Serves: Makes enough dough for 20 (4- by 1-inch) éclairs, 20 (2½-inch) cream puffs, or 32 (1-inch) Gougères
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 cup (8 ounces) water
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs, plus another tablespoon or two, if needed
- Cook the butter, water, and salt in the medium saucepan over low heat, stirring from time to time with the wooden spoon so the butter melts evenly. When the butter has melted, increase the heat and bring to a boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Beat vigorously with the wooden spoon until the dough comes together in a mass around the spoon. Place the pan back over the medium heat and continue to cook, beating, for another minute or so to dry out the dough-the pan will have a thin film of dough on the bottom.
- Transfer the dough to the bowl of the stand mixer. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute to slightly cool the dough and develop the gluten. In the medium bowl, beat the eggs together until you can't distinguish the yellow from the white. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs a couple tablespoons at a time, allowing each addition to blend completely into the dough before continuing. When all the eggs are incorporated, the mixture should be shiny and elastic and stick to the side of the bowl. It should also pass the "string test": Place a bit of dough between your thumb and forefinger and pull them apart. The dough should form a stretchy string about 1½ to 2 inches long. If the dough has not reached this stage, beat another egg and continue adding it, a little at a time, until the dough is finished. To shape and bake, see individual recipes.
Storing: The dough can be kept in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days.