A much-needed dessert post after all the healthy recipes I have posted lately. Finally! I baked cream puffs the other day after a whole year for a friend’s birthday. Cream puffs and eclairs look so pretty… and complicated. I’m here to tell you they’re NOT. They turned out really well even the first time I baked them, and that was after looking at a bunch of recipes and YouTube videos. I guess you can call them easy but tricky. I won’t lie to you – it’s a little more than just mixing dough. Cooking the dough on the stove has to be done quickly and lots of arm strength is required (those BodyPump classes are finally helping). Eggs have to be added carefully so that they don’t get scrambled. Once you get used to that, it’s a breeze. The custard filling is simple and the chocolate is just a ganache – easy peasy!
The dough used to make the cream puffs is called Pate A Choux and is a master recipe that is used with sweet or savory fillings. Eclairs, profiteroles, gougeres (don’t ask me to pronounce that!), etc. are all made from choux pastry. You can try different shapes and experiment with fillings of your choice.
The recipe I have here is pretty much what most people do. I used 4 eggs instead of 5 that most recipes called for. I added some vanilla while cooking the dough to eliminate some of the ‘eggy’ smell. Traditional recipes don’t add vanilla while cooking the dough, at least not that I know of.
Decadent, Light Fluffy Puffs Filled With Vanilla Creme Topped With Chocolate. This recipe makes about 40 small cream puffs, or 25 large ones. To make eclairs, pipe them out into a line instead of a circle. Using a heavy-bottomed saucepan is important so as to not scorch the mixture later when cooking. Keep a sturdy wooden spoon handy and lots of arm strength to mix!
- - For the Cream Puffs
- Water - 1/2 cup
- Milk - 1/2 cup , whole milk
- Flour - 1 cup, All purpose
- Butter - 1/2 cup
- Salt - 1/4 tsp
- Vanilla extract - 1 1/2 tsp
- Eggs - 4
- - For The Pastry Cream
- Milk - 2 cups, whole
- Sugar - 1/4 cup + 1/3 cup
- Egg yolks - 3
- Corn starch - 2 1/2 tbsp
- Butter - 2 tbsp
- Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
- - For the Chocolate Ganache
- Chocolate Chips - 2 cups, semi sweet
- Cream - 1/4 cup, or slightly more depending on consistency
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 deg F.
- Boil the water, milk, butter and salt in a heavy-bottomed 2 quart saucepan.
- Once the mixture comes to a boil, add the vanilla. Dump all the flour in at once, take a deep breath and start mixing with the wooden spoon very quickly. The flour will absorb all the liquid and thicken. Continue mixing until the mixture is slightly dry. Take care to see that lumps don't form and the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. Don't leave it alone even for a second!
- Once the dough is smooth and almost dry, turn off the heat, take it off the stove and continue to mix for a couple of minutes.
- While the mixture is still warm, add one egg. The dough will separate but keep at it and it will come together. Make sure you keep mixing so the dough is aired and the eggs don't get scrambled or cooked. Add the other eggs one by one and keep mixing between each addition.
- The end result should be a smooth, shiny dough that slowly drops off the spoon when lifted. Not runny, not too tight (but tighter than cake batter).
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Fill a piping bag/ ziplock bag with the warm dough, push it all to one end and snip off the tip.
- Pipe circles onto the sheet about 1" in diameter and 3" apart since they will expand while baking. You can make them bigger, but they should all be the same size for even baking. For eclairs, pipe a single line about 2 1/2" in length.
- Bake at 350 deg F for 30 min, rotating once in-between. Do NOT open the oven door before 15 min.
- Take them out and let cool in the pan for 5 min. Then transfer to a wire rack so condensation doesn't form at the bottom.
- They can be stored at room temperature and are best filled just before serving.
- Fill them only after they have cooled completely.
- Boil the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar.
- Whisk the egg yolks till pale yellow in color. Stir in the sugar and the cornstarch.
- When the milk boils, remove from heat, and gently add a tablespoon to the egg mixture while whisking simultaneously. This is done to raise the temperature of the eggs without cooking them. Slowly add a little more of the milk mixture in a thin stream while whisking.
- Once all the milk has been added, return to the saucepan and slowly boil until the mixture is shiny and thick.
- Remove from heat, add the butter and vanilla.
- Strain into a bowl to remove lumps. Cover with plastic wrap touching the surface of the cream. Refrigerate till needed. Can be made upto 2 days ahead.
- Pour the chocolate chips into a bowl, add the cream and microwave for 10 seconds. Remove, stir and return to the microwave for another 10 seconds. Remove again and stir well. If it hasn't melted yet, return to the microwave for 10 seconds. Care should be taken so the chocolate doesn't burn.
- Once the puffs are cool, make a hole in the middle and fill with a teaspoon of the pastry cream. Top it off with a spoonful of ganache by either spreading it or piping it.