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Pâte à Choux Pitfalls?

Eggsactly's picture

Croquembouche fail!

I tried the Croquembouche on the cover of #108, but the pastry dough after all the ingredients were mixed was soup, much more of a batter than a dough that could be piped. I added more flour but I think the extra mixing toughened it and they did not puff.

I know I got the ingredient amounts right; maybe I failed in technique. Anyone know any pate a choux pitfalls? Maybe I didn't do the part in the saucepan right, or maybe I didn't let the dough cool down enough before mixing the eggs.

Pielove's picture

yikes (post #70681, reply #1 of 18)

Hi Eggsactly,

Hmm, that is too bad-- that recipe is high on my list to try, so please let me know if you figure it out.  My guess is that adding the eggs when it was too hot is NOT your problem-- if it were, you would have had scrambled eggs.  My hunch would be that you didn't cook it enough in the saucepan-- was it thick then, or was it always soupy?  I hate it when a recipe fails-- my most recent failure was an angel food cake-- a literal flop!


Eggsactly's picture

It was thick and pulling away (post #70681, reply #2 of 18)

It was thick and pulling away from the sides of the saucepan. But I'm wondering if, like you suggested, I rushed it, or the water was not hot enough. Thanks for the suggestion.

Now I have what seems like a gallon of pastry cream waiting to be used... I better not wait too long to try the puffs again.

Pielove's picture

pastry cream! (post #70681, reply #3 of 18)

Good luck with the choux-- I hope it works the second time!  Otherwise it's ricotta pudding...


Jus Loafn's picture

pitfalls (post #70681, reply #5 of 18)

You added too many eggs. Once the dough has been formed and pulled away from the edges of the hot pan, place it in a mixer with a paddle attachment and stir at low speed to cool it down (you don't want the eggs to scramble when you add them). Add the eggs one at a time and blend in. The test you use to tell when you've added enough eggs is as follows: Run a finger deeply through the batter. Time how long it takes the sides to ooze back together to close the track your finger created. It should take 2 seconds. If it takes longer, add another egg, blend in, and test again. If it takes less, you have added too many eggs - throw batter out and start over. Be careful - as you get closer to the right point, you may have to add less than a full egg. Take an egg and beat it, add a portion into the batter, blend in, and retest.


GretchenTHE FIRST's picture

I think that is fine (post #70681, reply #6 of 18)

I think that is fine information, and Gary, if that is "you", I would trust it implicitly. BUT it doesn't explain what a recipe that is to be used from a trusted source didn't work correctly. We need to know if the recipe is incorrect, in my opinion.

Jus Loafn's picture

Pitfalls (post #70681, reply #7 of 18)

It's I. Like the baking inspired nickname?

Pate a choux can be tricky. Even in class, where I know we had the same ingredients day-after-day, we had to titrate the eggs to get the right consistency. In the FC recipe, there is at least one place where variations creep in - the flour. Did the author and Eggsactly measure it the same way e.g.  both used volume or both used weight? What brand of flour was used? The protein content of all-purpose flour can vary between 9 and 12% ( That can account for the difference in the amount of moisture needed. Of course, there is always the possiblity of a typo too.

Pielove's picture

Hi Gary! (post #70681, reply #10 of 18)

There was a reply to Eggsactly's query in the letters column of  the new issue-- they suggest that the paste has to be completely cool before adding the eggs.  That said, I don't see how warm paste can really make it soupy-- Gary's explanation sounds much more plausible to me.

Gary, thank you very much for the information-- with 10 eggs in the recipe, even a slight variation in egg size (extra-large vs large) can add up.  I'm planning to try the croq recipe soon and will use your test to make sure I don't add too many eggs.  liamsaunt has made the recipe successfully-- maybe she will pitch in on her experience.


liamsaunt's picture

pastry recipe (post #70681, reply #12 of 18)

As pielove mentioned I successfully made this recipe for New Year's Eve.  I don't have a lot of pastry experience, but based on my experience with this recipe, I am thinking that you did not cool the batter enough before adding the eggs.  I know that I had to beat mine for more than ten minutes to to get it cool enough.  I am not sure for exactly how much longer I beat it, but it was at least 15 minutes, maybe longer.  I waited until the base of my metal mixing bowl was cool-ish to my touch before adding the eggs.

