A recipe for perfectly light, crisp, hollow gluten free Choux pastry + gluten free eclairs. Filled with whipped cream and slathered with rich dark chocolate ganache. They are a perfect indulgent treat for Coeliacs and gluten-avoiders and can be made dairy free too.
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Gluten Free Choux Pastry + Gluten Free Eclairs – A Much Needed Recipe
This recipe for gluten free Choux pastry + gluten free eclairs is a family favourite. It was first developed for my daughter and myself back in about 2013, after we received a positive Coeliac diagnosis. Chocolate eclairs and profiteroles were one of our most missed indulgent treats. And it seems we were not alone.
Having recently put a feeler out on social media to see whether anyone else might be interested in our family recipe, I was quite overwhelmed by the positive response. I spent the next two days testing my recipe with an alternative flour blend and also dairy free, to be sure it would work for everyone who wanted it.
It is now ready to share (and I am the size of a small house) having checked its credentials for the outside world.
What is Choux Pastry?
Pronounced ‘shoe’ pastry, Choux is a pastry dough which originated in France in 1540. First created by the head chef of Catherine de Medici (a man of the name Panterelli), it was later perfected by Antoine Carême in the 19th Century.
Pâte à choux translated means ‘cabbage paste’. Of course, it has nothing to do with cabbages at all. But because it looks like crinkly cabbage balls when baked into puffs, the name stuck.
Whatever you call it, traditional Choux paste contains only 4 simple ingredients. These are flour, butter, water and eggs. But magic comes from the processes used to effectively twice cook it. The first ‘cook’ happens in the saucepan with heat and liquid enabling starch in the flour to develop, expand, gelatinize and thicken (for structure). The second ‘bake’ takes the moisture in the Choux paste and rapidly changes it into steam (no other leavening agent required), forcing the paste to rise and expand into a hollow case with a crisp outer shell.
And that is how Choux pastry should be. Whether shaped into puffs, eclairs or profiteroles, it should be light, hollow, crisp and fillable.
On its own however, baked Choux pastry is fairly non-descript and quite bland. Its decadence and deliciousness comes from being filled and coated with any number of sweet and savoury creamy additions. A marriage of texture and heavenly sumptuousness.
How do you make Choux Pastry gluten free?
Even in its glutenous form, Choux has a reputation for being difficult to make. It really isn’t! But it may require a few tries to become familiar with what it should look like and feel like at each stage of the process. The confidence that comes with experience cannot be underestimated, particularly if its reputation scares you.
When I first developed the recipe for gluten free Choux pastry + gluten free eclairs there were (of course) a couple of ‘fails’. Making the transition from flour that contains structure-giving gluten to an alternative gluten free blend was going to require a tweak or two.
Traditional Choux – Don’t break what works
My recipe for gluten free eclairs is totally based on the one my Mum used (and her Mum before her) for 100 years between them. The only difference is that it has been carefully ‘de-glutened’.
I am often bemused by gluten free Choux recipes I find on the internet. Some add sugar, some use milk, some ‘egg-wash’ the buns before baking and I’ve even found one recipe which added pectin! None of this is necessary.
Worst of all are recipes that use self-raising flour or add baking powder! Why oh why? Choux pastry should absolutely rely on steam to make it rise. If it needs baking powder, the recipe is not right and the texture will be wrong. End of.
The recipe that you will find here uses traditional Choux wisdom. The levels of fat, water and eggs alongside the blend of gluten free flours are carefully balanced to make sure these gluten free eclairs, profiteroles and buns rival their glutenous counterparts. Make them well and you will not know the difference.
Top tips for making the best gluten free Choux pastry + gluten free eclairs
1. What Flour Should I Use?
I believe that the success of this Choux pastry is partly down to the balance of the specific flour blend used alongside the other ingredients. Blending my own gluten free flours is something I have always done to ensure the best and most authentic quality of bakes… particularly when trying to replicate a favourite gluten memory. Although commercial flour blends have improved, I still find them to be very varied in results, texture and nutritional quality. The fact that I can make successful Choux with my own flour blend is testament to it being a great blend. Indeed, it remains the best flour mix to ensure consistency, a crisp outside and a hollow centre for these Choux cases. So I apologise if you are reading this thinking ‘I really don’t want to mix my own flour’.
