Choux pastry, the base of pastries such as profiteroles, eclairs and gougere, is essentially a paste that when baked, captures steam within it to puff up and produce a hollow case. It’s the combination of water and eggs that provides the lift. The difference between choux-based pastries is mostly in the shape:
Eclairs are 7cm lengths of choux paste Croquembouche is the name of the cone-shaped castle of choux puffs — “glued” together with spun sugar or chocolate.
Gougere are choux puffs with cheese added to the paste.
Paris Brest is made by piping a series of large circles of choux pastry. Its name comes from the Paris to Brest cycle race, hence the shape is that of a wheel. It is usually cut in half and then filled with cream or pastry.
Beignets are made from deep fried choux paste and split open and filled when cool.
Churros are a variation on the choux recipe — no egg and deep-fried and dipped in chocolate or sugar.
To learn how to make choux pastry, go to our how to make choux pastry step-by-step guide.