All pix by Donna

I've already posted on this amazing preparation, but a recent blogger's use of the dough from Ratio got me thinking about it all over again. I made it that night, brought it to a friend's and cooked the cheese puffs there.  It took literally ten minutes to gather everything and put it together.  So simple, so fast, so good. YOU DON'T NEED A BOXED MIX!  DON'T LET FOOD COMPANIES TELL YOU YOU'RE TOO STUPID AND TOO LAZY TO DO IT YOURSELF! THIS IS BEAUTIFUL FOOD MADE FROM BASIC INGREDIENTS: WATER, BUTTER, FLOUR, EGGS!

Monday morning and ready for a rant. What happened at the friend's house?  He had some duck confit left over, so we ate half the cheese puffs plain, then we made little duck confit sandwiches out of them with some Dijon.  I liked these so much that last night i put down a spoonful of duck confit on the baking sheet and piped the choux paste over them–worked great and you could do the same with bacon or chorizo or whatever, mushrooms, onions, cheese, use your imagination (DON'T LET THE FOOD COMPANIES TELL YOU YOU'RE TOO STUPID TO COOK AND THAT COOKING IS A CHORE! THEY ONLY WANT YOUR MONEY!)  Looking for an easy but impressive canape?  This is a great preparation.  And it's not that it's great for one reason, but for a thousand reasons.  Like vanilla sauce—one technique gives you a thousand preparations. You can do many things when you understand the magic of pouring flour into simmering buttered water, cook it to a paste then stir in eggs. 

Yes, add cheese and bake for a snack while dinner cooks or to turn into fancy-seeming hors d'oeuvre by making mini-sandwiches.  You can bake it sweet and fill it with cream (cream puffs and eclairs).  But you can also boil it and turn it into something called Parisian gnocchi (poach, then saute to crisp them, add herbs for flavor, serve as you would any pasta). You can add them to soup for dumplings (THE best dumpling for chicken and dumplings).  Combine them with mashed potatoes for the lightest most wonderful potato pancakes you ever et.  If you're going savory, add some fresh reggiano.  But take them to the sweet side by adding some sugar, deep fry, coat with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar for little donuts so light and airy that in France they call them pets de nonne (nun's farts!).

Last night I made a half batch (easy because there's a ratio!) and didn't have to look at a recipe (because I knew the ratio!): equal parts water and egg, half as much flour and butter.

I'll post Donna's lovely pix below but I'm sorry that I use a standing mixer in the pix because you only need a spoon to stir in the eggs (or I saw Giada use an electric beater like a good, aproned housefrau—those work fine too but one spoon and one pot are easier to clean).  Use a standing mixer for large batches.

Here's the technique: Bring the butter and water to a simmer (I've already told you how much; remember that large eggs are 2 ounces).  Add the flour and stir till the flour absorbs the water and begins to gel (this is the cool part, turning the flour into this paste).  Take the pot off the flame and add the eggs one at a time, stirring until each is completely incorporated.  Then you're done.  You can do this hours ahead if you want (though again, it only takes five minutes, if that).

Notes on nuance, variations, and more fun things to do (like trying it with semolina flour!) are in the new book, but know the ratio—2 parts water, 1 part butter, 1 part flour, 2 parts egg in that order—and the technique and you're good to go.


Stir flour into simmering buttered water.


Pay attention to the way the flour absorbs the water. Stir over heat till it pulls away from the sides of the pan (see first photo).


Take pan off heat and stir in eggs.  You don't need to use an expensive mixer as I was doing here; a wood spoon works great.


This is the kind of furry consistency you want.


Pipe them, tap their little peaks down, and bake at 425 for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 375 for 20 more minutes till they look like this:
Lovely snack. If you were a gougere virgin, open champagne and eat them with that.


These are the farts of nuns (deep fried and dusted with sugar). 


and these are parisian gnocchi, shaped by piping, dragging a fork along the top, and cutting, or you could pipe using a star tip.  Or you can just use a spoon.

One technique, a thousand variations.


83 Wonderful responses to “The Amazing Pate a Choux
(Cream Puff Dough)”

  • E L

    Great stuff, Michael. Love when you rant. Oh, and if you pipe long snakes directly into hot oil, you’ve got churros. Serve with warm thick chocolate ganache for dipping.