By all means make this Choux pastry recipe with other gluten free flour blends that you are familiar with. There is no reason why they categorically can’t work, but you may need to experiment with ratios if you are unhappy with the results.
Having said this and because so many of you wanted a good recipe for gluten free Choux pastry + eclairs, I have tested it with Doves/Freee plain white flour blend (a popular commercial partly rice-based mix). Whilst it required a further ½ to ¾ tablespoon egg white to reach a good pipable paste consistency, it nonetheless rose well and had a crisp shell. The centre was not quite as hollow or dry as with my own blend, but it was nonetheless a good result.
2. Do I need to use Xanthan gum for gluten free Choux?
The simple answer is yes. This is a recipe which relies on the structure that it brings to avoid a crumbly mess and I would be reluctant to ditch it. It is possible that you could substitute for ground psyllium husk if you are unable to tolerate Xanthan gum, but it is not a switch I have tested.
Bear in mind that If you choose to use an alternative flour blend that already contains Xanthan gum, you should not need to add it to the mix for this recipe.
3. When making Choux pastry, egg size is important
The use of eggs in Choux paste is important to both the texture and structure of the final Choux pastry. And size matters! This Gluten Free Alchemist recipe uses large eggs which (for each egg) weigh 65 to 70g in the shell or cracked… for each white + yolk : 58-60g.
If you are unsure whether your eggs are too small or too large, weigh them. And if you use a different flour blend, know that you may need to add a little extra as explained in the recipe below. Ultimately, you only want to add as much egg as your paste will hold. Too much and the paste will be too wet and it will collapse. Too little and it will be too dry.
4. Boil your fat and water before adding the flour
Part of the science in Choux baking is the need to cook the flour before it goes into the oven. This is done by making sure you thoroughly beat it into the boiling water-fat mixture before adding the eggs. It is therefore crucial that you bring your liquid to a full rolling boil and add and beat the flour without delay and before the liquid and pan have any time to cool.
It is also important to use a good, solid non-stick saucepan, whatever its size. Whether I am making a large or small batch of Choux, I make sure that I use a good pan that I can trust.
5. Should I mix Choux paste by hand or electric beaters?
I have always made Choux by hand. And it has never failed me yet. But it does require some ‘welly’. The beating process (at both stages) is important not only in combining the ingredients into a smooth paste, but in supporting the development of layers of gas which help in the rise.
If the required arm strength is not for you, then by all means use a sturdy stand or hand beater. It should only be needed (if at all) at the egg-beating stage in order to get a smooth and silky paste. You may however, need to spend time scraping the very sticky mixture from the beaters at the end.
6. Make sure you cool your flour-dough before adding your egg
This is really really important. You do not want to cook your eggs at all before they go into the oven. If you try adding them too early when the pan is still hot, there is every chance you will end up with scrambled egg. And that is not good!
7. Make sure your oven is hot
If you look around the internet, you will find various views on how to bake your Choux pastry. Some recipes suggest using only one temperature. And some suggest three temperature changes during cooking. Who knows what is right and what is wrong…
For this recipe, I will use the wisdom passed down from my mother and grandmother. It is what has always worked for us… Start with your oven hot (at 220 C/425 F/Gas 7) to make sure the moisture quickly turns to steam and pushes up the paste before it has time to cook and ‘set’. Then turn the oven down (to 150 C/300 F/Gas 2) to help the pastry dry and crisp. Simple and also logical.
Alongside this wisdom comes another important rule however. Do NOT open the oven door until the first (hot) stage of baking is complete. If you do, the oven temperature will drop too quickly, the steam will escape and your buns will collapse.
Equally, if (at the end of the cooking time), you feel the pastry needs a bit more crisping, just leave it for a couple of extra minutes at the lower oven temperature.
