Pâte à choux is the stuff of magic in the kitchen. Pipe soft, sticky dough onto a baking sheet and slide it into a hot oven. In just minutes, the dough puffs up to double, even triple, its original size right before your eyes. Out of the oven, choux pastry cools to a golden-brown shell, crisp yet delicate and lighter than air. It’s downright mesmerizing.Maybe you’ve never heard of pâte à choux, but you’ve no doubt savored it at one time or another. Also known as cream puff dough, it’s the magic behind crisp éclair shells and towering cream puff pastries and profiteroles.The best thing about it? Choux pastry is very simple to make. All it takes is butter, water (or milk), flour and eggs – and perhaps a touch of sugar and salt – to get you started.Maya Revivo, head pastry chef at the Dan Gourmet Culinary Center, gave us a few of her ideas for using this magic pastry.BASIC RECIPE FOR ECLAIRSMakes about 20 ✔ 125 ml. water (½ cup + 1 tsp.) ✔ 125 ml. milk (½ cup + 1 tsp.) ✔ 2 tsp. sugar ✔ 1 tsp. salt✔ 100 gr. butter (or margarine) ✔ 150 gr. flour (1 cup + 1 heaping Tbsp.), sifted ✔ 4 large eggs Combine water, milk, butter, sugar and salt in a pot or saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then add the sifted flour.Stir the mixture quickly – this part of the recipe does require some elbow grease – to evenly combine the ingredients and hydrate the flour. If you move too slowly, the flour will cook up in lumps, like dumplings. Stir the mixture for just a few minutes over low heat to cook out any extra moisture and develop the gluten needed for good structure. As it’s stirred, the mixture will come together in a single mass, and you’ll notice a thin film forming on the bottom of the pan.At this point, add the eggs.Transfer the mass to a mixer (or food processor) and wait until it reaches room temperature. Using the kneading arm, add 1 egg at a time, mixing until pastry is elastic but not too dry or too wet. The rule of thumb is to add only 3 eggs. Test the texture and only add the last egg, or part of it, if needed.Using a pastry bag with a rugged number (12 to 14) tip, pipe 10-cm. éclairs on a lined baking sheet.Preheat oven to 200°. Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 170°. Bake for 25 minutes. Do not open the oven for the first 15 minutes. After 15 to 20 minutes, open the oven door for 30 seconds to let the steam out and continue to bake until golden-brown.SMOKED SALMON AND APPLE ECLAIRS ✔ 150 to 200 gr. smoked salmon, sliced into 2.5-cm. pieces ✔ 1 green apple ✔ 3 Tbsp. chives, chopped ✔ 150 gr. cream cheese ✔ Zest of ½ lemon ✔ Juice of ½ lemon ✔ Pinch each sea salt, freshly ground pepper In a bowl, mix the cream cheese with 2 Tbsp. chives.Core the apple and cut into cubes. Drizzle the lemon juice over the apples. Make sure all the cubes are coated with the juice.Cut the éclairs in half lengthwise. Using a pastry bag, pipe the cream cheese on the éclairs. Or use a butter knife.In a bowl, mix together the salmon, apple cubes, lemon zest and 1 Tbsp.chopped chives.Divide the salmon and apple pieces among the éclairs. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.SAVORY TOMATO AND MOZZARELLA ÉCLAIR ✔ 150 gr. baby mozzarella (preferably buffalo) ✔ 400 gr. cherry tomato (yellow and red) ✔ Handful fresh basil leaves ✔ Olive oil ✔ Salt and freshly ground pepper Cut the tomatoes into quarters and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper.Cut the éclairs in half lengthwise. Arrange the tomato and mozzarella salad on each éclair and garnish with basil. Serve immediately. If left to wait, the éclairs become moist.CHESTNUT AND BRANDY FILLING ✔ 2 egg yolks ✔ 4 gr. cornstarch (about 1¹⁄3 tsp.) ✔ ½ cup + 1 Tbsp. milk ✔ 220 gr. chestnut paste ✔ 