  • Jeem

    Great stuff. One warning for first timers: This is the stickiest foodstuff I’ve ever seen. Resest any urge to skip the piping bag.

  • Matthew Kayahara

    @Jeem: If pâte à choux is the stickiest food you’ve ever made, try homemade marshmallows sometime! Marshmallow has to be the stickiest substance on earth.

    Seriously, though, I’ve made profiteroles without the piping bag, just scooping spoonfuls onto my baking sheet. It works great, though it’s not as pretty.

  • Leesie

    As a kid, my mom always made fresh cream puffs and never piped them and neither have I when I made them. Will have to try the pets de nonne version!

  • Almost Slowfood

    You’re so right! I made gougeres for a party and was exceedingly surprised and delighted with how easy it really is. Since the dough is best frozen before cooked – or at least that’s how I did it – all I had to do was pop the already piped frozen dough onto a cookie sheet and into the oven just minutes before the guests arrived! They were a hit. Now I keep them in the freezer for unexpected guests or just for myself…

  • StumptownSavoury

    Rant on, Michael. There is no good reason to buy a boxed mix for this, or bread, or anything else. Besides, that boxed mix has a bunch of stuff in it that doesn’t belong in whatever you’re making. Thanks for another great post!

  • ruhlman

    yes, really is this easy! I used a plastic baggie with a corner cut last night–cleaning pastry bag is a pain.

  • Breezy Cooking

    I was stuck on “my friend had leftover duck confit” — clearly I need new friends. You do make it look easy enough for a non-baker. I’m going to try it.

  • Margaret

    I attempted to make pate a choux last night but the dough came out too doughy. So today, I wanted to look up some recipes online. As a follower of your blog, I was pleasantly surprised to find the subject of your blog today as it seemed you have totally read my mind. Very cool, thanks for the tip! I will try again tonight.

  • ruhlman

    margaret, how did your quantities differ from my ratio. that’s one of the great thing ratios can do–show you why something didn’t work. also, did you weigh your flour? that could be the problem.

    I should add that for those who don’t have a scale, go get one! but until then, you can do a cup each of water flour and eggs, one stick of butter.

  • milo

    I hate to admit it, but this weekend when I visited family, they had made lemon bars from a box. And they were tasty.

  • Natalie Sztern

    oh, wow thankyou I love all the ideas these rants give birth to….and they look to be sooo easy to do…
    mr. you ‘force’ me to bake and cook even when i don’t want to…

  • Margaret

    The recipe I was following consist of 10 oz of water, 4 oz of butter, 1 tspn of salt and sugar and 6 oz of flour. I also added 3 eggs, but I added them one after another and didn’t mix in well before adding the next one. Do you think that may be the problem? I wasn’t sure how long I should mix it and the consistency so now that I saw your picture, I have a better idea. Then I spooned them out to fry them, but it came out too doughy.

  • Margaret

    I think after looking at your ratio, I need to also make some adjustment on some of the measurement in the recipe.

  • Tags

    Now that you have the ratios for your Cream Puffs and Gougeres worked out, maybe you can calculate the ratios for your Brownies.

    Figure out what percentage of toughness, aggressiveness, pride, knowledge, dedication, and discipline is needed, then tell coach Mangini.

  • christine

    I’ve always fought with the spoon. Doh! Feeling foolish now.

    If I’m making a big batch for a party the Cuisinart is great for the mixing.

    Love to stuff them with a cream cheese/green onion/curry powder mix. Yum!

  • milo

    Will this still work if some of the flour is switched to whole wheat? How much would it probably be able to handle?

  • Marlene

    The parisianne gnocchi have been my go to gnocchi ever since I first tested this. I always have some in the freezer. I like fresh chives, cracked pepper a little mustard powder and some cayenne in mine. Fried in butter, after poaching, these are heaven.

    I do use a stand mixer when mixing pate au choux. I find it incorporates the eggs better, and the gnocchi seems to puff up more when I do.

  • Bryan

    i’ve found about 25% of the total amount of flour can be switched for WW in other applications, maybe here too?

    i’ve also used all bread flour (Power flour, high-protein flour, whatever) to make choux. makes an ever-so-slightly more sturdy puff that holds up well to creams and ice cream.