8. Let the steam out of your baked buns
Also important if you don’t want soggy buns, is to let the steam out once baked. Do this as soon as they are out of the oven… Poke a hole or small slit into each pastry case and leave to cool. Some people recommend popping the buns back in the oven at this stage to completely dry. But I have never found it necessary.
And of course… be sure to let your Choux pastry cases go completely cold before you fill them.
What should I fill my eclairs with?
Traditionally, Chocolate Eclairs are filled with whipped cream and topped with chocolate. The recipe I have given you follows that tradition… filled with whipped vanilla cream and slathered in luxurious dark chocolate ganache.
Whilst you could just top your gluten free eclairs with melted chocolate, I always think it is too hard and somehow takes away from the decadent experience of eating them. And since making ganache is so easy, it seems little extra effort for a superior dessert.
If you prefer however, you could opt to fill your eclairs with a sumptuous Crème Pâtissière. Or alternatively cut the Choux cases in half and pack with ice cream (my favourite is a Baileys Ice Cream filling), or whipped Peanut Butter Mousse. They may not need any topping at all!
Can I make Gluten Free Eclairs that are also Dairy Free?
Yes! For my dairy free friends out there, I have tested this gluten free Choux pastry recipe using dairy free ‘butter’. It’s all good and the recipe works as expected. Just make sure you bring your fat and water to a full boil before adding the flour.
For the best dairy free eclair fillings use either whipped coconut cream, or make dairy free Crème Pâtissière with dairy free milk. You could even fill them with some deliciously chocolatey Chocolate-Avocado Mousse… Yum! To make a dairy free ganache, replace the double cream with coconut milk from a shaken can. Dependent on the thickness of your coconut milk, you may also need to add a little more chocolate.
CAN I MAKE GLUTEN FREE ECLAIRS THAT ARE Vegan?
Sorry guys. This is one recipe that I have not tried and doubt its success without eggs. But I am sure there are some Vegan wizards out there in cyberspace that have managed it. If you choose to go on a search, let me know what you find!
Can I make Savoury gluten free Choux pastry + gluten free savoury buns?
Absolutely. As I have followed a traditional recipe, there is no sugar added to the pastry base. That means you can fill them with anything you like. And that includes delicious savoury options like whipped cream cheese mixed with smoked salmon, savoury mousses or even patés.
Or why not go all out and try making some gluten free Gougeres… also known as little cheesy Choux buns. Delicious!
Can I freeze gluten free Choux Pastry?
I certainly have, so again the answer is yes. Although you can freeze the whole cream-filled eclair (I would leave the ganache until ready to eat), it is better to freeze the Choux cases while still empty. I always put them in a solid air-tight container first (to prevent them getting crushed). When you are ready to use them, defrost and refresh unfilled cases in a coolish oven for a few minutes, to help them re-crisp.
As with all Choux pastry (gluten free or not), once the buns have been filled and stored in an airtight container, they will inevitably lose any crunch from the shell. Although they will still be delicious, if you want them at their best, fill and eat them the same day.
Made this recipe for gluten free Choux Pastry + gluten free Eclairs?
So there you have it… the Gluten Free Alchemist recipe for gluten free Choux pastry + gluten free eclairs, with (hopefully) some helpful top tips and advice to help you achieve light and crisp gluten free Choux perfection.
If you do make them, I’d love to know how you got on. Leave a comment below or Take a photo and tag me on social media (Facebook; Instagram; Twitter). And if you like what you make, I’d love it if you could share with your friends and leave a recipe rating. Thank you x
What I use to make gluten free Choux pastry (AD) :
Gluten Free Choux Pastry + Gluten Free Chocolate Eclairs
- Kitchen scales
- small bowl
- small to medium non-stick saucepan
- oven + hob
- silicone or wooden mixing spoon
- baking trays
- baking paper
- piping bag(s) (& 1 to 1.5 cm open round nozzle or scissors) – I use disposable bags
- skewer/small sharp knife
- large mixing bowl
- glass heat-proof bowl
gluten free Choux Paste
- 65 g plain gluten free flour blend (Gluten Free Alchemist Mix A – see link below/glutenfreealchemist.com) Also tested with Doves/Freee plain GF white flour – SEE NOTES BELOW
- 1 tsp xanthan gum SEE NOTES BELOW
- 50 g unsalted butter or dairy free butter (firm)
- 175 ml/g water This is better weighed in grams for accuracy. 1 ml = 1 gram
- 2 large eggs each egg weight in shell is 65-70g or weight of each yolk + white = 58-60g
- pinch fine sea salt
Whipped Cream Filling
- 300 ml double cream SEE NOTES BELOW for dairy free filling
- 1 tbsp icing (powdered) sugar
- ½ tsp vanilla bean powder or paste optional
- 150 g dark chocolate – chopped dairy free if required
- 130 g/ml double cream (1 ml = 1 g) or liquid coconut cream
- Weigh and mix the flour, xanthan gum & a pinch of salt into a bowl. Set aside.
