Cream Puff Perfection, Every Single Time!

Posted on November 2, 2016 in Pastry/ The Sugary

cream-puffs

Anyone want a cream puff?? You know you do 😉 I’ve got that fever again… The one where I can’t stop watching pastry videos on YouTube and have an overwhelming urge to try even the most difficult and unpronounceable recipes. This week, I made Gateau St. Honoré which is a cake (gateau) made in honor of the French patron saint of pastry chefs and bakers (St. Honoré) and is mostly comprised of cream puffs, puff pastry, and a cream filling (multiple varieties abound, but crème chiboust is traditional). In order to make a cake made mostly of cream puffs, I had to master pâte à choux. Pâte à choux is a very light, airy pastry dough that is used not only to make cream puffs, also known as profiteroles, but eclairs, crullers, and beignets as well as many other pastry delights! In fact, by mastering this fairly simple dough, you will be capable of so many pastry feats, your friends will be astounded with your incredible talent ;-).

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This pâte à choux recipe is perfect in its simplicity and produces a reliably crisp, hollow cream puff, but for some reason people shy away from making their own cream puffs. If I were to hazard a guess I’d say its either because the use of French pastry terms scares them away, they’ve had a cream puff mishap or failure in the past, or they’ve just never tasted a fresh cream puff. Trust me. The frozen ones at the supermarket do not compare! Especially when you have the freedom to fill your cream puff with whatever your little heart desires. Imagine…a peanut butter and jelly cream puff! Ooooh! A sinful chocolate ganache filled puff! Oh my! Or fill that puffy goodness with pimento cheese-y amazingness and call it a savory puff!!! (I think some French pastry chefs just rolled over in their graves at the thought, but hey, we can eat what we want in our own kitchens, right?)

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So… down to the tips that I believe create cream puff perfection:

  1. Use a wooden spoon every time for mixing in the saucepot. I have tried regular spoons, whisks, plastic utensils, heat safe spatulas… nothing is better for getting the consistency right than a wooden spoon.
  2. Watch carefully and keep stirring furiously once you add the flour. As soon as it pulls away from the sides, starts to form a ball, and a film begins to form on the bottom of the pot, IT’S DONE! Take it off the heat and immediately dump it into your stand mixer.
  3. With a paddle attachment, mix on medium low for a few minutes until the mixture cools and add eggs one at a time minus the last egg. Assess the texture before adding your last egg. It should be stretchy, fall slowly from the paddle in a ribbon-like fashion, and small peaks should form when you touch it with your finger. If it is too dry, add your last egg.
  4. Dust your puffs with powdered sugar instead of egg wash!
  5. Do not open the oven during baking to check on the puffs, it can cause them to deflate. If you’re worried your oven is too hot, the addition of an oven safe thermometer will save more than just your puffs in the long run. See this puff? You can almost see through it, it is that light, airy, and has a perfect open cavity for crème filling! cream-puffs2
  6. Allow the puffs to rest in a cracked oven that is off for 15 minutes, this allows the puffs to dry out a bit more and get that nice crisp crust.
  7. You can make your filling ahead of time but always do the actual filling right before serving. The closer to serving the better, but if they have to be filled an hour or two before, keep refrigerated. I do not cover my puffs because I feel like they stay crisper in the fridge that way.

Follow these tips and they will turn out perfect every time! It took me about an hour from start to finish to make the dough, bake them, make the filling while they were baking, let them cool, and fill them for 40-45 puffs. That’s a lot of cream puffs, my friends! For a super easy filling, use my stabilized whipped cream recipe. For an easy custard filling use vanilla instant pudding with . Fold the pudding and whipped cream together for an even more amazing, trick-your-friends, fluffy cream puff filling! Crème Chiboust will be discussed in the next installment, as will the Gateau St. Honoré, but for those of you feeling adventurous, I’ve included a Vanilla Mousseline recipe after the pâte à choux. Enjoy!

 

Pâte à choux
Yields 40
This dough makes perfect cream puffs, every time! Make sure to have your ingredients measured and set out ahead of time!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
35 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup water
  2. 1/2 cup whole milk
  3. 1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 2 tsp granulated sugar
  6. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
  7. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  8. 4 to 5 large eggs
  9. Powdered sugar for dusting
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat (preferred) and set aside.
  2. In a saucepot, combine water, milk, butter, salt and vanilla. Bring to a boil and remove from heat.
  3. Using a wooden spoon mix in your flour and return to heat. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture pulls away from the side of the pan and starts to form a ball. You will also notice a light film beginning to form on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Remove from heat and dump the mixture into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium low for 2 minutes until the mixture has cooled slightly.
  5. Add eggs one at a time on medium speed until you reach 4 eggs. Your dough will look curdled at first, dont worry, keep mixing. The dough should be thick but not so thick that is sticks to the paddle. It should be glossy, stretchy, and fall slowly from the paddle. Soft peaks should form when you touch it with your finger. If it is too dry, add your remaining egg.
  6. Pipe roughly 1.5 inch rounds onto your cookie sheet leaving about the same amount of space in between each puff. Dip your finger in water and *lightly* press down any points on the top of the puffs. (Do not flatten the puffs, just smooth the points.)
  7. Dust unbaked puffs with powdered sugar.
  8. Bake for 35 minutes (do not peek!! You may cause them to deflate) and turn off your oven. Crack oven door and leave puffs undisturbed for 15 minutes.
  9. After 15 minutes your puffs are ready! Once cooled, fill with whipped cream, pastry cream, crème chiboust, or get creative 🙂
Notes
  1. Unbaked piped puffs can be refrigerated for several days, or frozen for several weeks before baking. Bake right out of the freezer, no need to thaw!
  2. Cream puffs are best filled and eaten right away but can be refrigerated filled for a few hours. They can start to soften and lose their crispness so filling before serving is always the recommended method.
  3. I keep my unfilled cream puffs on the cookie sheet (all piled on one is fine) loosely covered with plastic wrap with a corner "open" allowing for a small amount of air in and out. This keeps them from softening in an air tight container, but I usually use them within a day or two of baking if I cannot use them right away.
The Sugary https://thesugary.net/

 

Vanilla Mousseline Filling
A delectable vanilla cream filling for cream puffs, eclairs, and many more!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups milk
  2. 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  3. 2/3 cups granulated sugar
  4. 5 egg yolks
  5. 1.5 tablespoons flour
  6. 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
  7. 2 stick (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temp
Instructions
  1. Simmer milk, half of the sugar, and vanilla extract.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks and remaining sugar. Add flour and cornstarch.
  3. Add approximately 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture to prepare it for the hot liquid and whisk quickly.
  4. Add egg mixture to milk mixture in saucepan and whisk until all combined.
  5. Bring to a boil and whisk for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and whisk in the first stick of butter.
  6. Transfer mixture to a stand mixer and allow to cool to approximately 65 degrees. Beat on high for one minute before adding the remaining stick of butter.
  7. Beat on high for 5 minutes until fluffy.
  8. If the mixture breaks, heat the bowl with a blow torch or crème brulee torch or over a double boiler just a little bit and begin mixing again. This will warm the cold butter and cause even distribution.
Notes
  1. Can be kept refrigerated for 4-5 days.
The Sugary https://thesugary.net/

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