Gluten Free Ratio Rally: Pâte à Choux, Gougères

by Jenn on June 1, 2011

in GF Ratio Rally,GF Substitutions,Gluten Free,Vegetarian

Gluten Free Gougères

Pâte à choux (pronounced paht – ah – shoo) and I became good friends this month.  And by friends, I mean frenemies – you know, I told the batter how much I loved it hoping it would be kind in return and result in gorgeously puffed gougères (yeah I’m a bit of a superstitious cook), but deep inside I was secretly whispering every version of curse word I knew in every language I could muster, because this is the challenge that stumped me.

Erin of The Sensitive Epicure hosted this month’s event, and challenged us all to make choux pastry.  Gougères, profiteroles, eclairs, they’re all made from the same batter – in a gluten filled world they aren’t very hard to make – when I was younger my mother would whip up rings of choux pastry and fill them with pastry cream and fresh berries to serve on Summer days as her one of her quick and low-stress dishes for entertaining.  Gluten free doesn’t seem like it should be a big conversion – after all the dough is cooked before it is baked, and all it has to do is puff up.  Nothing else.  I thought I would make gougères with gruyère cheese and some fresh thyme. Easy, no?

Ha.  This is the Gluten Free Ratio Rally challenge where I learned something.  Not just how to make a ratio and result in a tasty baked good, no this challenge unlocked key concepts and strategies to recipe development and baking that I had not considered before.  And there’s no way I could’ve had such amazing realizations if it weren’t for the myriad of kind and helpful gluten free bloggers who chatted, commented, and emailed back and forth about my trials.

Was I successful? Did I actually make gluten free gougères??? I did, and my husband is sweet enough to eat them and tell me they’re wonderful.  Did I make ones that puffed up like choux pastry so famously does? Only when I used a prepackaged GF mix (which I did just to test my method).  Those are the ones you see above.  When it came to creating my own mix, however, I had some other challenges…

But you know what? I’m ok with it.  I haven’t given up on them even though I didn’t get a decent GF mix before the month deadline.  I did make a total of 8 different batches of gougères this month though.  I gave it a good go.  I have strategies for next time.  But most importantly, beyond the results and their respective success or failure, were the concepts that opened my eyes.

You see, up until this month, I was convinced that the main factor that affected the quality of a GF mix for a certain application was the starch:flour ratio – and as long as that ratio was maintained for a particular baked good, one could pretty much replace any conventional recipe with a gluten free one (as long as substituting by weight of course).  And that’s well and good – the starch:flour ratio certainly is very important in baked goods, especially in this case where the pastry needs to have steam puff up fast inside them in the oven and then hold that air trapped inside until the form really has a chance to bake through into shape. I started with Ruhlman’s main ratio for pâte à choux and then my first four trials were all about finding the right starch:flour ratio for the dry GF ingredients, like I always try to do:

Trial 1: 30% starch (corn/tapioca) 70% flour (corn, chestnut)
Trial 2: 60% starch (corn/tapioca) 40% flour (corn, chestnut)
Trial 3: 80% starch (corn/tapioca) 20% flour (corn)
Trial 4: 100% tapioca starch

None of them worked.  They all rose in the oven, and then collapsed in the oven.  It turns out that’s not the only aspect that must be tuned.  The type of starch matters too.

Tapioca Starch

Starch is essentially a large linkage of sugar units – totally all carb – it’s what is used in plants to store energy for when it’s needed.  If you heat it up it dissolves into the familiar gel-like substance that can help hold your gluten free foods together.  But I learned this month that not all starches are created equal.  Starches are made up of two major components – amylose and amylopectin, each with their own properties that they lend to a baked good.  What makes gluten free baking interesting is that we can take advantage of the relative amounts of these components within a starch and use that to choose which starch would best fit our needs.  Common gluten free starches are glutinous rice, tapioca, cornstarch, potato starch, arrowroot powder – and each one has not only different sizes of starch molecules, but also a different ratio of amylose:amylopectin which affects their properties (yes another ratio!).  The major difference between the two is subtle – it mainly has to do with how the sugar units are linked together – in a straight and linear chain (amylose) or a larger more branched and networked fashion (amylopectin).  This is sounding like a lot of chemistry, I know.  But bear with me, it’s important.

