If you’re afraid of making choux pastry – the classic buns used for profiteroles and éclairs – don't be; it's simple.
But if you can make shortcrust pastry, then you can easily beat together a batch of glorious choux.
Cooked choux pastry is light, crisp and airy, which is achieved when its large water content turns to steam in a hot oven. It’s a simple case of beating the mixture to a smooth paste, then piping or shaping and baking. Once cooked, it’s important to prick the base of each one to release the steam that has helped it to rise. If left to go cold unpunctured, the steam turns back to water resulting in soft or soggy buns.
This recipe will make about 25 éclairs, 16 buns or 30 mini buns.
1. You will need: 150g plain flour, 1 teaspoon each sugar and salt, 100g unsalted butter and 4 eggs. Sieve the flour, sugar and salt onto greaseproof paper. Put the butter and 250ml cold water into a saucepan. Bring to the boil, then quickly slide the flour mixture off the paper and into the pan. Stir well.
2. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture off the heat until it forms a ball and pulls away cleanly from the sides of the pan. This should take just a few minutes.
3. Beat the eggs together in a bowl. Still off the heat, beat the eggs into the mixture, a little at a time, until smooth. At first, the egg will seem like it doesn’t want to amalgamate, but keep beating and it will mix in smoothly.
4. You may find it easier to hold the pan in one hand and beat the mixture with a wooden spoon in the other. Keep beating until all the egg mixture is used up and you have a paste that is thick and shiny. The mixture should drop off the spoon when tapped lightly on the side of the pan.
5. Pipe or spoon the mixture onto a greased baking tray. For little buns, spoon the mixture into a large piping bag fitted with a plain 1cm nozzle and pipe small mounds on the tray; for éclairs, pipe fingers; for large buns, use 2 dessert spoons to shape the mixture onto the tray.
6. Bake at 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6 (for éclairs or mini buns, cook for 20-25 minutes; for buns cook for 30-35 minutes) until golden brown. Remove from the oven and make a small hole in the underside of each bun to release any steam. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.