155 gr. soft butter ✔ 10 gr. cognac ✔ 5 sugared chestnuts (garnish) For the glaze ✔ 250 gr. nappage (glazing ingredient available at specialty baking stores) ✔ 90 gr. milk chocolate, melted ✔ 15 gr. chestnut paste Whip egg yolks and cornstarch. Heat milk and mix with egg yolks. Return to the stove and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and mix with the chestnut mixture. Add the cognac and mix well.Cut the éclairs in half lengthwise. Transfer the filling to a pastry bag and fill the éclairs.Glaze the éclairs and garnish with sugared chestnuts.To make the glaze: In a small pot, heat the nappage with the chestnut paste. Add the melted chocolate and mix well.Glaze the éclairs and garnish with sugared chestnuts.ESPRESSO AND LEMON CREAM FILLING ✔ 450 gr. milk ✔ 6 egg yolks ✔ 60 gr. sugar✔ ½ stick vanilla ✔ 50 gr. espresso (or 2 Tbsp. strong instant coffee) ✔ 35 gr. cornstarch ✔ Zest of 1 lemon In a pot, bring milk, espresso and vanilla to a boil. In another pot, mix egg yolks and cornstarch.While mixing, carefully pour the milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture. Heat the mixture and bring to a boil. Add lemon zest and chill immediately on an ice bath.To avoid a skin, place plastic wrap over the cream, touching it.When the cream is cool, transfer to a pastry bag and fill the éclairs.You may glaze these with yellow glazing: Mix 300 gr. fondant (available at specialty stores) with a few drops of yellow food coloring.PROFITEROLES – BASIC RECIPEMakes about 30 ✔ 125 ml. water ✔ 125 ml. milk✔ 2 tsp. sugar✔ 1 tsp. salt ✔ 100 gr. butter (or margarine) ✔ 150 gr. flour (1 cup + 1 heaping Tbsp.), sifted ✔ 4 large eggs In a pot, bring to a boil water, salt, sugar and butter. Add the flour in a few times and stir well until dough leaves the sides of the pot. Transfer the mass to a mixer and knead until mass reaches room temperature. Add the eggs one at a time until the dough is shiny and elastic. The rule of thumb in making this dough is to add only 3 eggs.Add the last egg or parts of it only if the dough is too dry.Transfer the dough to a pastry bag with a round tip, and pipe 4-cm. profiteroles on a lined baking sheet.To bake: Heat oven to 200°. Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce heat to 180°. Do not open the oven door in the first 20 minutes of baking. Open the oven door briefly to let the steam out and continue to bake 15 to 20 minutes more.TOFFEE AND MASCARPONE CHEESE PROFITEROLES ✔ 2 gr. gelatin + ½ Tbsp. water ✔ ¾ cup sugar ✔ 115 ml. cream ✔ 60 gr. butter✔ 250 gr. mascarpone cheese ✔ Pinch salt In a pot, melt sugar and cook until it turns golden brown. Add the butter gradually while stirring. Add salt and very carefully start adding the cream a little at a time while mixing with a whip. It helps if the cream is warmed a little before adding it to the caramel. Add the melted gelatin and set aside to cool.In a mixer bowl, whip the mascarpone and add the cooled toffee. Mix until smooth.To prepare the caramel glaze: In a pot, cook 200 gr. sugar until golden. Dip the top part of the profiteroles in the caramel and place on a plate to dry.To assemble the dish: Cut the profiteroles in half. Using a pastry bag with a rugged tip, cover the bottom parts with the toffee mascarpone cream. Cover with the glazed top parts and garnish with caramelized popcorn. The recipes and photos are courtesy of the Dan Gourmet Culinary School and Maya Revivo, head of the Pastry Department.The Dan Gourmet Center provides the highest standards for studying the culinary arts in terms of facilities, teaching staff and curriculum, in line with such centers around the world, combining resources of the Dan Hotel chain and the ORT Israel schools. Tel: (03) 633-8238.