First begin by setting the oven to 180 degrees and then after weighing your ingredients, put them to one side so that they are ready to use. Break the eggs into a container giving them a light whisk to bring them together, cube the cold butter and set to one side. You will need a saucepan, a rubber spatula, a clean bowl, a piping bag with a round nozzle fitted and finally a small amount of warm water and a small pastry brush.
Pour the water into a saucepan and bring to the rising boil, do not let the water boil as it will reduce the water in weight as it steams and the moisture content in the recipe will be wrong, changing the dynamic of the Choux Pastry and creating an imperfect Choux bun. Drop the butter into the water allowing the butter to drop the temperature of the water, add the pinch of sugar and salt and stir together to emulsify the water and butter with your rubber spatula, keeping the water hot at all times but not allowing it to boil.
Add the flour and remove the mixture from the heat. Beat with the rubber spatula until the flour and melted butter and water mixture have fully combined. Place back on a lower, medium heat, stiring/beating to keep this mixture moving. Much like a roux, you want this mixture to come away from the sides of the pan but you do not want to over heat the mixture causing the fat to separate away. The process should take no longer than 30 seconds.
Take off the heat and quickly transfer into the clean cold bowl. Now add the eggs, this is the crucial part of the recipe, add the eggs just a very little at a time. Take your time beating in between each addition of eggs, the mix can seem very loose at first but as it is beaten, it will thicken.
The goal is to have the mixture at ‘dropping consistency’ this means that when you scoop some mix onto your spatula, it falls back down into the bowl slowly, leaving a perfectly shaped V of mixture, check the mix as you go, you may not need all of the egg.
When you have the Choux Pastry at dropping consistency, transfer it all into a piping bag with the fitted nozzle. Pipe onto a grease proof paper lined tray (pipe a few small dots on the underside of the paper to seal the paper to the tray to ensure the paper does not move around in a fan oven, ruining the shape of the buns). When this is done, take the pastry brush with a little warm water and just gently tease down any peaks that were left on the buns when you piped them so that you have a smooth, even and consistent set of buns. At this time you can brush with a little egg mixed with milk if you like, I prefer not to.
Bake in the oven until a light golden brown, this should take around 25 minutes but watch them carefully, if they need a little more colour then leave them a little longer.
When the Choux is cooked, turn the oven down to 80 degrees and leave them in the oven for a further 15 minutes to ‘dry’ out.
The secret to Choux Pastry is to get the consistency right.
Then, try to understand the process… Choux is a Pastry… but unlike some other Pastries it needs to rise and hold its shape. It has no raising agent and so the process happens through the steam injected out of the moisture content of the buns during the cooking. This is why it is so important not to boil away the water, therefore loosing the moisture content in the finished uncooked buns. In the oven the steam will help the buns to rise, eventually giving them their shape, don’t be tempted to take them out of the oven before they are a light golden brown. Many recipes will give a shorter guide time for baking Choux buns but then when you take them out of the oven the steam escapes from the bun, leaving you with a deflated, imperfect Choux bun. Do ‘dry’ them out as recommended here in this recipe, the finished product will be crisp but soft inside, will hold its shape and be as delicious and perfect as all Choux Pastry should be! Enjoy!