Choux Pastry with Emelia Jackson

Want to make the best choux pastry recipe Australia has to offer? Learn baking tips from MasterChef Emelia Jackson herself and create superb desserts at home.

Creativity 7 min read Jun 15, 2022
Choux Pastry with Emelia Jackson

Ah choux pastry, that amazing mix between bread and dough….except it’s not. It is, in fact, a delicious dumpling made from a fundamental ingredient that might surprise you: WATER!

This is one of the first tips that MasterChef Emelia Jackson would give any aspiring pastry chef who wants to master the art of choux: Use water, not milk! She explains why:

The reason I don’t use milk is because, when the choux pastries puff in the oven, the pure water gives you more steam and they puff more evenly, and you get a larger cavity through the middle.

As any foodie reality TV knows, Emelia singlehandedly popularised this now popular dessert during her stint on the cooking show – first in 2014 (where she finished in third place) and then again in 2020, as winner of MasterChef Australia: Back to Win.

In this article, Emelia shares some common mistakes to avoid in making the dough (the most important part of the process!), plus a list of delicious desserts you can make at home.

How is Choux Pastry Made?

Choux pastry is a popular French treat and a must-learn for every dessert chef. Also known as pate a choux, it is a light and airy pastry that is perfect for making cream puffs, eclairs, and other desserts. The ingredients you’ll need for making choux pastry are simple and inexpensive, and it is so easy to make!

It all starts with a small ball of dough in a pot of boiling water, which creates steam inside the dough, causing it to rise. Once removed from the water, the dough is folded into itself repeatedly, to create the shape of the pastry and turn it into beautiful eclairs, cream puffs, and Napoleon pastries. Too easy! Emelia has taught this process to thousands of aspiring pastry chefs in her choux making classes.

7 Common Mistakes in Making Choux Pastry

While choux pastry is one of the easiest and most versatile pastries to create, it’s also easy to make small errors to ruin your recipe. Here’s some advice from Emelia on how to avoid the most common mistakes when making choux pastry:

Over-mixing the dough

Over-mixing your ingredients can cause the dough to be too sticky and affect the way they bake. When baking, we want our pastries to rise up nicely and have a nice shape on top. Try not to add too much flour or mix it too much during this process, or else our pastries will look flat on top instead of tall and fluffy like we want them to be.

Using low-quality butter

Butter is one of the main ingredients in choux pastry, so you want it to be as fresh as possible, thus making sure that your pastry will puff and rise properly when it goes into the oven.

If you’re new to choux, you might be tempted to put in more butter than the recipe suggests. You should know that too much butter will turn your choux dense, greasy and hard to work with, resulting in a greasy, heavy-tasting dough that will not rise well when cooked. The best way to avoid this is to measure out exactly how much butter you need for your recipe and then add it into the dry ingredients before adding any liquid.

Not using enough eggs

Novice bakers might think that adding more eggs to the dough will strengthen it so it holds its shape better during baking. Not true! The more eggs you add to your choux pastry recipe, the greater likelihood there is that it will end up being too moist and break apart once you try to shape it.

Extra tip: Beat your eggs well before adding them to your dough mixture. If there are any lumps or pieces of egg shell left in the bowl, you’ll end up with a lumpy batter that won’t rise properly or form any hollows when baked.

Not incorporating enough flour into the dough

If your dough doesn’t seem stiff enough after you’ve added all of your ingredients together, add more flour until it becomes firm enough so that it won’t stick to your hands when you’re forming it into different shapes.

Making the dough too wet

When you’re making choux pastry, you should add all of your liquid at once and then mix everything together until it becomes smooth. The key to creating successful choux pastry is to carefully monitor the moisture content.

If you add too much liquid or don’t cook off enough liquid during the mixture’s initial stages, your dough will become too thin and watery; this makes it difficult for the dough to become light and airy when baked in the oven.

Not cooking it long enough

Choux pastry needs to be cooked at a high temperature for several minutes so that the steam builds up inside of it. If you don’t cook your choux pastry long enough, it won’t have time to puff up or form a nice crispy crust on its exterior.

Filling too soon

Choux pastry needs time to set before you add more filling or glaze onto it. Otherwise, the moisture from the filling will make your dough soggy instead of crispy. Add your filling only after about 20 minutes of baking time so that it’ll have enough time to set properly before serving.

