Introduction: How to Make Cream Puffs & Éclairs
A cream puff, profiterole or choux à la crème is a filled French choux pastry ball with a typically sweet and moist filling of whipped cream, custard, pastry cream, or ice cream. The puffs may be decorated or left plain or garnished with chocolate sauce, caramel, or a dusting of powdered sugar. They are very similar to an éclair which is an oblong pastry made with the same dough as the cream puff and filled with a cream and topped with icing. An éclair is typically made into an oblong shape with a pastry bag and baked until it is crisp and hollow inside.
First you must prepare the pastry dough. It contains only butter, water, flour and eggs. Instead of a raising agent, it employs high moisture content to create steam during cooking to puff the pastry. The choux pastry paste is piped through a pastry bag or dropped with a pair of spoons into small balls and baked to form largely hollow puffs. After cooling, the baked puffs are injected with filling using a pastry bag and narrow piping tip, or by slicing off the top, filling them, and reassembling. For sweet cream puffs, additional glazes or decorations may then be added.
The most common presentations are pastry cream, whipped cream, or ice cream filling, topped with powdered sugar or chocolate ganache and possibly more whipped cream. They are also served plain, with a crisp caramel glaze, iced, or with fruit. Filled and glazed with caramel, they are assembled into a type of pièce montée called croquembouches, often served at weddings in France and Italy, during the Christmas holiday in France, and are served during important celebrations in Gibraltar. Profiteroles are also used as the outer wall of St. Honoré Cake.
Step 1: Ingredients: for About 24 Cream Puffs
- 150g All-purpose Flour
- 1 Teaspoon sugar
- ½ Teaspoon Salt
- 100g Unsalted Butter
- 200ml Water
- 125ml Milk
- 4 Eggs
Step 2: Whipped Cream
- 1 Cup Whipping Cream/Heavy Cream (240ml)
- 1 ½ Tablespoons Powdered Sugar
- ½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Step 3: Instructions
1. In a medium sauce pot, add butter, sugar, salt, milk, and water. Set to medium heat to melt the butter completely and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, sift flour and set aside.
2. As soon as it starts to boil take it off the heat. Add flour all at once then stir until combined.
3. Bring the pot back to the heat. Stir constantly until it starts to form a ball and there is a thin layer sticking to the bottom of the pot. Transfer it to a bowl and let it cool for about 5 minutes.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, mix well after each addition. The dough should be sticky not slick and should be stiff enough to hold a peak but be able to fall from the spoon.
5. Transfer the dough to a pastry/piping/icing bag with a large tip.
6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pipe the choux dough on to the baking sheet into 1.5 inch balls. You can also use two spoons to make the dough into balls on the baking sheet. Once you get to the size swirl the tip. If the dough balls get pointed tips dip your finger in water and slightly push down the little pointy parts.
7. Bake at 400° F. (200° C.) for about 20 minutes, or until they are well swollen and golden brown. Cooking time varies depending on the size of choux you piped.
8. Once out of the oven check the inside of one of the puffs to make sure it is dry. If it is wet inside you can put them back in the oven for a few minutes. When they are done let them cool completely.
9. To fill the creampuffs you can cut them in half and add the filling. Or you can cut an ‘X’ shape in the bottom and inject them with your filling of choice. Once filled with any kind of cream filling, they must be stored in the refrigerator.
Step 4: Whipped Cream Instructions
1. Pour the whipping cream/heavy cream into a mixing bowl. Add in the powder sugar, and vanilla extract.
2. Put the mixing bowl and mixer whisk in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or longer. This will help the cream have stiffer peaks.
3. At medium high speed, whip until thickened and stiff peaks have formed.
Step 5: Tips
1. When filling the pastry bag put the empty bag in a large cup. Fold over the top edge of the bag over the cup. Spoon in the dough, then you can lift up the bag and squeeze the dough to the tip, and start piping it out.
2. An éclair uses the same dough as the cream puff but is made into an oblong shape.
3. Don’t open the oven door during baking because the cream puff may collapse.
4. Before you put them in the oven you can brush the tops of the puffs with a little bit of egg wash to give them a golden amber shine when they come out.
5. If you want the cream puff to be really crisp, fill shortly before you are about to serve. You can store them in any airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days, and can freeze even filled puffs for several weeks. But they will probably lose some of their crispness.
Step 6: Watch the Video
(The video may not show up for mobile viewers)