- Weigh the butter straight into a small to medium non-stick saucepan and melt over a low heat.
- Once the butter has melted, add the water and bring to a full boil.
- Remove from the heat, IMMEDIATELY add the flour mix and beat vigorously with a wooden/silicone spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. This requires some 'elbow-grease'. The mixture will start to look a little 'scrambled', but will then clump into a ball. Keep beating until even and smooth.
- Allow the mixture and pan to cool until about hand-warm. This is important to avoid cooking the egg when you add it.
- While cooling, pre-heat the oven to 220 C/425 F/Gas 7. Base line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.
- While the mixture is cooling, break the eggs into a small bowl and beat well with a fork.
- Once the mixture has cooled, add the beaten egg a little at a time. Beat vigorously with a firm wooden/silicone spoon between each addition. The mixture will initially look like it won't amalgamate, but persevere until it thoroughly combines. Repeat this process until all the egg has been added and then beat for a couple of minutes more to ensure the paste is smooth and even. The texture should be silky and sticky so that it sticks to the sides of the pan. It almost wants to drop off the spoon, but is struggling to do so. If it drops off easily, it is too dry and needs perhaps half a tablespoon more egg/egg white.
- Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with either a 1 to 1.5 cm open round nozzle, or simply cut the end to about the same size.
- Pipe the mixture onto the lined baking trays leaving a gap between each for expansion. Pipe into sausage shapes about 10 cm/4 inches long for eclairs (or if you want profiteroles, small walnut-sized balls or for Choux buns, larger balls).
- Bake for 20 minutes in the pre-heated oven. Do NOT open the oven door during this stage.
- After 20 minutes, turn the oven down to 150 C/300 F/Gas 2 (open the oven door for a few seconds to allow a little heat to escape) and bake for a further 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown, hollow, crisp and firm on the outside. If not crisp and firm, leave in the oven for a couple of minutes more.
- Remove from the oven and make a small hole or slit in the side, end or base of each Choux case (using a skewer or small sharp knife) to allow the steam to escape. Allow to cool COMPLETELY on the trays.
Whipped Cream Filling
- Put the cream, icing sugar and vanilla powder/paste in a large bowl.
- Whisk together until the cream starts to thicken and hold its shape as soft peaks. Be careful not to over-whisk or your cream will start to curdle.
- Transfer the cream into a piping bag with a 1 cm round nozzle.
- Use the hole point that you made earlier to insert the piping nozzle. Fill each Choux case with cream. Set aside.
- Weigh your chopped chocolate into a medium sized heat-proof glass bowl and set aside.
- Pour the cream into a small saucepan and heat on the hob over a low heat. Once the cream is just beginning to simmer remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. (Watch carefully as you do NOT want your cream to boil. Remove from the hob as soon as the edges start to simmer.)
- Let the chocolate and cream stand for a couple of minutes and then stir until all the chocolate has melted and you have an even chocolate ganache liquid. (If you have any remaining chocolate pieces that haven't melted, give a quick 10 second burst in the microwave and stir again).
- Leave the ganache to cool, stirring intermittently until it has reached a thickish dipping consistency.
- Dip the top of each of the filled Choux eclairs/buns into the ganache (or spoon and spread over each) and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper to set. Place in the fridge to stay cool while they set.