Pâte à Choux

Life as a Pastry Student

For as long as I can remember, my father, a native Bostonian, has had a serious love affair with the Boston cream pie. So much so that after my parents got married, they went straight to the Omni Parker House—which invented this confection—for a little slice of heaven.

I’ve always wanted to make this dessert for dear old dad, but a whole Boston cream pie is much too large for just the three of us. So I wondered, what would be an alternative way to make it? Of course! Single-serving éclairs. 

The inside of eclair shells made by ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis
The inside of éclair shells made by ICE Creative Director Michael Laiskonis

Lucky me, lucky me! In class last week we learned how to make pâte à choux—the dough used for éclair shells. And since I’ve already mastered the art of pastry cream, I’m already halfway to crafting a Boston cream éclair recipe. Choux pastry is awesome for a number of reasons—mostly because it’s everywhere. For example, I was in Paris just six months ago, and I tried my first Paris-Brest, which I learned is also made with choux pastry! It’s the base for so many beloved desserts: cream puffs, profiteroles…you name it. 

pate a choux paris brest
Paris-Brest crafted by ICE students

What’s the trick to making choux? Essentially, you start with a roux. From there, you add eggs: delicious, forgiving, wonderful eggs. In fact, making pâte à choux isn’t all that hard—you just have to pay attention and move fast. As long as you follow the instructions your chef instructor provided, you’re golden. Once you’ve made your dough, there are so many options, and each one is more delicious than the last.

The batter is so easy to work with—silky and shiny and super forgiving. If you pipe something that looks a little wonky, all you have to do is wet your fingers and shape it the way you want. And, while I was a bit nervous about making pastry cream the first time, I felt confident making it again for this class. In short, my éclairs turned out to be quite the success.

The true test? My dad. My parents came into town for Father’s Day, and I was in my pâte à choux glory. I mean my dad was certainly grateful for just one delightful Boston cream éclair, but add on a Paris-Brest, cream puffs and profiteroles? I think I just earned the daughter of the year award.

Click here to learn more about ICE’s Pastry & Baking Arts program.

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