I’ve been intimidated by cream puffs for a while now. I thought they had to be extremely hard, because of the fluffy pastry and the cream filling.
I was so very wrong, and I am happy at how wrong I was! These cream puffs are actually quite simple, and that is a dangerous thing. With how easy they are to make, I have a feeling that I will be making many more of these bad boys.
The base of a cream puff is the pate a choux, or choux (pronounced shoe) pastry. It is a light, airy dough of (I believe) French or Italian origin. The dough is quite basic, only having a few ingredients.
I mean… it’s so easy! I was blown away by how easy the dough was. The hardest part (for me) was filling the piping bag with the choux pastry. I followed this recipe pretty much exactly, and just filled the cream puffs with a basic vanilla whipped cream. However, now that I know how easy choux pastry is to make, you might start seeing a lot of experimentation… eclairs, other cream puff fillings, the sky is the limit now!
Yield: Approx. 2 dozen cream puffs
For the choux pastry:
1 c. water
½ c. butter, cut into cubes
Large pinch kosher salt
2 tbsp. sugar
1 c. flour
4 large eggs, room temperature
For the cream filling:
1½ c. heavy cream, cold
3 tbsp. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat.
To make the pate a choux, in a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt over medium high heat. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine, until butter is melted and the mixture is coming to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium, and immediately add the flour into the butter mixture, stirring constantly to make sure the flour becomes evenly incorporated. Continue to stir over medium heat until the dough begins to pull away from the sides and form a ball. This should take about a minute.
Take off the heat and transfer the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes (so you don’t cook the eggs when they are added).
With the mixer on low speed, add in the eggs, one at a time. Do not add the next egg until the previous one is completely incorporated. The batter will look smooth and glossy when it is ready after all the eggs have been added.
Fill a pastry bag with a large round tip, followed by the choux pastry. Hold the pastry bag over the prepared pans, and squeeze the pastry bag until you have a small round of dough about 2 inches wide. Swirl the tip and stop the pressure to finish piping, and continue until all dough has been piped, about 2 inches apart from each other. Pipe no more than 12 dough rounds onto a baking sheet. If they have little peaks on top, tap the peaks down gently with a wet finger.
Place one pan at a time (I learned the hard way – only cook 1 pan at a time in the center of your oven or you will burn the bottoms!) in the preheated oven, and immediately turn the heat up to 450°F. The increase in heat helps them puff more.
Bake at 450°F for 10 minutes, WITHOUT OPENING THE OVEN DOOR, then turn down the heat to 350°F for 13-15 minutes, until pastry is puffed and golden brown.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.
To make the cream filling, combine the cream, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip together until stiff peaks form. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a small or medium round tip with the whipped cream.
Take a small paring knife, and cut small “x’s” in the bottoms of each cooled dough puff. Push the pastry bag with the cream filling into each puff, then squeeze a generous amount of whipped cream inside. Don’t overfill, or they might explode on you! You can feel the cream puffs expand slightly when they are full.
Sprinkle with icing sugar for garnish, and serve.