  • sara

    Michael, tell us how you REALLY feel 🙂

    I totally agree though. Heck with the prepackaged dreck and propaganda from the food companies that we haven’t a clue in the kitchen.

    Hopefully… my copy of Ratio will come in the mail today.

    I have to ask a possibly sacrilegious question about the flour… do you suppose a soft white wheat would work okay in place of white flour? I have some that I’ve been trying to use up since learning it makes lousy bread due to its low gluten.

  • milo

    Sara, when you make bread with whole wheat flour you generally have to add gluten since the flour doesn’t have as much as white flour. You can’t just take a recipe for white bread and substitute wheat flour. Just find a recipe that includes gluten as an ingredient, and that flour should make a loaf that’s just fine.

  • Sara

    I’m over at Jezebel right now, contributing to a comments discussion about whether or not Michelle Obama should advocate cooking and cooking for one’s self or one’s family (apparently, she doesn’t really like to cook, and so doesn’t talk about it). And flipping between that article, and this one about how SIMPLE it is to make such delicious things if you just put a little effort into learning how, is making me infinitely sad.

    I cook, Michael. I learn my ratios. I make popovers, pancakes and pies without a recipe. Some of us are fighting the good fight, Michael. I promise.

  • sara

    milo, there is wheat flour that is from soft white wheat, and it is very low protein. Please don’t presume that I don’t know what I’m talking about before taking me to task on a substitution, okay? If I want a whole wheat bread that comes out properly, it takes hard winter wheat flour, by contrast. Not all wheat flour is created equal, because there are several cultivars grown.

  • milo

    Sara, did you try adding gluten with that flour or not, it’s not clear from your reply. Soft white wheat IS low in gluten (even lower than whole wheat from what I understand) so yes, you’d need to add gluten to bake bread with it. I was making a suggestion in an effort to try to help you out, not “taking you to task” – don’t be so paranoid.

  • Charlotte

    Hey Michael — not to bust your chops, but your rant’s a lot less effective with the BlogHer ads for Wishbone dressing and Tyson pre-cooked chicken strips running alongside. Not begrudging you the coin, but seems problematic ….

  • Rhonda

    Michael, great post.

    With great, great, respect to my fellow commenters vis-a- vis, whole wheat Pate a Choux… It is Pate a Choux, for fucks sake.

    We, as North Americans have the worst relationship with food and ingredients that I have ever witnessed in my life. And guess what, everybody is fat…

    I respect everyone who is trying to make their diets healthier but when you are eating cream puffs, eat them. Don’t lament, don’t reconfigure, don’t feel guilty. If this can’t be done, make another choice.

    The North American prediliction for trying to make something wonderful into something just merely good so they can have more of it has simply worn me down.

    Please, I urge you, make Pate a Choux properly, eat less and move more.

    FM! Am I totally alone in this?

  • Eric the Read

    So, uh, possibly dumb question here, but if I were to try the bacon or chorizo (I’m drooling over the thought of bacon & onions + pate a choux for breakfast), should I cook them first, or rely on the oven to take care of that for me?

  • luis

    Milo, that is precicelly the problem. Ruhlman is right. I suggest you read Kessler’s new book.

  • luis

    sara, You need to go the extra step and add “Hogson Mills” Wheat Gluten additive which is available at my Publix store. Works like a charm. Also I am sure something similar is available from “King Arthurs”.

  • milo

    Thanks for the Kessler recommendation, looks like a good one. Does it relate to this topic, or is it just a good read overall?

  • Rhonda

    Oh, Michael, one more thing…

    “Nun’s Farts” should now be renamed “Broker’s Promises”….

  • EB

    I can’t bake worth a shit and these are the one thing I can make, and do, all the time. Everyone, anyone, can make these. Thanks for yelling at people to do it!

  • Devon

    Profiteroles are one of my favorite desserts, now all I have to figure out is how to make the filling

  • Kate in the NW

    That screaming sound you hear is my soul: My husband just joined my daughter in a gluten-free diet.

    Oh well – more for me! 😉

  • Ken

    Pate a choux is the one thing I loathed about culinary school. Try as I might, I always ended up making profiteroles or Paris Brest or who knows what else.

    The first time it was demoed to us, I was the one vigorously stirring with my wooden spoon until I received a blister.

