Pâte à choux is a light pastry dough used to make profiteroles, croquembouches, éclair French crullers, beignets, St. Honoré, Indonesian kue sus and gougère. It contains only butter, water, flour and eggs. Similar to Yorkshire Pudding or David Eyre’s pancake, instead of a raising agent, it employs high moisture content to create steam during baking to puff the pastry.
It is usually baked but for beignets it is fried. In Spain and Latin America, churros are made of fried choux pastry, sugared and dipped in a thin chocolate blancmange for breakfast. In Austrian cuisine, it is also boiled to make Marillenknödel, a sweet apricot dumpling; in that case it does not puff but remains relatively dense. They are often filled with cream but can be filled with savoury too, given that there is no sugar content.
It is said that Chef Pantarelli/Pantanelli invented the dough in 1540, seven years after he left Florence with Catherine de’Medici and her court. He used the dough to make a gâteau and named it Pâte à Pantanelli. Over time, the recipe of the dough evolved, and the name changed to pâte à popelin, which was used to make popelins, small cakes made in the shape of a woman’s breasts. Then, Avice, a pâtissier in the eighteenth century, created what were then called choux buns. The name of the dough changed to pâte à choux, as Avice’s buns resembled cabbages—choux in French. From there,
Antoine Carême made modifications to the recipe, resulting in the recipe most commonly used now for profiteroles.