By Vida Gustafson

Contributing Writer

This simple-to-master pastry dough forms the basis of many classic desserts. Éclairs (roughly translated as lightning bolt), where oblong shaped pâte à choux is baked and filled with chilled pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze. As cream puffs, a tennis ball-sized choux bun is filled with chilled pastry cream, and the wedding-famous Croque-en-Bouche (meaning ‘crunch in the mouth’). A tower of mini choux buns stuffed with anything from mousse to curd, stuck together with caramel. You can even pipe your choux dough directly into the fryer and dust with cinnamon sugar for delicious homemade churros.

It’s light crispy shell and hollow interior is also a great vehicle for savory appetizers like profiteroles, which can be served with fillings such as lox and cream cheese, spicy goats cheese or a mushroom duxelles (finely diced mushroom sautéed in butter and herbs to make a uniform paste).

For as many dishes as you can spin a simple batch of pâte à choux dough into, it is actually not complicated to make.

This time I made a batch of bite-sized éclairs, (even though technically they can’t be lightning bolts if they’re short and round I’m sure) with a simple pastry cream filling and chocolate glaze.


  • 1 cup water
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 C)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 C flour
  • 4 eggs


Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400° F. Place water, butter and salt in a small saucepan and boil over medium heat to melt the butter. Once this is complete, turn down the heat to low and immediately pour in a whole cup of flour. Stir mixture until it comes together in a ball and pulls away from the sides of the saucepan. Remove from heat. and let cool for three or four minutes.

I usually do the next step in my mixer, but if you’re not averse to vigorous mixing by hand it can come together that way too. Crack your four eggs in a bowl or measuring cup with a pouring spout. While mixing the dough (it will still be warm, this is fine) add the eggs, one at a time. Mix very well in between additions. The dough will separate and look slick after adding an egg, this is normal, just keep mixing. Once all the eggs have been added the dough should be smooth and fall in a “V” shape from your spatula, wooden spoon or mixer attachment.  

If you are simply making bun shapes, you can spoon the dough onto your baking sheet, using two teaspoons to alternately scoop and scrape a ping pong-ball sized amount, do not flatten the dough out. It will puff up a lot, so leave at least two inches of space in between. 

This size will be baked for 10 minutes at 400° F (convection) and then for an additional 20 minutes at 350° F. Check for doneness by carefully picking one up with grabbers and tapping to hear if it sounds hollow. Larger sizes will need longer in the oven to dry out completely and become stable. Only fill once they are completely cooled. Make a small hole in the side or bottom of the bun, put your creamy filling into a piping bag fitted with a small round piping tip. Make sure the tip of the piping bag is inserted into the hole before squeezing the filling in slowly. 

If making pastry cream seems like a chore, these are great when filled with a simple sweetened whipped cream!

Pastry Cream


  • 1 C milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 C corn starch
  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1  C heavy whipping cream


Heat milk in a small saucepan until you can see steam rising from it, do not boil. Place your cornstarch in a cup and add a couple tablespoons of cold milk then, in a medium sized bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar mixing in the cornstarch slurry as well. Once milk is hot, pour it into your whisked egg mixture, stirring continuously. Pour it back into the saucepan and cook over low/medium heat while stirring continuously. 

To prevent a skin from forming while cooling, place a piece of parchment or food grade plastic wrap on the surface of the custard and let cool down to room temperature. Once cooled, fold in whipped cream and vanilla. Chill until you are ready to use it.

To make the chocolate glaze, combine 1/2 C chocolate chips with 2 tbsp butter and melt over low heat. If the consistency is too thick, it can be thinned out by whisking in a teaspoon of hot boiled water.