Choux paste is the dough you use to make cream puffs and eclairs, or fry into beignets and churros. I assume it's called choux because a small mound of it bakes into the shape of a cabbage ("chou" in French). They get their leavening from steam as the water in the mix evaporates. The flour and egg then cook and hold the hollow shape.
There is nothing hard or scary about making profiteroles, the round bits of pastry that, when filled with pastry cream, we call cream puffs. There is no special equipment necessary. Even if you want to do some pastry-bag piping, you can just fill a ziplock with the dough and snip off a corner to make a hole the size you want. Of course, if you have pastry tips and want to play with them, that's fun too.
This recipe is from The Bible.
1/2 C (one stick) butter or margarine
1 C water
1/2 tsp salt
1 C flour
1. Grease 2 large cookie sheets. In 2-qt saucepan over medium heat, heat butter, water, and salt until boiling. Remove from heat.
2. Add flour all at once. With wooden spoon, vigorously stir until mixture forms a ball and leaves sides of pan. Preheat oven to 375º.
3. Add eggs to flour mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition, until smooth. Cool mixture slightly.
4. Portion onto cookie sheets.
This is where I have to deviate from the recipe, because the baking times are dependent on the size of the puffs. If you make the hamburger-bun sized ones in the original recipe, it's 50 minutes. 1-1/2" to 2" is more common; those cook in about 30 minutes. If you do swans, the necks only take 10-12. Remove them, then finish baking bodies. The swan bodies are elongated teardrops. Cut off the top third after baking, fill, cut the top in half and use each half as a wing, and plant the question-mark-shaped neck in the front.
From top to bottom: Rustic chou shape, pastry-bag piped rounds, swan bodies and necks
The baked results. See the difference between the mounds and the piped dough.
Sliced open and with fillings. Profiteroles do not have to be desserts. There is no sugar in the dough. I used it here with tuna salad. You can make large ones and put stew or chicken a la King in it. I recommend only using thick sauces, though. Thin ones will absorb too fast and make it soggy.
For dessert fillings, you can used whipped cream, pudding, jam, or get adventurous and make various flavors of pastry cream. Powdered sugar or a swirl of chocolate make decorative toppings. The Bible has a really cool idea of making a ring of touching cream puffs. You slice the whole top off and fill it, put it back on, ice with a chocolate glaze, and fill the center with strawberries. No surprise, this is the photo on the cover.
Difficulty rating :)