Place liquid, butter, salt and sugar, if using, in a medium saucepan and bring slowly to a simmer.
Turn off heat and add the flour all at once.
Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until it forms a ball.
Return to medium heat to dry the paste so it will have the maximum puffing ability: turn the ball around in the pan, pressing it against the sides and flipping it over, until butter starts oozing out and the paste no longer sticks to your fingers.
Remove from heat and let cool a bit.
Each time you add an egg, the mixture will become slippery and messy but will then come together, at which point you can add the next egg.
Load mixture into pastry bag with a round tip (1/2 or 1-inch depending on size puff desired) and pipe out as required.
It will give the fullest puff if used right away but can be held for several hours.
Bake puffs or eclairs for about 25 minutes in a pre-heated 425F degree oven . Remove puffs from oven and make a slit to let out the steam. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Return the puffs to the oven for another 10 minutes then turn off the heat and leave the puffs in the oven to cool.
This prevents any uncooked dough inside the puffs from making your puffs soggy.
Cooked puffs freeze very well. To use, place puffs directly from freezer into a 400 degree F oven for about 5 minutes.
First published: 1996-01-27 last updated: 2013-10-13
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