Cream Puffs

Have you ever had a cream puff?  Like, a real cream puff?  I’m not talking about the frozen kind, which is all I had experienced up until this point in my life (ridiculous, I now realize.)  Those were always okay, but nothing to write home about.  These, however – these are little bites of heaven.  Now I’m sure this comes as no surprise to those of you familiar with my serious love of pastry cream.  A small round pastry shell filled with the silky smooth pastry cream, and glazed with chocolate – how could I not love them?  (Even better, I had some pastry cream left over for random snack attacks 😉 )

Another thing I love is how easy they were to make, yet impressive when served.  The pâte à choux was a breeze to make in the food processor.  My one tip is that I think a thermometer is really important when cooking the dough.  The recipe describes how the appearance should change when it reaches the desired temperature, but I never really saw a discernible difference and if I hadn’t used a thermometer, I probably would have really overcooked it.  The chocolate glaze may not be traditional on cream puffs (at least it wasn’t originally included in this recipe), but it just seemed so much better than the dusting of powdered sugar that was recommended.  What isn’t better with chocolate?

Cream Puffs
Printer-Friendly Version

For the pastry cream:
2 cups half-and-half
½ cup sugar
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. cornstarch
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the pâte à choux:
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tbsp. whole milk
6 tbsp. water
1½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup (2½ oz.) all-purpose flour

For the chocolate glaze:
3 tbsp. half-and-half
2 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (4 oz.) confectioners’ sugar, sifted

To make the pastry cream, heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.

When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.  Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Strain the pastry cream through a  fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.  Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

To make the pâte à choux, whisk the eggs and egg white in a liquid measuring cup.  You should have ½ cup (discard the excess).  Set aside.  Combine the butter, milk, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring once or twice.  When it reaches a full boil and the butter is fully melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour until incorporated and the mixture clears the sides of the pan.  Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the pan (the mixture should register 175-180˚ F on an instant-read thermometer.

Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open to cool slightly, 10 seconds.  With the machine running, gradually add the reserved eggs in a steady stream.  When they have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process 30 seconds more until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.

Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip with the pâte à choux.  Pipe the paste into 1½-inch mounds on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 to 1¼ inches apart (you should be able to fit 24 mounds on the baking sheet).  Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the piped mounds.

Bake for 15 minutes (do not open the oven door during baking).  Reduce the oven temperature to 375˚ F and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 8-10 minutes longer.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven.  Use a paring knife, cut a ¾-inch slit into the side of each puff to release steam; return the puffs to the oven, turn the oven off, and prop open the oven door with the handle of a wooden spoon.  Dry the puffs in the turned-off oven until the centers are just moist (not wet) and the puffs are crisp, about 45 minutes.  Use a sharp paring knife to poke a hole through the bottom or side to check the interior.  Transfer the puffs to a wire rack to cool completely.  (At this point the puffs can be stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours or frozen for up to 1 month in an airtight plastic bag.  Before serving, crisp in the oven at 300˚ F – 5-8 minutes for room temperature puffs, 8-10 minutes for frozen puffs.)

To fill the puffs, use the tip of a paring knife to make a small cut perpendicular to the first, creating an X in the side of each puff.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch plain tip with the pastry cream.  Pipe some of the pastry cream through the X into the side of each puff until it starts to ooze back out.   Repeat to fill all the puffs.

To make the glaze, place the half-and-half and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 20 seconds at a time, until the mixture just begins to steam.  Whisk together thoroughly, add the confectioners’ sugar, and whisk until completely smooth.  Dip the tops of the filled cream puffs in the chocolate glaze and transfer to a wire rack until the glaze has set completely.  Serve within several hours.

Source: adapted from Baking Illustrated

32 Responses

  1. Beautiful cream puffs!!! My mom is famous in our family and her group of friends for making cream puffs. She thinks it’s so funny because of how easy they are to make (and the recipe is from her 1970’s Betty Crocker cookbook)! She does half topped with chocolate and half dusted with powdered sugar. As a kid I would just eat the filling out of them with a spoon 🙂

  2. These look like very delicious profiteroles. Yum! Can I highly recommend melted mars bar instead of chocolate sauce, it’s divine…

  3. divine!!

  4. Hi Annie!

    I just came across your blog last week, and love love all your voice, recipes and photos. I’m thinking about starting my own food blog and would love to learn more about how you got started, etc. Just shoot me an e-mail when you have some time! Have a great day 🙂

  5. Mmmm! One of my favorites! Surprisingly easy to make as well! DELICIOUS!

  6. I love cream puffs, they are so good! Have a great weekend. Denise

  7. I love you but my scale hates you. These look soooo good and the picture makes me soooo hungry!

  8. Oh my goodness! These cream puffs look sooooo good! Are you a professional baker because every treat I see on here is so pretty and mouthwatering! Yum!