    I’ve still yet to forgive pate a choux, but something tells me it’s time to get over it 🙂

  • Abigail

    This is one of my go to hors d’oeuvres. I’ve never used a pastry bag and never had a problem with overly sticky dough (and I don’t have a scale). I use wet spoons to make my gougeres and little pate a choux for filling.

    And I do have to weigh in on Rhonda’s side:)

  • carri

    did not know about making gnocchi with choux paste…am terribly excited about the possiblities! BTW…it is absolutely not neccessary to add gluten flour to whole wheat bread for good texture and lift…the key is a long hydration period, or so I have found!

  • luis

    Milo it does in the sense that it discusses in detail what food design is aiming at and what they put in the box you cheerfully endorsed. Again Ruhlman is right about making it ourselves from scratch. Just pick it up and read it sometime. It is one of the best informational books on restaurant food, fast food, food phsycology and manufactured food I have ever read.

  • Baron

    um…yeah, I tried to make the recipe, and it did not come out. I re-checked the measurements….Equal parts egg and water; half flour and butter. It looked like runny eggs and nothing like the above photos. I had my butter water simmering, I stirred in the flour until it pulled away from the pot and was pasty and then I combined the eggs one at a time. Here’s what I used specifically : 4 ounces of water, 2 oz of butter, 2 oz of flour, 2 eggs. Any ideas on what went wrong?

  • Victoria

    Even as a neophyte, I was able to follow Julia’s recipe to make the puffs for profiteroles. I always did it all by hand – no mixer. Easy and delicious. But I have never piped the dough from a pastry bag. Always dropped it from a spoon directly onto the baking pan. MR, are you using a plastic bag with a hole cut in the end to pipe them?

    As always, gorgeous pictures by Donna.

  • ruhlman

    victoria, yes, sturdy zip top bag with corner cut.

    Eric the Read, yes, you should cook the bacon or sausage first.

    Baron, sorry to hear about that Did you weigh your flour? Perhaps your scale needs to be calibrated?

  • Margaret

    After my twice-failed attempts on Sunday night, I tried your recipe last night and it worked! I added some pecans, fried them, add some powdered sugar and made a butterscotch dipping sauce. They were sinfully delicious. Thanks Michael!

  • Baron

    MR, oh yeah, weighing the flour! Duh. My rookie baking skills (or lack thereof) are probably quite obvious by now. I used a conversion chart I had placed on the fridge. It said that 2 tablespoons was equal to one ounce. Of course now that I look at that measurement chart it is measuring in Fluid ounces. If that makes a diff. Marlene, I did not let the mixture cool. Thanks for the notes. I will try again with these tips. It sounded easy, and damn it…it’s gonna be easy! Eventually. : )

  • Joanne

    I enjoyed the post.
    The how to for the pate au choux is great but isn’t there an elegant french word for “farts of nuns?”

  • Margaret

    I call them beignets, they sound much better than farts of nuns.

  • Jill


  • Marlene

    Baron, sounds good. Especially re the flour. When you cool the pate au choux, no more than 5 minutes off heat. You don’t want it to be hot hot, but you don’t want it to be cold either when adding in the eggs.

  • Abigail

    I do have to add that I found it a little hard to take the rant about making things yourself seriously with a big Wishbone salad dressing ad staring me in the face. Salad dressing is the ultimate, easy make it yourself item.

    Isn’t there some way you can have some control over what ads are posted on your blog? And, I see the Wishbone ad has now changed to Capri Sun…ugh!

  • veron

    Have your ratio book on order…can’t wait till it arrives. BTW, I noticed that I like the texture of hand-beaten pate a choux better than one made with a mixer. Do you get same results with both methods?

  • cory barrett

    in “Happy in the Kitchen”

    michel richard makes little donuts make with pate a choux that has been fortified with gelatin, frozen and then cut into shape… so cool, so simple

  • Natalie Sztern

    Nothing to do with this psot…BUT I just finished Return of a Chef today and all I have to say about this is in the words of teenagers who say Oh My God with emphasis on each syllable…Oh My God! what a trip that journey of a book must have been: michael my mouth watered with each destination and each meal….i was on the chair in the living room awaiting the next meal.