Amylose and amylopectin are each responsible for the properties of starch, but in different ways.  From what I can find online and also from the great informative help of Erin, amylose tends to be responsible for the firmness, whereas amylopectin tends to provide viscosity allowing it to be more free form.  In the case of pâte à choux, the most important aspect was getting them to puff – so we needed that amylopectin in order to let the batter stretch and puff up in the oven.  The starch with the highest amount of amylopectin is glutinous rice flour, which is virtually 100% amylopectin – so the thinking was glutinous rice flour was the way to go for starch choice.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have glutinous rice flour on hand for a while – but it made me think my cornstarch/tapioca blend maybe wasn’t the right choice for my starch, so I decided for my next trial to use all tapioca (which still has a fair amount of amylopectin in it), and try to keep the starch content high to make sure things gelled together well –

Trial 5: 60% starch (tapioca), 40% flour (corn, rice)

I had high hopes, I used tapioca as my starch the very first time I made eclairs and profiteroles 2 yrs ago! Oh yeah, but they collapsed in the oven and instead of being able to fill them I actually hand to sandwich two of them together –

And this run was unlucky as well.  Maybe glutinous rice flour was indeed the answer – I finally got my hands on some, and sadly my results were not so different.

Trial 6: 60% starch (tapioca, glutinous rice flour), 40% flour (corn, white rice)

And here was the result:

Such a sad little gougère attempt....
So just for kicks, why not try all glutinous rice flour? Then for sure I won’t have a shortage of amylopectin! And I’d seen a few gluten free pâte à choux recipes that actually called for only this as the GF dry ingredient, so thought it was worth a shot.

Trial 7: 100% glutinous rice flour

Sigh. No luck either. Still flat.  Was it the overall ratio of ingredients? Well my prepackaged GF mix worked out ok – just check the pictures at top! And I’ve made successful gluten-full pâte à choux before, so I don’t think it was my technique that was the problem.  To solve my issues, I did what every food blogger does when they find themselves in a perplexing situation – ask the twitterverse.

I got all sorts of responses… mostly about technique which to me just confirmed that I was doing the technique right, but then Shauna reminded me that starch isn’t the only thing that matters in a GF mix. There’s also fat and protein in flours.  And while it’s important to have the right starches, I wasn’t thinking about balancing out the other two in the flour part of my dry ingredients.  Fat wouldn’t be so useful here because fat would melt and probably spread them out even more – so that ruled out the nut meals and coconut.  But what about protein??  What is its role in the success of pâte à choux?? And are my corn and chestnut or white rice flour combinations doing the job?? Suggestions were given to me to try brown rice, millet, sorghum, or teff – unfortunately brown rice, millet and sorghum flours are three things I cannot find here en Suisse (or at least haven’t found yet at any of the eight stores I buy gluten free ingredients at), but I do have teff – I would have loved to experiment, but sadly ran out of time.

Next time, next time!!!

Well I did learn a lot – I learned not only about starches and how each starch has its own ratio of components, I also learned that I need to balance starch:protein:fat as well to make a GF recipe work.  And most of all, I learned that my husband will tell me they all taste great and will eat them anyways :)

Other participants were much more successful than me, so I encourage you to look at others’ posts and see what they came up with for gluten free pâte à choux :)

Amanda of Gluten Free Maui | Earl Grey Cream Puffs
Amie of The Healthy Apple | Pate Choux with Creamy Macadamia Icing
Britt of GF in the City | Pâte à Choux
Caleigh of Gluten Free[k] | Savoury Paris-Brest
Caneel of Mama Me Gluten Free | Key Lime Cream Puffs
Claire of Gluten Freedom |  Chocolate Eclairs
Erin of the Sensitive Epicure | Gougères filled with Herbed Goat Cheese Mousse
Erin of the Sensitive Epicure | Churros y Chocolate Sin Gluten
Jenn of Jenn Cuisine (that’s me) | Gruyère & Herbed Gougères
Lisa of Gluten Free Canteen | Cracked Pepper & Cheese Gougères
Meaghan of The Wicked Good Vegan | Cardamom and Rose Water Cream Puffs (with Rad Whip!)
Meg of Gluten-Free Boulangerie | Chouquettes
Pete & Kelli of No Gluten, No Problem | Almond Choux Florentines
Rachel of The Crispy Cook | Cream Puffs Filled with Coffee Cream
Silvana of Silvana’s Kitchen | Gluten-Free Spinach Gnocchi Parm
T.R.of No One Likes Crumbley Cookies | Beignets
Tara of A Baking Life | Parmesan & Black Pepper Gougères | Frangipane Puffs

Also submitted to – Gluten Free Wednesdays


Móna Wise June 1, 2011 at 8:41 am

I am amazed at how determined you are. I would have given up on the second try. #notabaker…
The looked really tasty regardless of your trials….so I am sure your hubby was happy to eat them.
Well done on your efforts….
Móna xx

Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Aww thanks Móna!! Ha now I’m just determined to conquer the things!!

Christine @downbythehearth June 1, 2011 at 8:59 am

I have to admit, I am not GF. That said, I do find it interesting and love learning about new things. So, of course when I saw Pâte à choux in your link I had to come look. (I have only been making them about 2 years myself and we have grown to love them.)

