10g sugar (or none if you’re making savoury buns)
80g butter cut into small pieces
125g plain flour
4-5 eggs depending on size – see method
For the Chantilly cream you’ll need:
60cl thick cream
40g icing sugar
A couple of drops of vanilla extract
Choux pastry has a reputation for being very hard to make. It isn’t in fact the case, provided you follow the instructions, weigh everything twice and don’t panic. And, most importantly, cook your choux buns for longer than you think necessary. Be brave! If I’d been braver I’d have had a extra point on my final cookery exam when I qualified.
OK, boil up the water, salt, sugar and butter in a saucepan to emulsify them. Away from the heat add all the flour in one go and mix vigourously with a wooden spatula. When it’s well mixed, return it to a gentle heat and keep stirring to dry your mixture. This is quite important – the choux buns will rise because of steam from the water trapped inside, but if there’s too much water they’ll be soggy. So, clench your flat-ended wooden spatula in your fist and ‘chunk’ the mixture off bit by bit, dragging it across the bottom of the saucepan until it steams no more.
Remove from the heat when you get bored doing this and add the eggs one by one. After adding four check the consistency – it should be ‘dropping consistency’, i.e. it should drop from your spatula not too quickly, but quite easily. If it’s too stiff, add half your fifth egg, test again, and add the rest if necessary.
OK, hard part over, hardest part coming up. Using a piping bag or a plastic bag with a corner cut off, pipe the mix onto a baking tray in regular quantities. Leave room between them for them to expand. The hole in your bag should be 1-1.2 cms in size and they should be about 3cms high.
When you’ve piped them all out, use a damp fork to flatten the tops evenly and then put them into a 200C oven for 25-30 minutes. The temptation will be to take them out after 20 because they’ll look cooked, but the insides will still be moist – and that’ll lose you a point or two in your exam. So be careful.
Also, professional ovens have ‘ouras’, vents that can be opened to allow steam to escape from the oven. You can achieve a similar effect by cranking up the temperature to 220C and slightly propping open the oven door with a teatowel or spoon or whatever for the last five minutes of cooking. Be brave.
When they’re done – they should sound hollow when tapped underneath and the insides shoudl be dry – put them to cool while you make your chantilly cream.
A good tip for whipping cream is to keep everything as cold as possible – put your mixing bowl and cream into the fridge or even freezer before starting, although you want the cream to still be liquid so don’t leave it too long.
Add the sugar to the cream and whisk it – on crushed ice if you like, every little helps – until it sticks together nicely.
Then you can either pipe the cream into the base of your choux buns or open them up and spoon it in. You may have to lick your fingers a lot using this method.
Sieve some extra icing sugar over the top and there you go – an exam-winning dish.