  • Jai Kohli

    Thank you! I’ve been meaning to make these for a while now, but every recipe I ever saw referred to using a stand mixer, which I don’t have (just moved.) I figured people have been making these a longer time than stand mixers have been around, so I’m glad for confirmation that these can be made without them.

  • Edwin

    Made the Parisian Gnocchi last night – my first experience working with pate a choux. I used the suggested reduced amount of water (6 oz.), plus a healthy heap of grated parmigiano reggiano after the eggs were incorporated.

    After poaching, I made a variation of one of the suggested recipes in Ratio: I cooked up some diced bacon (courtesy of the recipe in Charcuterie, btw), then added some diced onion…then threw the gnocchi in for a bit, and finally added some blanched-and-shocked diced asparagus and summer squash. Finished it all with a bit of cream, black pepper, and a bit more grated cheese.

    It was a fantastic one-dish meal for two, and I had enough gnocchi left to freeze another two portions worth. Real depth of flavor, fun texture, and, as my wife pointed pointed out: “Completely unlike anything [I’d] made before!”

  • Darcie

    My mom and I used to make these all the time (with one pan and a wooden spoon). However, we used milk instead of water. Has anyone else done this, and how do you think the end result differs from using water?

  • milo

    So I take it there’s no way to make these substituting in some whole wheat flour? Obviously it would make no sense to do that for a donut or cream puff, but it seems reasonable if it’s intended for making sandwiches – I thought the whole point of the ratio thing was that it was that it was just a starting point and it could be adapted, no?

  • milo

    Luis, I wouldn’t say I “cheerfully endorsed” them, there are tons of reasons not to use them, I’m just saying in this one specific case taste wasn’t one of them.

    And from what I understand about that book, the main point is that manufactured food adds lots of unnecessary salt, sugar, and fat. While I completely agree with that, it’s definitely a moot point for recipes where the homemade version also has tons of salt, sugar, or fat – I really doubt that his point is that everyone would be in better shape if they switched from too many cake mix cakes to too many homemade cakes.

  • Darcie


    I don’t think it’s at all a “moot point” for cakes and similar recipes. It’s more than just a matter of fat, sugar or salt – have you read the ingredient list on boxed mixes? Transfats, mono- and diglycerides, unpronounceable additives, etc. Why shouldn’t we try to make the best of ALL of the foods we eat, no matter the quantity?

  • milo

    Darcie, I’m not disagreeing with you, we absolutely should make the best, and we are all better off without those ingredients.

    My point is that *in regards to the book*, when the whole point of the book is that manufactured food has lots of fat, salt, and sugar that addict people to food and make them fat, switching from a boxed dessert mix loaded with sugar and fat to a homemade version that is still loaded with sugar and fat isn’t going to make much if any difference in terms of the specific problems of overeating and obesity.

    In short, when a guy gets fat from eating too many boxed cakes, while he’s better off without all the chemical additives, switching to the same quantity of homemade cakes isn’t going to fix his problem with overeating and being overweight.

    I’m not saying that all the chemical crap additives aren’t an issue, I’m just saying that they don’t seem to be within the scope of that particular book.

  • Darcie

    Milo, sorry, I misinterpreted your point.

    Back to my original question – we always used milk, not water, for pate a choux. Does anyone know what difference that may make, if any? We have always had success, but I wonder if there’s a big difference in taste or texture. I guess I can always make two batches (the sacrifices I make…)

  • Matt

    I LOVED it when we did gougeres at the restaurant I used to work at. They are SO delicious and I was a little saddened to see them taken off the menu, although I decided to let them edge into the spotlight for a one night appearance as part of an amuse bouche.

  • Elise

    For dinner tonight, made parisienne gnocchi and used a seasonal variation of peas and spring onions with butter and Parmesan cheese. This with baked chicken was a big hit.
    Thanks Ruhlman for the inspiration!

  • luis

    Milo, I see your point and the answer is..

    When Ruhlman makes it from scratch he is showing us how using ratio’s works.

    The RATIO is the key. I find some ingredients can be substituted for healthier facimilies.

    This is why I love RATIO the book.

    Sugar can be changed to splenda and you need less splenda at that.

    Butter? well in your box is probably soybean oil,palm oil or some such. (With chemistry for artificially designed flavor by some food scientist). But I use REAL BUTTER for real flavor.

