Cream Puffs with Variations
Irresistible dreamy cream puffs with two filling choices—vanilla pastry cream and sweetened whipped cream—plus an easy chocolate icing for the topping.
The pastry for making cream puffs is called choux pastry, choux paste, pâte à choux or cream-puff pastry. This special pastry is made by an entirely different method from other pastries, the dough is created by combining flour with boiling water and butter, then beating eggs into the mixture, making a sticky, paste-like mixture. During baking, the eggs cause the pastry to puff up into irregular domes. Versatile puff pastry can be baked in various sizes and shapes, and be filled with both sweet and savory fillings.
4 large eggs
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
Sweetened Whipped Cream That Stays Whipped:
2 cups (1 pint) whipping or heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Vanilla Pastry Cream:
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 cups half-and-half (light cream)
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
4 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 to 3 tablespoons hot water, or as needed
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). (Tip: If using the Vanilla Pastry Cream, make first as it will need to chill before using.)
- For Puff Pastry: Break open eggs into a small bowl and beat lightly; set aside.
- Heat water, butter and salt to a rolling boil in a large saucepan. Stir in flour; reduce heat. Stir vigorously over low heat about 1 minute or until mixture forms a ball; remove from heat.
- Beat in eggs, all at once and continue to beat vigorously until smooth.
- Drop dough by scant 1/4 cupfuls about 3-inches apart onto an ungreased baking sheets.
- Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until puffed and golden brown.
- Cool in baking pans on a wire rack, away from any drafts.
- When completely cooled, cut off top of each puff using a sharp paring knife. Carefully pull out any filaments of soft dough.
- Fill puffs with desired filling. Replace the tops and frost with Chocolate Icing, or simply sprinkle tops with powdered sugar. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Best served on the same day they are made (See Make-Ahead Tip).
- For Sweetened Whipped Cream That Stays Whipped: Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until stiff.
- For Vanilla Pastry Cream: Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a 3-quart saucepan. Gradually whisk in half-and-half. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Cook until mixture is thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the pastry cream and chill completely, about 2 to 3 hours, before filling puffs.
- For Chocolate Icing: Melt butter in a 2 to 4-cup glass measure, add the powdered sugar, cocoa and 1 tablespoon hot water and mix by hand, adding remaining hot water as needed, until smooth and desired spreading consistency is attained.
Makes 12 cream puffs.
- Chocolate Cream Puffs: Decrease flour to 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons. Mix 2 tablespoons unsweetened baking cocoa and 1 tablespoon granulated sugar with the flour. Omit Vanilla Pastry Filling. Fill puffs with chocolate pudding and frost with Chocolate Icing.
- Chocolate Éclairs: Drop dough by scant 1/4 cupfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Form each into an oblong finger-shape about 4 1/2-inches long and 1 1/2-inches wide. Bake as directed; cool. Fill with Vanilla Pastry Cream or Sweetened Whipped Cream. Frost with Chocolate Icing.
Make-Ahead Tip: Unfilled baked puff pastry freezes well and thaws quickly. Once the filament dough has been removed, wrap each puff in plastic wrap -- or if freezing mini puffs, freeze them first on a cookie sheet then place in a large freezer bag -- and store in a container to prevent crushing. Use within 2 months. When ready to use, simply thaw, fill and top as desired.
Nutritional Information Per Serving (1/12 of recipe; with Sweetened Whipped Cream and Chocolate Icing): 308.2 calories; 75% calories from fat; 26.3g total fat; 150.3mg cholesterol; 107.7mg sodium; 98.1mg potassium; 14.9g carbohydrates; 1.0g fiber; 4.9g sugar; 14.0g net carbs; 4.5g protein.
Nutritional Information Per Serving (1/12 of recipe; with Vanilla Pastry Cream and Chocolate Icing): 289.1 calories; 60% calories from fat; 19.8g total fat; 185.3mg cholesterol; 136.0mg sodium; 136.2mg potassium; 22.3g carbohydrates; 1.0g fiber; 9.1g sugar; 21.3g net carbs; 6.4g protein.