Pâte à choux, which in French means “cabbage dough” because it looks like a cabbage when baked, is a versatile dough. It can be deep-fried into beignets or used to hold ice cream for profiteroles and pastry cream for éclairs. Heck, it can be filled with lobster salad for mini lobster rolls. The possibilities are endless. Here it stands alone, bedecked simply with sugar crystals.
Special equipment: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can stir the dough with a wooden spoon. A pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch tip is useful here. If you don’t have one, you can spoon round dollops of dough onto the baking sheet. Have all your ingredients and equipment (saucepan, wooden spoon, stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment) ready to go before you start. Once you begin making pâte à choux you cannot step away; the dough must be made from start to finish.
What to buy: Sucre perlé (pearl sugar) is coarse sugar crystals that hold their shape and crunch when baked. It can be purchased at the food market in some Ikea stores or online.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces, plus more for coating the baking sheets
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the baking sheets
½ cup whole milk
½ cup water
4½ teaspoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon fine salt
4 large eggs, at room temperature, cracked into a medium bowl
1 large egg white, at room temperature
¼ cup pearl sugar
1. Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
2. Coat two baking sheets with butter, dust each with flour, then flip and tap to remove any excess flour; set aside. Fit a pastry bag with a ½-inch round tip; set aside.
3. Place measured butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted.
4. Increase heat to high, bring mixture to a rolling boil, then remove from heat. Add measured flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a dough forms, about 30 seconds. Return the saucepan to medium heat and stir constantly to remove excess moisture and cook the raw flour, about 3 minutes. (A film should form on the bottom of the saucepan.)
5. Transfer the dough to a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Let sit, stirring the dough with the mixer on low speed for a few turns about every 30 seconds to release steam until the dough is slightly cooled, about 3 minutes.
6. Increase the mixer speed to medium low and add the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. (The dough will separate each time you add an egg but will come back together.) Mix in the egg white. Transfer the dough to the pastry bag.
7. Pipe the dough into 1¼ -inch round mounds (about the size of a ping-pong ball), lifting the bag as you form them and setting them 1 inch apart on one of the baking sheets (about 24 per sheet).
8. Coat your finger with butter and dab each chouquette peak to smooth it out, then sprinkle the chouquettes with half of the pearl sugar. Bake 15 minutes without opening the oven door. Reduce the heat to 350°F and continue baking until the chouquettes are golden brown all over, about 10 minutes.
9. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and immediately pierce each chouquette’s side with a paring knife to release steam. Let cool completely on the baking sheet.
10. Return the oven to 400°F and repeat steps 6 and 7 with the remaining dough, baking sheet, and pearl sugar. The chouquettes are best eaten warm but are also delicious several hours after baking. Once cool, they can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer. Before eating, thaw frozen chouquettes and reheat in a 300°F oven until crisp again, about 5 minutes. Makes 45 dough puff. -Jill Santopietro for CHOW.com.