recipe courtesy of Epicurious
Cream Puffs are a lot easier to make than most people think, and you can fill them with all sorts of yummy stuff; whipped cream, pastry cream, pudding, custard, ice cream, cheese, and even chicken or tuna salad.
The first time I made choux pastry, I was a little apprehensive. I was afraid that the process would be too complicated and that they would come out looking like something that no one wanted to eat. Surprise, surprise…yes, they are a tad bit time-consuming (and messy), but they are easy to make, and it’s really cool to see how much they puff up when they bake. I will suggest that you read through this recipe and get a pretty good idea of the process before you start (I would print out the recipe and keep it next to me). This recipe makes lots of cream puffs, but you can freeze the extra puffs once you have piped them on the baking sheet, and then bake them at a later time.
No longer will you walk past the pastry case and drool when you see the beautiful delicacies on display. Once you get the hang of making choux pastry, you’ll be pumping out not only Cream Puffs, but also Profiteroles (cream puffs filled with ice cream and topped with warm chocolate sauce), Gougeres ( cheese and herb cream puffs), Eclairs (elongated cream puffs filled with whipped cream or pastry cream and topped with a chocolate glaze) and perhaps even a big, beautiful Croquembouque (cream puffs filled with pastry cream, topped with caramel, and stacked in the shape of a tree, then surrounded with spun sugar). Enjoy!
1 cup water
5 1/3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4-5 large eggs
Fillings (a few suggestions)
Chicken Salad, Tuna Salad, Shrimp Salad
Toppings (a few suggestions)
Various Ice Cream Sauces
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Line one baking sheet with a Silpat, and the second one with parchment paper. If you don’t have a Silpat, just use parchment paper on both baking sheets. Set up a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. If using a hand mixer, set it up and have a large heat-proof bowl next to it.
3. Sift flour and set aside. Combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium to high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour, all at once. Stir rapidly with a wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan and the bottom of the pan is clean, with no dough sticking to it. The dough should be glossy and smooth, but still damp.
4. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, to allow the moisture to evaporate. Adjust the heat as necessary to prevent the dough from browning. A thin coating will form on the bottom and sides of the pan. When enough moisture has evaporated, steam will rise from the dough and you will smell the nutty aroma of cooked flour. At first you will smell the butter-yes, stick your nose down there and smell it-then the smell will change once the flour has been cooked.
5. Immediately transfer the dough to the mixer bowl and mix for a few seconds to release some of the heat. Check to see if the dough is ready by placing your finger in it. You should be able to touch down in the dough without getting burned. On medium speed, add 4 eggs, one at a time, beating well and completely incorporating each egg before adding the next one.
6. Turn off the mixer and lift some of the dough on a rubber spatula. Turn the spatula to let the dough run off, it should fall off the spatula very slowly. If it doesn’t move at all or is very dry and falls off in one clump, beat in the 5th egg.
7. Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip (you all see my pastry bag; it is a gallon-sized Ziploc bag with the corner cut off and a large tip and coupler set attached). If you don’t have a pastry bag or tips, use a Ziploc bag with a small piece snipped off of the corner.
8. Pipe the dough into a V-shape if you would like heart-shaped cream puffs, a rectangle for eclairs, and a round disc for regular cream puffs. This dough is supposed to make about 4 dozen cream puffs, if you keep the size to about 1 1/2 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick when you pipe them. Mine were bigger so I added 5 minutes to the baking time. Space them a couple of inches apart so that they have room to expand while baking. Using your fingertips dipped in water, you can smooth the surface of your piped cream puffs should they have lines.
If you do not wish to bake them all now, just pipe them onto the baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper, smooth them with wet fingers, and then place them in the freezer. Once they are frozen, you can place them in a freezer storage bag until you are ready to bake them. To bake the frozen cream puffs, place the frozen puffs on a silpat and bake as directed below. You will probably need to add a few minutes to the baking time at the end.
9. Bake the puffs for 10 minutes, turn the baking sheet around, turn the oven down to 350 degrees, and bake for 15 more minutes. Remove one puff and cut it open with a very sharp knife; it should be hollow inside and not gooey or eggy. If it is still moist, return it to the oven and check it in 5 minutes. Cool the puffs completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container until serving time.
10. When ready to serve, slice the puff in half with a very sharp knife. Fill as desired, place the top back on the puff and top it as desired.