  9. I love love love cream puffs. I’ve never made them on my own, but growing up I used to make them with my mom. I’m kind of scared to make them now because I don’t trust myself not to eat them all.

    I never liked cake all that much, so instead of birthday cake I’d get birthday cream puffs. Yummmmmmm.

  10. OOOOH, one of your cream puffs would be perfect right about now. Love the second photo.

    I want to thank you for your Double Chocolate Pecan Pie recipe. Your blog is highlighted on this week’s Saturday Blog Showcase.


  11. Love cream puffs……reminds me of when I went to Culinary school….my classmate Liz let a pot sit a bit to long after making a batch of pâte à choux and renamed it ‘pot of glue’….so now when I make it at home… my daughter will correct me and say “mom don’t you mean pot of glue” 🙂

  12. I can’t wait to make these cream puffs, although I do have a little problem. They don’t sell Half and half where I live, so what would you suggest to replace it, Annie? Would heavy cream be a suitable substitution? Thanks for the help!

    • Kay,
      You can Google for an exact substitution, but usually when I don’t have half-and-half, I just mix equal parts heavy cream and milk, because that’s basically what half-and-half is. Good luck!

  13. Ooh I adore cream puffs! I normally fill them with simple whipped cream, the extra decadent pastry cream sounds utterly fantastic! Beauties 🙂

  14. I remember the first time I made eclairs, which is very similar. Pâte à choux seemed intimidating, but I was shocked how easy it really was. I diddn’t have a food processor “back in those days”, either. These look like little bites of Heaven!

  15. These look amazing. Although the process seems very long, I definitely want to try making these. Thanks for the recipe – you did a very good job describing all the steps, it’ll be hard to mess some thing up… i hope.

  16. Those look a little too good. This kind of stuff is my weakness. I love eating cream filled anything and washing it down with a good cup of coffee. Anyway, beautiful work!

  17. These are always so amazing! They taste so light you think you can eat more than you should!!!

  18. Lovely little bites of heaven! I don’t think I’m brave enough to make them from scratch though. 🙂


  19. […] Cream Puffs – Annie’s Eats January 23, 2010 · Posted in Desserts  Hello there! If you are new here, you might want to subscribe to the RSS feed for great food updates. Cream Puffs « Annie’s Eats. […]

  20. Oh my, these look lovely! Your pictures are beautiful.

  21. I love making cream puffs. People always think it takes tons of effort to pull them off, when in reality, they’re much much easier than many desserts (pie, for example). Thanks for showing off your little beauties.

  22. ok, just got to your site thru the pioneer woma–love this. and would love the recipe for those cookie dough truffles!!! please oh please!!!!!

  23. The cookie dough truffles look like they are to die for! I would love the recipe.. plz 🙂

  24. i love you site. enjoyed reading and am hoping to try your shared recipes. include me in your mailing list.

    • Hi Simone,
      You can subscribe to my posts by clicking on “Entries RSS” at the top of the page, and then “Subscribe in mail” on the bottom right of the next page.

  25. oh wow! those look so delicious!

  26. Thank you SO much for taking the time to test and figure out this recipe. I LOVE them! They turned out fantastic! I thought it would be so much harder to make cream puffs, but your tips really helped. Mine actually look just like yours, which totally amazed me, I feel like a master chef! lol I’m enjoying them now, Yum! Thanks again : )

  27. Annie — I made these yesterday and the pastry cream turned out runnier than I would have liked. Any idea what I did wrong? I actually think I cooked it too long because it looked like the eggs started to curdle, but it seemed fine after I ran it through the sieve. I chilled it for 3 1/2 hours before filling the puffs, and the end result tasted fantastic, but the filling and eating process was very messy because the pastry cream oozed everywhere. I’m game to try again but would like to have an idea of how to fix the problem first. (One thing — I accidentally added all of the sugar to the 1/2 and 1/2 in the early stages so didn’t add any to the egg yolks. But I can’t see how that would affect the thickness — can you?) Thanks! Love your web site!

    • It’s impossible for me to know what went wrong since I wasn’t there when you made them. But, if you added the sugar and half-and-half out of turn, I’m guessing that was the problem. Also, if a lot of the eggs curdled, maybe there wasn’t enough egg left in the mixture to keep it thick. I’ve made this pastry cream more times than I can count and it has always been thick and very easy to work with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: