Cream Puffs represent a timeless French treat, featuring a delectable filling of sweet cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. To truly savor the perfection of a cream puff, one must experience the delight of a freshly baked one. Contrary to popular belief, crafting pâte à choux pastry dough is simpler than you might imagine. In my recipe, I opt for a homemade pastry cream filling for an authentic and unparalleled classic taste.

If you’ve ever wondered about the magic behind those light and airy pastries filled with luscious cream, you’re in for a delightful journey. Crafting these delectable delights at home is not only achievable but surprisingly straightforward.

No need for advanced baking skills or intricate techniques; these delightful pastries are designed for both novice and seasoned bakers alike. Whether you’re a kitchen novice taking your first steps into the world of baking or a seasoned pro looking for a quick yet satisfying sweet fix, homemade cream puffs are the answer.

Picture this: golden-brown puffs emerging from your oven, their enticing aroma filling your kitchen. The process of making these treats is not only a culinary adventure but a sensory experience that will have you eagerly anticipating the delightful outcome. From mixing the uncomplicated choux pastry dough to whipping up the velvety cream filling, every step is designed for simplicity, ensuring that the journey of creating homemade cream puffs is as enjoyable as the first bite.

Reasons to love Homemade Cream Puffs

  1. Light and Airy Texture: Cream puffs are known for their delicate, airy texture that practically melts in your mouth. The outer choux pastry shell is light and crisp, creating a delightful contrast with the rich and creamy filling.
  2. Versatile Fillings: One of the reasons to love cream puffs is the versatility they offer in terms of fillings. From classic vanilla or chocolate pastry cream to more adventurous choices like fruit-flavored creams or even ice cream, you can customize the filling to suit your taste preferences.
  3. Ease of Preparation: Despite their elegant appearance, cream puffs are surprisingly easy to make at home. The choux pastry dough comes together with just a few simple ingredients, and the filling options range from quick homemade custards to whipped creams, making them accessible for both novice and experienced bakers.
  4. Perfect for Celebrations: Cream puffs add a touch of sophistication to any celebration. Whether it’s a birthday, holiday, or special gathering, these dainty pastries make for a charming and visually appealing dessert that can be customized to fit the theme of the occasion.
  5. Perfect Bite-Sized Portions: Cream puffs come in conveniently sized portions, making them ideal for serving at parties, gatherings, or as a sweet indulgence without the guilt of overindulging.

Ingredients needed for Cream Puffs

Pastry cream

  • Egg yolks. We’ll be using just the egg yolks today. I provide a few options for using up your egg whites below.
  • Cornstarch. This thickens our pastry cream and gives it a velvety texture.
  • Milk and cream. I like to use whole milk, but really any kind will work. Double cream or whipping cream will work instead of heavy cream. Alternatively, you can just use 2 cups of half-and-half instead of the milk and cream.
  • Vanilla. You can use real vanilla beans or vanilla extract; I provide instructions for how to use both below.

Choux (pâte à choux)

  • Flour. Regular, all-purpose flour will work just fine here.
  • Butter. Use unsalted butter make sure it’s cut into tablespoon-sized pieces before adding it.
  • Eggs. Make sure yours are at room temperature before you add them.
  • Water and salt. For moisture and flavor.

How to make Pastry Cream

  • Simmer and cool – Cook cream, milk, ⅓ cup sugar, vanilla bean (if using) and salt over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes.
  • Combine eggs and sugar – In a separate bowl, vigorously whisk together the egg yolks and remaining sugar until the sugar starts to dissolve.
  • Temper the eggs – Whisk cornstarch into the egg mixture, then slowly drizzle about ⅓ cup of the cream mixture in while whisking constantly.
  • Add the cream – Slowly drizzle in the remaining cream mixture while whisking constantly, then return the pot to the stove and cook over medium heat until the pastry cream thickens.
  • Strain – Pour the cream through a fine mesh strainer and add the butter one tablespoon at a time. Stir in the vanilla extract, if using.
  • Cover and chill – Cover with plastic, pressing down to make sure it stays against the surface of the cream. Let cool at room temperature for 30 minutes, then place in the fridge to chill for 2-4 hours.

How to make Choux (pâte à choux)

  • Boil water and butter – Bring the water, butter, and salt to a rolling boil over medium heat.
  • Stir in the flour – Add the flour and turn heat down to medium-low. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula and try to work out any clumps of flour as you go.
  • Remove from heat – Once the dough forms a ball and all moisture has been absorbed, remove the pan from heat and stir the dough to cool it down.
  • Add the eggs – After several minutes, add the eggs one at a time, stirring until completely combined after each addition.
  • Bake – Pipe the dough into mounds on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake at 400F for 30 minutes.

How to assemble a cream puff

  • Pierce the puffs – Once the puffs have finished baking, remove them from the oven and use a knife to pierce a hole in the side of each. Remember, they will be very hot at this point, so move carefully and quickly and take care not to scorch your fingertips!
  • Return to the oven – As soon as you’ve pierced each puff, immediately return them to the oven and turn it off. Crack the door and let the puffs sit in the warm oven for another 10 minutes.
  • Fill and enjoy! Remove the puffs from the oven and let them cool completely before filling with pastry cream (using the holes you made earlier) and dusting with powdered sugar.
cream puffs

Variations

  • Chocolate Cream Puffs:
    • Add cocoa powder to the choux pastry for a chocolatey twist. Fill with chocolate pastry cream or a mix of chocolate ganache and whipped cream.
  • Coffee-flavored Cream Puffs:
    • Infuse the milk used in the pastry cream with coffee grounds or add a splash of coffee extract for a delightful coffee flavor.
  • Fruit-Filled Cream Puffs:
    • Fill the puffs with a mixture of fresh berries, diced fruits, or fruit preserves. Consider adding a layer of custard or whipped cream for extra decadence.
  • Lemon or Citrus Cream Puffs:
    • Add lemon zest to the choux pastry or the pastry cream for a refreshing citrus kick. A lemon curd filling can also be a delightful option.
  • Pistachio Cream Puffs:
    • Incorporate ground pistachios into the choux pastry or the pastry cream for a nutty and rich flavor profile.
  • Salted Caramel Cream Puffs:
    • Drizzle the assembled cream puffs with homemade salted caramel sauce or fill them with a salted caramel pastry cream.
  • Raspberry Chocolate Cream Puffs:
    • Fill the puffs with a combination of chocolate ganache and raspberry preserves for a delightful blend of rich chocolate and fruity sweetness.
  • Hazelnut Praline Cream Puffs:
    • Incorporate crushed hazelnuts or hazelnut praline into the pastry cream or sprinkle them on top for a nutty and caramelized flavor.
  • Coconut Cream Puffs:
    • Add shredded coconut to the choux pastry or create a coconut-flavored pastry cream. Top with toasted coconut for an extra layer of texture.
  • S’mores Cream Puffs:
    • Fill the puffs with a combination of chocolate ganache and marshmallow cream, then torch the marshmallow for that classic s’mores flavor.
  • Dulce de Leche Cream Puffs:
    • Fill the puffs with a luscious dulce de leche filling and drizzle extra caramel on top for a sweet and indulgent treat.
cream puff chocolate

Tips and Suggestions

For Pastry Cream:

  • Measure Ingredients Accurately:
    • Baking is a science, so ensure precise measurements for ingredients like flour, butter, and eggs.
  • Use Fresh Eggs:
    • Fresh eggs contribute to better structure and volume in the choux pastry.
  • Be Patient with Water and Butter Boiling:
    • Allow the water and butter mixture to come to a full boil before adding the flour. This ensures the right consistency for the choux pastry.
  • Vigorous Mixing:
    • Vigorously mix the dough after adding each egg. This helps in incorporating air, resulting in a light and airy texture.
  • Consistent Piping:
    • Pipe the choux pastry onto the baking sheet consistently for uniform sizes. This ensures even baking.
  • Avoid Opening the Oven Too Soon:
    • Refrain from opening the oven door too soon while baking. The puffs need the full baking time for optimal puffiness.

For Pastry Cream:

  • Tempering Eggs Gradually:
    • Add the hot cream mixture to the eggs gradually to avoid scrambling. This process is known as tempering.
  • Strain for Smoothness:
    • Strain the pastry cream after cooking to remove any lumps and achieve a smooth texture.
  • Chill Thoroughly:
    • Ensure that the pastry cream is thoroughly chilled before filling the puffs. This enhances the cream’s stability and texture.
  • Butter Incorporation:
    • Add butter to the pastry cream one tablespoon at a time, allowing each addition to fully incorporate for a silky finish.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I keep cream puffs from getting soggy?

To prevent cream puffs from getting soggy, avoid filling them too far in advance. Fill the puffs shortly before serving to maintain the crispness of the pastry.

Can I use store-bought pastry cream?

While store-bought pastry cream is an option, making your own at home allows for customization and a fresher flavor. Homemade pastry cream is easy to make and worth the effort.

Why did my choux pastry not puff up?

Several factors can affect the puffiness of choux pastry, including not boiling the water and butter mixture long enough, undermixing the dough, or opening the oven door too soon. Ensure you follow the recipe and technique carefully.

What do I do if my pastry cream is lumpy?

If your pastry cream is lumpy, strain it through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any lumps. Make sure to whisk the mixture thoroughly during cooking to prevent lumps from forming.

cream puffs

Simple and Easy Cream Puffs

Cream Puffs represent a timeless French treat, featuring a delectablefilling of sweet cream and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. To truly savor theperfection of a cream puff, one must experience the delight of a freshly bakedone.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 35 minutes
Chilling Time 3 hours
Total Time 4 hours 35 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, French
Servings 20 cream puffs

Ingredients
  

Pastry Cream

  • 1 cup Whole milk
  • 1 cup Heavy cream
  • ⅓ (67 g) cup Granulated sugar Plus 3 tablespoons
  • 1 Vanilla bean Split in half lengthwise
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 5 egg yolks room temp
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted butter cut into pieces

Choux Pastry

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ (113 g) cup Unsalted butter Cut into pieces
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 cup All-purpose flour
  • 4 Large eggs Room temperature

Instructions
 

Pastry Cream

  • Combine cream, milk, ⅓ cup (67g) sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in a medium-sized heavy bottomed saucepan. Place on stove top over medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow cooling for 10 minutes (stir occasionally).
  • Meanwhile, mix the egg yolks and three tablespoons of sugar in a large, separate basin. For approximately 15 seconds, whisk rapidly until the sugar starts to dissolve.
  • Sprinkle cornstarch over egg/sugar mixture and whisk until combined and slightly thickened.
  • Once your cream mixture has cooled, slowly drizzle about ⅓ cup of the cream mixture into the egg mixture while whisking constantly (this will temper your eggs and gradually adding the heated cream will prevent them from cooking!). Slowly, while still whisking, drizzle in the remainder of your cream mixture until the cream and egg mixture are completely combined.
  • Pour mixture back into saucepan and return to stove top over medium heat. Whisk frequently until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl (vanilla bean should be caught by the strainer and should be discarded now).
  • Whisk in butter, one piece at a time until completely combined. If you didn’t use a vanilla bean, stir in the vanilla extract at this point, too.
  • Place plastic wrap directly in contact with the surface of the pastry cream to keep a skin from forming. Allow to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until near room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 2-4 hours. Meanwhile, prepare your choux pastry.

Choux Pastry

  • Preheat oven to 400F (200C) and line a large baking sheet or two smaller baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • Combine water, butter, and salt in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and bring to a rolling boil.
  • Once mixture is boiling, add flour and turn down heat to medium/low. Stir continuously with a spatula until moisture is absorbed, and the mixture forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the pot.
  • Remove from heat and stir for several minutes to cool down the mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring very well after each addition until mixture is smooth and velvety.
  • Transfer mixture to a piping bag (or to a large Ziploc bag with one corner snipped) and pipe onto prepared baking sheets by mounds about 2” wide by 1” tall, spacing each mound at least 1 ½ inches apart. Lightly dampen your fingers with cold water and gently press down any peaks on the pastry mounds.
  • Transfer to 400F (200C) oven and bake for 30 minutes or until cream puffs appear dry and light golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and use a sharp knife to pierce the lower center of each cream puff, inserting the knife about halfway into the cream puff (be careful, cream puffs will be hot!)³. Replace each puff on baking sheet and return to oven. Turn off the oven and let the pastry sit in the oven with the oven door cracked for another 10 minutes.
  • Once 10 minutes has passed, remove from oven and allow to cool completely on a baking sheet. Allow to cool completely before piping with pastry cream.
  • To fill with cream, place pastry cream in a piping bag fitted with a small tip (I used a Wilton 5). Insert piping tip into each cream puff and fill until pastry cream is beginning to come out the hole.
  • Lightly dust the top of each cream puff with powdered sugar just before serving (the sugar will dissolve in the refrigerator if not served right away).
Keyword cream puff, pâte à choux
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