6 Choux Pastry Desserts to Try

Ready to give choux pastry a go? Because it is relatively simple to make and does not require many ingredients, it is a great dessert base to work with and customise into assorted French desserts, from cream puffs to profiteroles.

Cream puffs

Cream puffs are light, fluffy, and sweet balls of dough baked until golden brown and then filled with whipped cream, caramel sauce, or custard, and then topped with chocolate glaze or other toppings.

There are many ways to make cream puffs. If you’re a chocolate lover, just fill your pastry with chocolate ganache and top with whipped cream or ice cream for an indulgent treat! If you want a bit of tart in your dessert, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries plus some vanilla add a lovely freshness to cream puff shells. For a special touch, try making vanilla bean pastry cream instead of whipped cream. Yummers.

You may also see cream puffs filled with savory ingredients like ham or spinach, instead of sweet fillings like custard or whipped cream. These savories are called gougères.


The word eclair is French for lightning, and it’s not hard to see why this pastry got its name. Eclairs are similar to cream puffs, except that they’re piped into long cylinders instead of round balls and then baked until golden brown on both sides (or sometimes just one side).

The main difference is that instead of a whipped cream, custard, or chocolate ganache filling, eclairs are filled with pastry cream (a mixture of egg yolks, sugar and milk), which makes them quite rich and sweet. Of course, if you like, you can also use fruit fillings such as raspberry jam or apple compote.

The key to making eclair pastry is getting the right ratio of flour to eggs. Too much flour will make your dough tough and dry, but too little will result in soggy pastries with no structure at all!


The history of this dessert is unclear. Some claim it is named after the French emperor, while others say it comes from the French word for “little nest” (because it resembles a nest with little eggs in it).

A light and hollow pastry, a Napoleon is an individual-sized pastry piped in the shape of a log and then baked or deep-fried. It’s then filled with ice cream, pastry cream, or whipped cream and then served with caramel sauce, fruit, or chocolate ganache. There are many variations on the classic recipe, but they all share the same light and crispy texture.


Profiteroles are basically a pastry shell filled with whipped cream, ice cream, or custard. Profiteroles are a lot like cream puffs and eclairs, the main difference being the topping used. Profiteroles don’t have the layer of glaze that eclairs do, instead, they are topped with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, jam or fruit coulis.

Profiteroles also have a more doughy filling than eclairs (which have more pastry and less filling) and cream puffs (which have no filling at all!)

Paris Brest

Paris Brest is filled with praline flavoured cream and topped with caramelised almonds. Shaped like a ring, it consists of four parts: the choux pastry shell, a buttercream filling (which is vanilla flavored whipped cream mixed with butter and sugar ), a praline paste (or ground toasted hazelnuts mixed with brown sugar, melted butter and egg white), and lastly, almonds or other nuts to taste.

The buttercream filling is piped into the centre of each piece of choux pastry. Praline paste is piped into the centre of each piece of choux pastry and topped with caramelised almonds. The Paris Brest is then chilled and served cold.


Religieuses are hollowed out choux pastries filled with custard or crème pâtissière. They’re usually decorated with piped cream, icing, or chocolate.

Making religieuses is very similar to making eclairs or profiteroles but they require more time because they have to be baked twice before being filled and iced. Once baked, the choux pastry must be cooled completely before being filled; this allows it to set up so that it doesn’t collapse when you fill it with cream and jam.

Fun fact: The name “religieuse” comes from the fact that the pastry looks like a nun’s headdress (or wimple). They were originally created in France and have a more serious religious connection: They first appeared on Sundays during Lent when many Catholics would abstain from eating meat. Today, however, they’re popular all year round and are often sold at bakeries and cafés all around Paris.

Some final advice from MasterChef Emelia:

Choux pastry is a very easy pastry recipe to make, but it’s also one that benefits from care and attention while cooking. Don’t be discouraged if, in the beginning, your desserts turn out less than perfect or slightly misshapen. It happens! Just follow your recipes closely and remember the tips here for making choux pastry. Keep at it and you’ll have delicious desserts to share with your friends and family in no time.

As we’ve seen, choux pastry has many uses, but all are based on two things – dough and water – the rest is open to your creativity. It is so versatile that you can replace the filling and topping with whatever suits your special occasions or really, anything your taste buds might be in the mood for. It’s sure to become one of your go-to recipes!

Ready to kick off some choux? Save your spot in one of Emelia Jackson’s upcoming classes and learn how to bake your own delicate, deliciously decadent desserts!

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