You can make cream puffs at home which are made from puffs of pâte à choux filled with sweetened whipped cream and topped with powdered sugar.
The dough to make cream puffs is called pâte à choux in French. It’s an eggy dough that relies on steam to puff in the oven. They are easy, but there are a few tricks you need to know before embarking on this recipe.
Tricks for making pâte à choux and baking it into éclairs or cream puffs
- The quantity of eggs you use can vary for this type of recipe, but you’ll need between 4 and 5 eggs. I usually use four and a half large eggs, so not 4 eggs and not 5 eggs, but something in the middle. Use too little egg, and they won’t rise properly, and too much egg, they will rise and fall. For this batch, I unfortunately had a mix of large and extra-large eggs, and my choux ended up a tad on the eggy side if you ask me.
- Do not, I repeat DO NOT, open the oven door as these bake until they have fully puffed and are starting to brown or you risk them collapsing into eggy pancakes.
- You can make them by hand, which is a serious arm workout, or you can test using the stand mixer to save. I highly recommend using the mixer to beat the dough and incorporate the eggs.
- Practice makes perfect and the more you make this recipe, the better you’ll get at it!
What to make with pâte à choux
This is a very versatile base recipe that you can expand upon. Once you’ve mastered pâte à choux to make cream puffs, you can also make:
- gougères, which is the French baking term for pâte à choux mixed with cheese. So if you ‘d like savoury puffs, omit the whipped cream and add cheese to the pâte à choux before piping and baking it.
- éclairs, which are piped into longer shapes and filled with vanilla pastry cream and dipped in chocolate for the classic éclair, or filled with a coffee flavoured pastry cream and dipped in a coffee glaze for an “éclair au café”
- profitéroles, which are puffs of pâte à choux filled with a scoop of ice cream instead of the whipped cream, and then they are served with chocolate sauce. For profitéroles, you can use store-bought ice cream or homemade, like vanilla bean ice cream or even cardamom ice cream.
For the pâte à choux
- 125 mL water 1/2 cup
- 125 mL milk (2 % fat) 1/2 cup
- 115 grams unsalted butter 1/2 cup
- 5 grams Diamond Crystal fine kosher salt
- 10 grams granulated sugar 2 tsp
- 167 grams all-purpose flour 1 1/3 cups
- 4–5 large eggs
For the whipped cream
- 500 mL whipping cream (35 % fat) 2 cups
- 50 grams icing sugar plus more for sprinkling on the finished cream puffs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 –2 dollops of jam optional
To make the pâte à choux
- Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
- In a saucepan, heat together the water, milk butter, salt and sugar. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil.
- Remove the pan from the heat and dump in all the flour. Quickly mix it in with a wooden spoon, then place the saucepan back on the heat to dry the dough. The dough will form a uniform, slightly shiny mass when it's cooked enough.
- Transfer the dough to the bowl of the stand mixer and beat with the paddle attachment til it's cool.
- Add 3 eggs at once, and beat them in until they have completely disappeared.
- Add the 4th egg and beat it in. If the pâte à choux doesn't have a pipeable consistency (soft but firm) and doesn't form a "bec d'oiseau" (a curved beak shape on the end of a spoon), then add another half egg.
- Scoop the pâte à choux with a 3/4 oz scoop (find it on Amazon) onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing an inch apart. Brush with the remaining half egg, and then bake for a good 15 min at 400ºF until the choux have puffed and are starting to brown, quickly open the door just a crack to release steam, then shut it and lower the temperature to 375ºF for another 10 minutes to finish the baking.
- Transfer to a rack to cool.
To make the whipping cream and assemble
- Whip the cream to soft peaks with the whisk attachment of a stand mixer.
- Add the icing sugar and vanilla, and finish whipping.
- To a pipping bag fitted with the Wilton 1M piping tip (from Amazon), streak a little raspberry jam down the inside and then fill with whipping cream.
- Slice the cooled choux puffs to open them and pipe the cream in the hole of the base. Finish with the top half and sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.
I do my best to bake with the finest ingredients. Stirling Creamery, a Canadian company, has provided the butter for this post.
Janice Lawandi is chemist-turned-baker, working as a recipe developer in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She studied pastry at Le Cordon Bleu in Ottawa and cooking at l’Académie Culinaire. She has a BSc in Biochemistry from Concordia University and a PhD in Chemistry from McGill University. Visit janicelawandi.com to see my portfolio.