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Tonight I was playing around with pate a choux for the first time, and was delighted by it, splitting the batch between Parisian gnocchi and funnel cake.

However, I couldn't resist sneaking small samples throughout the process, as is my habit. In particular I was interested in the step before the eggs were added. Essentially, it was just a mixture of water, butter, and salt with flour mixed in until it thickened.

I've looked around for any references to this dough as its own creature, but have not found any. Is there a name for it, ideally so that I can find even more ways to use it?

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2 Answers 2

First, I wouldn't call it a roux. There is a difference in flour gelation when the flour is presoaked in fat (as in roux) and directly mixed with water (as in pate a choux). The butter in pate a choux doesn't coat the flour first the way it does for a roux. Plus, a roux is prepared with way more liquid.

As for a proper name of this kind of dough, I don't think there is one - for the simple reason that nobody has a proper use for it. I mean, you don't give a name to every stage of the mixture when preparing a batter, so why should you do it for pate a choux?

This is what McGee has to say on pate a choux. Note that the eggs are important for both texture (the "richness of yolks" smooths it, probably more due to the lecithine than the fat) and structure (egg whites trap the air pockets). So why should anybody ever make it without the eggs? And if it isn't used as anything but a prestage of pate a choux, why give it a name?

McGee scan

As for the uses of pate a choux, Ruhlman gives a fairly comprehensive list in Ratio. It mentions

  • cream puffs/éclairs
  • profiteroles
  • gougéres
  • parisienne gnocchi
  • pets de nonne, beignets
  • churros, funnel cake
  • panade for pâtés
  • pommes dauphine
  • binder for potato pancakes
  • Gnocchi à la Romaine (made with durum semolina)
  • "There's no end to what you can do with this stuff."
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Not sure if there is a specific name for it... I call it a roux.

And, about other things to do with it... well you did not mention the obvious Éclairs au chocolat and profiteroles

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