Christmas dinner ideas come easy. Turkey, Ham, or Beef with potatoes and vegetables. However, how you START your meal can be a more perplexing problem. There are infinite choices of holiday appetizers to choose from. How do you find the right recipe?

You don’t FIND the right recipe, you create one. And you can create any holiday appetizer you’d like once you discover the secrets behind Pate’ a Choux. This is a basic puff pastry dough, often called éclair paste, but it makes an attractive shell for any filling you choose, creating an appealing holiday appetizer.

Appetizers, or “hors d’ Oeuvres” are small bites of food to stimulate the eye and palate. “Hors d’ Oeuvres” in French means “outside the meal”. These appetizers were originally prepared by the wait staff in early banquets, using the leftovers and scraps from the meal to be served. While the chefs were working, the waiters were offering tastes “outside the meal”.

Pate a Choux dough begins by bringing milk to a full rolling boil on the stove. Just before it reaches the top of your sauce pot, add flour and stir until the dough forms a tight, smooth ball.

Egg proteins will give the dough its structure, but adding eggs to a very hot dough will only give you dough with scrambled eggs in it. So, the dough must be cooled to below the 165F (74c) temperature at which egg proteins coagulate.

The best way to cool the dough is to add it to a mixer with a paddle attachment and simply cool by stirring. Once your thermometer reads about 100F, start adding the egg yolks in a slow stream to allow the emulsification process of fats and water to occur.

The cooled dough is added to a pastry bag and piped onto a baking sheet in marble-sized balls or finger-sized lengths for éclairs. You can start to think of all your other Christmas dinner ideas while the puff pastries bake in a very hot 425F oven until they’re brown and fully leavened.

When you tear one of your freshly baked puffs open, you’ll find they’re totally hollow. This gives a perfect hiding place for crab dip, chicken salad, or even jams and jellies.

Your Christmas dinner ideas should always begin with the appetizers, as they set the tone for the meal to come. Serving little bites “outside the meal” helps stimulate the eye and palate for the great feast about to come.

Author's Bio: 

Chef Todd Mohr is a classically trained chef, entrepreneur, cooking educator and founder of WebCookingClasses. You CAN learn to cook without written recipes by taking his FREE cooking class that will change the way you think about cooking forever!