It can be so frustrating when things do not turn out, but what fun it is trying. At least that is the way I look at it.

I applaud you for not giving up on making good food!

“And most of all, I learned that my husband will tell me they all taste great and will eat them anyways :)” —– That just means, he’s a keeper! ;o)

Christine @downbythehearth June 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

Okay, was thinking about this as I laid there in bed…

Proteins – I’m not sure how much protein you need, but maybe worth looking into, is either potato flakes or potato starch. They have protein and I don’t think either would weigh the dough down, would probably make it lighter (I use the flakes in my bread for that very reason).

Now you have me thinking of all these different things and wanting to try this! I don’t have special rice flour, but I have rice – and a grain grinder!

Now, I’m not going to get any sleep. laughs. 😉

Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:24 pm

hehehe interesting insights, thanks so much!! if you end up experimenting please let me know how it goes!

Rosa June 1, 2011 at 9:45 am

You are a very determined and courageous GF baker/cook! I would have not been as patient as you…

Your pictures are gorgeous, no matter if the gougère collapsed!



Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Thanks Rosa!!

Mika June 1, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I love you!!!! ^_^
I love determined people like you that like culinary testing.
And your pics are stunning…

Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Aww thanks!! I hope it’s useful!!

Morri June 1, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Oh, I love what you did with the ratio! I saw that the rise in the pastry was significantly better when they were made larger, but it turned out deliciously both times when I made it. I wanted to ask if you if baking powder would do anything to keep the end result leavened, as I’ve seen a few recipes in which bp was incorporated.

I can’t wait to try different ways of making them, sweet and savory, boiled and steamed and fried. YUM!


Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I haven’t tried baking powder, that’s definitely an idea!!! Thanks!!

Rachel @ The Crispy Cook June 1, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I think all of your experiments look wonderful. If you hadn’t written that your cream puffs were actually two puffs sandwiched together, I wouldn’t have known. I just thought your puffs looked delicious.

Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:17 pm

haha thanks Rachel!! yeah the cream puff sandwiches went over rather well :)

thepickyeater June 1, 2011 at 5:55 pm

it looks great….you tried that’s what matters ! also i love how much information you post….you are a walking talking encyclopedia 😀

Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:19 pm

haha thanks – well I figured someone else might benefit from the things I learned, or offer up some suggestions for me to try :)

maryfran June 1, 2011 at 5:58 pm

I think I learned more about the process of the pate from your post than from my trials…I might even change my flour blend. I admire your determination!

Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Ha thanks!! Though yours looked like they came out rather well!

Caneel June 1, 2011 at 6:21 pm

These still look delicious – every single trial! I love these challenges – especially because when we finally get something we’ve been working on for so long (for me, my biggest challenge was a particular cake) just the way we want it, we feel like we’ve won a gold medal in the baking Olympics. I learned a lot in the choux challenge and am excited to use this dough for so many different recipes now! Thanks for sharing all your trials – they look amazing!

Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:21 pm

Thank you Caneel! and yes, I totally identify with that great feeling when something finally works out – I’ll get there, I know it :)

Jessica June 1, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Wowza! I just learned a bunch Jenn!! Great post! :-)

Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Thanks Jessica!

Lisa from Glutenfreecanteen June 1, 2011 at 8:14 pm

I’d eat any of those because they look fabulous. Puff or not – they look drool worthy – the photos are fantastic. I am liking the new props and the new style!!

Jenn June 1, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Aww thanks Lisa!!! Yeah I did a little prop shopping last weekend :)

branny June 1, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Way to stick with it!

Jenn June 1, 2011 at 9:29 pm

Thanks branny!!! :)

Vicky Cooling June 2, 2011 at 12:18 am

Did I miss the link to the recipe or are you not posting it because of the flour mix you used? Sorry, went over the article a few times and maybe need to clean/replace my glasses. The pictures look so yummy I wanted to try this.

Jenn June 2, 2011 at 4:25 am

I stated that I used Ruhlman’s ratio for pâte à choux, but sadly I failed at developing a successful GF version by the posting date – really you don’t want to make mine because I can’t get my choux pastry to puff and stay risen. However many of the other participants in this month’s event were successful, and several made gougères, so I would suggest checking out the others’ posts if you want a recipe to bake :)

Charissa (zest bakery) June 2, 2011 at 12:37 am

Wow, I loved reading your baking lab. You are the female version of Alton Brown! :) I can’t imagine those puffs tasting anything but wonderful from the photos, but I’m glad you are going to keep going with it!

Jenn June 2, 2011 at 4:26 am

hahaha thanks!

