Airy, fairly giant savoury choux buns with smoked salmon and the lightest filling of crème fraîche, grated apple and lemon - without the cream cheese. An elegant way to serve smoked salmon as a dinner party starter or appetizer - or as canapés for parties.
Why are they Called Choux Buns?
It was Catherine de Medicis who brought choux pastry to France, thanks to her Italian chef, Popelini in 1540. Since celebrity chef, Antonin Carême made it popular at the end of the 18th century, it's a French signature in patisserie known as pâte a choux (pronounced: 'pat-a-shoe). So, why choux? It's the way the dough is prepared.
Not to be confused with cabbages (choux), the name refers to the dough being cooked over the stove. Water, milk and butter are first heated together then flour is whisked in to form the dough or pâte. It's then dried over the heat to create the hot dough or pâte à chaud.
Say it quickly and you can see why it stuck with Carême: pâte à chaud ('pat-a-show') turned into pâte à choux or choux pastry: buns or puffs.
What is the Difference Between Choux Buns and Profiteroles?
Normally choux buns and profiteroles are served sweet and so a savoury version is not that different without any sugar in the dough. As both are made with the same choux pastry, their difference - if any - is how they're served.
It helps to turn to history, as Carême modernised choux buns (choux à la crème) to create profiteroles: filled smaller buns with pastry cream (later ice cream) and chocolate sauce. I can't imagine profiteroles as anything other than served this way.
Choux buns cover the umbrella of using this dough and can be made into small bite-sized sweet or savoury puffs - to medium to giant sized versions.
What Does Choux Pastry Taste Like?
Choux have a mild soufflée, slightly eggy taste and it's rare to serve them completely on their own except for mini sweet chouquettes topped with pearl sugar (recipe in my 'Teatime in Paris' book in the choux-time chapter). What makes choux so irresistible is their light and crispy texture, making it delicious filled with sweet or savoury fillings.
In this recipe, the addition of poppy seeds just adds a subtle flavour that goes well with the salmon and the subtly spiced/herby cream with a tart, grated apple.
For savoury, it's gougères with added cheese, a speciality seen everywhere in Dijon, Bourgogne - but for this recipe, it's simply without cheese.
How to Make Savoury Choux Pastry - Easy Recipe
Either make large choux buns (as indicated in the recipe) for a dinner party starter. Alternatively, prepare smaller bite-sized portions for a party - in which case will make about 18 mini choux.
First melt the water, milk, salt and cubed butter in a saucepan over medium heat. As soon as boiling, turn down the heat and add the flour and poppy seeds. Beat in to the liquid with a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula until smoothly blended and the dough comes away naturally from the sides of the pan.
Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and leave to cool for about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the first egg until the batter is smooth, then the 2nd egg. Don't worry if it looks gloopy and broken at this stage. Continue mixing strongly until well blended and air is incorporated into the thick dough.
Either spoon out large heaps on to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silicone mat. Even better, pipe out the batter with a large, plain tip into 6 even mounds, leaving each well spaced apart.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until a deep golden brown. Don't open the oven door until you are sure they look cooked.
Leave the choux buns to cool on a wire rack. Nearer the time when ready to serve, fill the buns with the cream filling, top with the smoked salmon and serve with the horseradish and apple cream sauce. During the season, add a few raw fresh peas.
What is the Secret to Choux Pastry? My Top Tips
How do you stop choux buns from going soggy? How best do you store and freeze them? Here are my top tips to best enjoy choux pastry for this recipe:
- My top tip: cook choux pastry long enough in the oven. Don't open that door to check if they are done either. Both mistakes are asking for them to collapse! So just check on them from the oven door and wait until they look a good golden brown. Then they're ready.
- Although choux puffs can be kept in aluminium foil until next day or frozen, it's best to prepare them in small quantities and enjoy them fresh on the day of baking.
- They are, however, great to prepare in advance earlier in the day for a dinner party but don't fill them until nearer eating time otherwise they will go so soggy.
How to Serve
Serve with extra fresh aromatic herbs such as dill or chives. For a smoked salmon starter, serve with a chilled white Chardonnay wine (e.g. Chablis), a more mineral Sauvignon blanc or Pinot Grigio.
Savoury Choux Buns with Smoked Salmon
- 75 g (2.5fl oz/ ⅓ cup) water
- 50 g (1¾ fl oz/ ¼ cup) whole milk
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel Celtic sea salt
- 45 g (1½oz/ 3 tbsp) butter cut into small cubes
- 75 g (½ cup + 1 tbsp) flour (all-purpose) T55
- 2 large eggs organic
- ½ teaspoon poppy seeds
- 100 g (2 slices) smoked salmon cut into 6 equal slices
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill or chives to serve
- Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/360°F/Gas4.Heat the water, milk, butter and salt in a saucepan. As soon as the butter has melted and liquid boiling (after about 5 minutes), turn down the heat and add the flour. Using a wooden spoon or sturdy spatula, beat the flour into the liquid until smoothly blended and the dough comes away naturally from the sides of the pan.
- Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and leave to cool for about 5 minutes. Gradually beat in the first egg until the batter is smooth, then the 2nd egg. Don't worry if it looks gloopy and broken at this stage. Continue mixing strongly until well blended and air is incorporated into the thick dough. Mix in the poppy seeds.
- Either spoon out large heaps on to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silicone mat. Even better, pipe out the batter with a large, plain tip into 6 even mounds, leaving each well spaced apart.
- Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until a deep golden brown. Don't open the oven door until you are sure they look cooked.
- Leave the choux buns to cool on a wire rack. Nearer the time when ready to serve, cut the tops off and fill each of the buns with the cream filling (recipe below) and the smoked salmon. Place on the choux tops and serve.
Apple and Horseradish Sauce
- 1 tart apple organic (e.g. Granny Smith, Braeburn)
- 1-2 tablespoon cream of horseradish sauce (see variations below)
- 1 lemon, juice only
- 1 tablespoon dill chopped
- 120 ml (4oz) small tub low fat crème fraîche 15% fat
- 1 beetroot (or radishes/lamb's lettuce) finely sliced, to serve (optional)
- Grate the apple then quickly add the lemon juice so that it won’t turn brown.
- Mix in the other ingredients and season to taste.