    Eggs are eggs..fresh eggs God only knows what’s in your box? and how long is been there.
    I don’t think there are any fresh eggs in your box.(So where is that fat coming from?)

    Flour is flour. Fresh off the shelf flour.

    So, I take your point, if you still load it with sugar fat and salt then what’s the point? but with a caution that when you do it from scratch using RATIO you do it your way. Salt.. Oh please, a two or three finger pinch if that much.

    Milo the stakes are high.

    Cooking from a working ratio is the way to go to avoid this sugar fat and salt addiction conundrum.

  • luis

    Darcie, milk will give you a bigger rise than water…(like a pop over..). I think.

  • milo

    “Cooking from a working ratio is the way to go to avoid this sugar fat and salt addiction conundrum.”

    You miss my point entirely. Working from a ratio for a dish that has a lot of butter avoids fat? Again, I’m 100% in favor of making things from scratch – I just think some people are delusional and think that making something from scratch somehow magically makes it healthy regardless of ingredients.

    And I’d love to hear Michael’s reaction to the idea of cooking using his ratios but substituting Splenda.

  • luis

    I hear you Milo. But don’t forget no matter how Ruhlman feels about splenda he has No objection to folks using the ratios. I mean that is the whole point of his book. Free the cook to do his/her thing.
    Again your point is well taken. Don’t forget you don’t need to use splenda either, you can use a bit of honey you can use 25% of the sugar, or even use agave syrup…any number of things and I will tell you that to me it seems most food and liquor such as wine, beer, diet sodas, even coffee and yes all your salad greens are all acquired tastes… all your peppers , anchovies…need I go on? I remember dropping sugar a long time ago. I still use it for cooking but in coffee and other stuff…nope. Dropped it like it’s hot, almost overnight it seems. So the constant is the ratio. Other than that… its your kitchen for you to do what you will.
    Ruhlman did creme anglaise, I tried to make vanilla ice cream with it but really screwed it up.
    So rich.. However I make a coffee ice cream with half the fat and sugar and 2% milk that is to die for.
    Has texture in place of the whipping cream and melts readilly in your mouth. Sure the purists want the whipping cream version of it. But I am happy with a product I can feel good about and eat more than one scoop at a time.

  • Vivien

    thanks for the pic, i always wonder what it means for the choux pastry to pull away from pan…:)

  • Abra

    Michael, I love the confit puff idea. Was there no bottom to the gougère, and if not, what kept the confit from falling out? Did you use a Silpat?

  • Mike

    My 5 year old daughter and I made the dough this weekend and I was amazed in the simplicity of it. We added sugar to the mix and then simply sprinkled them with powder sugar afterwards. My daughter got a kick out of calling it “Pot of Shoes” to our family.

    I see the cheese suggestion to the recipe, but what about various herbs to the dough. Looking for some savory suggestions.

  • Bren

    Micheal, this reminds me so much of the way we make croquettes. it’s a very tedious and muscle engaging process of mixing and folding, to ultimately make a sticky dough… but so worth every single second of the work!

  • Nurit - 1 family. friendly. food.

    Hey, I can post a comment! Finally! Hurray!!!!
    I used to make cream puffs when I was in high school before sitting to learn for a test, and before I knew much about cooking, and always had success. (I think I was using a Time Life cookbook). Now that I know more about cooking and baking, I’m afraid of failure and don’t make them. I think I really should. Mabye this weekend. But filled with whipped cream… my favorite dessert EVER.

  • comcast plus

    I was thinking of trying to incporate something like garlic into the dough for essentially “garlic puffs”, but not sure how that would work. I think it would work if I incporated some mashed garlic paste into the dough, but not sure. Anyone ever try this? I’ve made Gourgeres a bunch before, they’re always a hit.

  • BigSis

    I am SO motivated and encouraged to think that I could make these, even though I’ve had a huge recent pastry failure that I dared to fess up to on my blog. I’ll do this though! Thanks for the simple and inspiring explanation!

  • Seattlejo

    I had a friend over for Bastille day and had decided to make the Gourges, but when at a loss for a side dish to go with poached chicken. In the end I doubled the dough recipe and made the gnocchi as a side sauteed in a little bacon and onion.