Barbara | Creative Culinary June 2, 2011 at 12:42 am

If looking good is the best revenge than Jenn…you did great!

Jenn June 2, 2011 at 4:26 am

lol thanks!

Meaghan June 2, 2011 at 4:21 am

Ryan may or may not have eaten some of my flat “puff” creations with a vigour and declared them delicious nonetheless as well… Looks like good company. =)

And I am also in awe of your determination! Maybe that pâte à choux gods were not feeling generous, and you’ll pick up your flour mix some day to find the combinations magickally working? At least your pictures still came out gorgeous!

Jenn June 2, 2011 at 4:56 am

Aww thanks!! Ha I really worked on the pics for these :)

Karen Robertson June 2, 2011 at 5:47 am

At least you worked hard–I however, chickened out and am waiting to try everyone’s recipes

Jenn June 2, 2011 at 5:48 am

haha, effort points all the way!!

InTolerantChef June 2, 2011 at 11:01 am

Fantastic that you didn’t give up! The truth is out there somewhere Jenn, don’t give up, I’m sure your husband will happily keep eating the rejects!

Jenn June 2, 2011 at 11:15 am

Aww thanks!!

Jamie June 2, 2011 at 1:53 pm

I am amazed and impressed by your courage and determination, and I could never do it, but I do think a perfect choux puff or gougère is soooo worth it! Lucky for me I just have my dad’s old choux recipe which works every time. And now that I look ate your tempting photos I have the craving for profiteroles again… Or choux à la crème. Mmmmm I need to make choux now…

Jenn June 2, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Thanks Jamie! And yes I agree, you should make choux! I’d love to see your recipe :)

Zoe June 2, 2011 at 4:58 pm

It’s disappointing when something you had a lot of hope for doesn’t work out, but I applaud you for persevering! Of course, I was not part of this blog event but I think it’s funny I was working independently with pate a choux and thanks to this theme, I’ve learned a lot more about how pate a choux works and its structure. I loved reading about the properties of starch; I find food science so fascinating! I wouldn’t have minded if you’d gone on longer. 😉

Jenn June 2, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Yes so coincidental that you were also working on pâte à choux! Haha I decided to cut it off at 1500 words else I ramble wayy to much… You should join the ratio rally though – this month we are doing pasta :)

Britt June 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I love that you shared all of this! Baking/cooking/creating is always a learning process. Keep us posted on any future trials–I just know you’re going to come up with something wonderful. :)

Jenn June 2, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Thanks so much Britt! Will definitely announce to the world if I get a trial that really works – think the issue is needed the right flour to complement the starch…

Tara June 3, 2011 at 5:54 am

Chiming in as another one who applauds your determination, Jenn! Really, you’re inspirational. And I especially love the fact that you still took gorgeous pictures of your “flops” – I would have been too discouraged to set up props and such! When you find the magic combo of flours, please do let us know, as I can only imagine they’ll be phenomenal!

Jenn June 5, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Aww thank you Tara! Ha I figured if I couldn’t get a recipe I was happy with at least I could take a photo – will definitely let you know when I find a mix that works for me.

Erin Swing June 6, 2011 at 6:00 pm

As host, I give you an A++++++++++++++++++++++ for effort. You did not give up. Those pictures look incredible. Knowing about GF ready-made flour mixtures, I do believe that Schar’s mixes are partially made with modified flours/starches. What that means is that the surface is treated with steam, water, etc, at high temperatures. What that does is make the flour/starch gelatinize once it sees liquid regardless of the temperature and processing method. Meaning, it is a sure way to ensure that the home baker will get excellent results. Otherwise, using unmodified flours/starches, much work needs to be done (high temperature, with proper mixing, and time, etc) to get the right results.

Thank you so much for participating in my diffiucult & challenging pate a choux challenge. I think we all learned a lot from your many trials. And it goes to show how much effect everything has in making a baked good: the ingredients (& how those were manufactured); the order of addition; the mixing; the processing; etc. Kudos Jenn!

Jenn June 6, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Awww thanks Erin! Yes I hope if nothing else all my trials helped others find success :)

Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite June 12, 2011 at 3:45 am

EIGHT different batches Jenn??? You are my hero. I find these Rally posts fascinating, watching how different ingredients react in familiar recipes.

Jenn June 12, 2011 at 8:38 am

haha yeah, now I’m determined to conquer these things….

Noosa52 July 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Because Gluten is essentially a protein, you could assume that its protein in a flour that you need to help bind the molecules while it holds the shapes form by the expanding air.

I have been trying to experiment with flax meal, although it difficult to remove the hull, but has a very glutinous texture when you mix it with hot water, and you could assume that the cooking process with choux pastry might develop the gluten.

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