Choux pastry (pâte à choux) is, hands down, my favourite type of pastry to make because it’s so easy! There’s no need to laminate, knead or roll out dough. It’s cooked in a pot on the stove, and the choux is done in no time. You can even prepare the dough in advance and refrigerate or freeze it. The baked shells also freeze well.
This pastry is also incredibly versatile. From one basic recipe, you can make cream puffs/profiteroles, éclairs, Paris-Brest, croquembouche, French crullers, beignets, chouquettes, churros…you name it! And it’s more than just desserts. There are gougères (where cheese is mixed in with the choux dough) and choux canapés filled with an endless variety of savoury fillings.
But today I’m going to talk about a classic – probably the classic choux dessert – cream puffs filled with chantilly cream (sweetened whipped cream) or crème pâtissière (vanilla pastry cream). I have a love affair with choux (as do my friends and family), so naturally, it’s one of the desserts (along with Paris-Brest) that I make on a fairly regular basis. Seriously though, who doesn’t like a good, old-fashioned cream puff?!
For the filling, I actually like to combine whipped cream and vanilla pastry cream to make diplomat cream (crème diplomat). Why choose one or the other when you can have both, right?! The marriage of the two is absolutely heavenly – rich and creamy, yet so light! If you want an even lighter and fluffier filling, you can always increase the amount of whipped cream.
Just take one bite of these cream puffs and you’ll be hooked! They’re so addictive, especially when you make them small, because then you feel less guilty having a second (or a third) one! I don’t know about you, but I find that because baked choux pastry is so light and airy, I always end up eating more than my fair share!
Did you make this recipe?
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CLASSIC CREAM PUFFS
Makes 24-2″ cream puffs
8g whole milk powder
90g unsalted butter, room temperature
110g bread flour
3 large eggs
375ml whole milk, divided
2 large egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150ml whipping cream (keep refrigerated until ready to use)
icing sugar, for dusting (optional)
1. In a medium pot combine water, salt, milk powder and butter over medium heat until simmering.
2. Add all the bread flour at once. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined and a ball of dough is formed. Continue cooking for 2 to 4 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the pan. You’ll also notice that some of the dough will stick to the bottom of the pot and form a thin film – this is normal.
3. Transfer the cooked dough to a large bowl and let it cool down a bit (it just needs to be cool enough so that the eggs don’t get cooked when you add them in). In the meantime, preheat oven to 400F (205C), and prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Add in one egg at a time to the choux dough, mixing well after each addition. After all the eggs have been added, you will get a dough with a pipeable consistency.
5. Prepare a piping bag with a large round tip (Wilton 1A or 2A). Fill the bag with the dough.
6. Spray or sprinkle some water over the surface of the parchment-lined baking sheet. Holding the piping bag upright at a 90 degree angle to the surface, pipe small mounds of dough about 2″ in diameter, and leave about 2″ in between each. With a dampened finger, gently press down any pointy tips on the tops of each one.
7. Bake for 20 minutes. Do not open the oven during this time. After 20 minutes, the choux should be puffed up and lightly browned on the surface (if not, leave to bake for a couple more minutes; depending on your oven, you may also need to turn the baking sheet around, to get a uniform colour on all the choux). Then, turn the oven temperature down to 375F (190C) and open the door of the oven. Continue baking for 10 minutes with the oven door open, which helps to dry them out. (Alternatively, you can also use a wooden skewer or toothpick to pierce the side of each choux, and then place them back in the oven at about 350F (177C) for 10 to 15 minutes.)
8. Transfer choux pastries to a cooling rack. Once they have cooled down enough to handle, use a wooden skewer or the pointy end of a chopstick to make a small hole on the bottom of each choux. Allow to cool completely.
1. In a medium pot, combine 280ml of the milk along with the scraped-out seeds from the vanilla bean (or add vanilla extract). Heat over low to medium-low heat. In the meantime, in a medium bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Then add in the remaining 95ml milk and the egg yolks. Whisk until well combined and no lumps are remaining.
2. When the milk comes to a simmer, pour approximately half of it into the egg yolk mixture, while whisking it. Then pour this mixture all back into the pot. Place the pot back on the stove over medium heat. Keep whisking the mixture until it thickens and starts bubbling. Remove from heat.
3. Immediately pour the custard into the bowl of a stand mixer. Turn on the machine and leave it to whisk the pastry cream until it completely cools down. Transfer it to a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap, making sure the plastic touches the surface of the pastry cream, in order to prevent a “skin” from forming. Set aside.
4. In a clean mixing bowl, whisk the cold whipping cream on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form.
5. Give the pastry cream a good stir, then fold in about 1/3 of the whipped cream. Then add the mixture back into the rest of the whipped cream. Fold until well combined.
Filling the choux pastry:
Place the tip of the piping bag into the hole at the bottom of the choux. Pipe in the cream. You will feel some resistance when it’s filled (you’ll definitely know to stop piping once a little of the filling starts to ooze out from the hole; if this happens, just wipe away any excess). Dust with icing sugar, if desired.
Note: Cream puffs are best eaten fresh. They can be refrigerated for 2 to 3 days. However, it’s recommended that they are consumed within 24 hours. The choux shell will lose its light and fluffy texture the longer it keeps.