Cream Puffs: pipe puffs 2-1/2" to 3" wide in an inside spiral shape or spoon out 1/4 cup for each. To form an inside spiral, start in the center and spiral the dough outward to form a 3" spiral, then lift tip, moving it inward to form a smaller spiral, finishing with the center and a push down and pull up, making a spiral and a half. This makes a nice looking cream puff. (This makes a small second story on the puff itself.)
The difference between Profiteroles, Éclairs and Cream Puffs is that Profiteroles are frozen and the others are not. They all may be filled and topped the same way. When making Profiteroles, after they are cool from baking, fill with whipped or pastry cream, or even ice cream, then freeze. Top or glaze them after removing from freezer; the Profiterole will look fresh and taste better. Serve while still cold. (Many toppings and fillings can be made ahead of time.)
Once Choux Pastry dough is made, it is best to form the dough while still warm, whether using a pastry bag or spoons and measuring cup to shape the dough. It is also best to have the hot 400° oven preheated. Cook in the top third of a very hot oven, 400° for 15 minutes, then turn down to 375° for 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden all over. Remove from oven and as soon as cool enough to handle, poke a hole in each puff to release the steam. Allow to cool.
Fill these little beauties with sweet or savory. For Éclairs and savory puff sandwiches, cut in half horizontally and fill as desired. You can remove the center dough or leave it. If using frozen and thawed puffs, freshen them by warming in a 375° oven for 7 to 9 minutes. Then cut and fill when cool. Or use a small tip to inject the cream into the whole puff. They can be sprinkled with powdered sugar or cocoa or topped with a ganache or drizzle of some kind, or just simply filled.
BAKING THE PASTRIES:
Bake cream puffs for 15 minutes at 400°, then turn down to 375° for the last 10 to 15 minutes. Bake until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
Cut in half, scoop out soft middle, and fill with desired filling right before serving. See our Pastry Cream recipes for filling ideas.
Chef's Note: If using ice cream or a frozen filling, you can fill and re-freeze until ready to use.
Serve immediately, they thaw quickly.
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