There is a picture of my completed croquembouche over in the Cook the Issue section of this site.  It's not as pretty as the one in the magazine, but my friends were impressed anyway.

Gretchen's picture

I don't know this recipe, but (post #70681, reply #4 of 18)

I don't know this recipe, but when I have done it, it's pretty "upfront". Maybe this will help

Well, yet another glitch for this site. I can't paste a link.

Google for "pate au choux problems".


Pascall's picture

Same result (post #70681, reply #8 of 18)

I tried the same Croquembouche recipe. I was really excited to make it for my desert table this Christmas. But my attempts also failed - I followed the instructions to a tee and had the same result. The choux batter was far too runny - I couldn't pipe it out. I gave up in the end because I ran out of time, but please let me know if you find out what went wrong.

My feeling is that there are too many eggs in the recipe, but all Fine Cooking baking recipes I've tried in the past have always turned out perfectly.

Thanks for sharing your wisdom...I can't wait to successfully make this desert!

GretchenTHE FIRST's picture

Well, now we can wait to see (post #70681, reply #9 of 18)

Well, now we can wait to see how long it takes anyone to even NOTICE this from the higher-arky at Taunton who try so hard not to have mistakes in recipes--as you will see if you look under other headings.

ICDOCEAN1's picture

Pate Choux (post #70681, reply #11 of 18)

I have been contributing to Cook the Issue at FC and wanted to make the Croquembouche, but I never have enough people for a masterpiece like that and then again, mine would not be a masterpiece in the end so without trying to scale back that recipe, I found a basic pate choux recipe (Michael Ruhlman's) to work with and made small puffs.  My first batch came out just a tad too pale, but I played with them for mini Croquembouche servings yesterday and they are pretty good. 

I am going to make another batch so that I can have a prettier and just a little bit darker puff.  Here is the link that I found this morning while trying to find the recipe that I used, have fun:


1 cup water
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 good pinch of salt
1 cup eggs (4 large eggs

I forgot to mention that I froze them and they were just fine at filling time when thawed and re-crisped for just a few minutes.

kitchengoddess's picture

wish me luck (post #70681, reply #14 of 18)

I have not tried to make it as I really didn't have an excuse/occassion.  But now that my MIL has seen the picture she has asked if I would make it for her.  So, I think next weekend I will tackle the task.  Wish me luck!

Pielove's picture

go for it! (post #70681, reply #16 of 18)

kitchengoddess, good luck with the croq!!  I can't wait to see how yours turns out.  Ha, it is dangerous to show FC to your in-laws!

Robyn, thank you for the video-- I haven't made pate a choux in 25 years, so it will help to have a refresher.  I really need to make this-- I am almost to 250 and I would like something special for my milestone post.  I think I will make pork buns for 250 and the croq for the End of the Challenge.  The end is nigh!!!

I'm glad I wasn't working with hot caramel when I had my clumsy moment today:


RDA's picture

Croquembouche Video (post #70681, reply #13 of 18)

Hi everyone,

When we read about this croquembouche fail, we went to work. Check out the video we made specifically to help ensure successful choux puffs for your next croquembouche. 

Good luck!

- Robyn

Pielove's picture

Video (post #70681, reply #18 of 18)

I watched the video yesterday with my daughter and she is now asking me when we are going to make the croq!  Julissa Roberts is so cute-- I love how she is reading the magazine, passing the time, etc, while waiting for the paste to cool.  It is so handy to know how everything will look.

My kid really loves the videos-- we had a great time with the pork buns too.  There is one spot where Ms. Lo talks about how this recipe is great for kids and how kids these days love to cook.  My daughter just started smiling and giggling as if Ms. Lo was talking right to her.  Then we went in the kitchen and made the very same recipe!  


ICDOCEAN1's picture

Great idea (post #70681, reply #15 of 18)

Thanks for the video and I am sure that it will help.  I watched another video and it refreshed my memory for the páte choux.  Ultimately I made just fine looking puffs and since I am only going to make individual croquembouche, I wasn't too concerned about perfectly consistent looking puffs. 

I am more pleased with my last batch than the first of course and I did freeze them before filling on another day.

Pascall's picture

Will try (post #70681, reply #17 of 18)

Thanks for posting the video. Although I'm pretty sure I followed those same steps in my first two attemps, I'll try the recipe again and hopefully this time it will work!