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Sense & Edibility's Valentine's (or Any) Day Cream Puffs
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Better than Bakery Cream Puffs

Begin a day ahead or early in the day. Use this dough to make cream puffs, eclairs, profiteroles, or Paris Brest.
Course Dessert
Cuisine French
Keyword cream puffs, pâte à choux, whipped cream
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Cooling Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 18 3-inch cream puffs
Calories 519kcal

Equipment

  • sheet pans
  • electric mixer

Ingredients

Pâte à choux

  • 2 cup (470 milliliters) water
  • 6 ounces (170 grams or 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) kosher salt
  • 2 cups (256 grams) all-purpose flour sifted
  • 8-10 large eggs room temperature *see notes

White Chocolate Ganache

  • 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 11 ounces (312 grams) white chocolate chips

Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream

  • 1 quart (960 milliliters) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or other flavoring)
  • 1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

Optional Decorations

  • sprinkles
  • powdered sugar

Instructions

  • Preheat your oven(s) to 425°F.
    Line two sheet pans with silicone baking mats or parchment paper. Set the pans aside.

Make the Pâte à Choux

  • Add the water, butter slices, and salt to a saucepan or saucier with sloped sides.
    Bring the mixture up to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Stir the liquid to encourage melting and mixing of the butter and the water.
  • After 3-4 minutes of boiling the the butter will have dispersed in the water and causing it to appear murky and pale yellow.
    Stir the entire amount of flour into the liquid in the pot until the flour pulls away from the pot's sides and forms a ball.
  • Once the dough has balled up, spread it out into an even layer in the bottom of the pot and allow it cool for 5 minutes.
    To encourage the dough to cool evenly, stir it after 5 minutes before spreading it out again to cool for an additional 5 minutes.

Add the Eggs to the Flour Mixture (Two at a Time)

  • At this point, you can also transfer the dough to a stand mixer and use the paddle attachment to mix in the eggs (on low speed).
    Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the eggs, two at a time. After each addition of eggs, the mixture will separate into chunks.
  • Continue vigorously stirring until it combines and resembles a spongy paste. This is an indication that the eggs have been absorbed and that the next two eggs can be added.
    Add the next two eggs. The process will repeat itself like this until all the eggs are mixed in.
  • For the addition of two last eggs, add them one at a time.
    If the dough feels stiff- the consistency of stiff mashed potatoes- or dry, add the final egg.
    When properly mixed, the dough will be glossy and thin enough to pipe, yet it will still hold its shape.
    Allow the paste to cool for 20 minutes.

Pipe, Bake, then Cool the Pâte à choux

  • Transfer the cooled pâte à choux to a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip, or simply snip off 1-inch of the tip to create a round tip.
  • Pipe a circle of dough, roughly 3-inches in diameter, and mound it up 1 to 1 1/2-inches high.
    Place the pan of piped dough into the preheated oven, bake the pâte à choux for fifteen minutes, or until the puffs are golden brown and puffed up.
  • Once the mounds have puffed and browned slightly, reduce the baking temperature to 375°F (190°C) and crack the door open slightly for a full five seconds.
    After the oven has cooled slightly, close the door and continue baking the dough for 10-15 more minutes or until they are golden brown.
  • After the dough has baked and is a deep golden brown, turn the oven off and prop the door open slightly using a wooden spoon to hold the door ajar.
    Allow the puffs to cool slowly in the oven to prevent them from deflating. Cool the puffs in the oven until you can remove the pan with your bare hand, or 45 minutes to 1 hour.
    Allow the now-stable puffs to cool completely to room temperature.

Prepare the White Chocolate Ganache (while the puffs are baking or earlier in the day)

  • In the bowl of a double-boiler, combine the white chocolate chips and heavy cream.
    If you don't have a double-boiler, you can also use a metal (or glass) bowl set over a saucepan. Just fill the lower pot with 3-inches of water.
    Bring the water in the lower pot up to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Once steam begins to escape from the lower pot, whisk the cream and chocolate together.
    Whisk the two together until smooth, or for 5 minutes. 
  • When the ganache is lump-free, remove the bowl from the heat and allow it to cool until it has thickened, whisking every 3 minutes to ensure the ganache cools evenly and without lumps.
    The ganache should be ready for dipping your cream puffs tops after cooling for 30 minutes.

Whip the Cream (while the puffs are baking or earlier in the day)

  • Using an electric hand mixer, a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment, or a whisk, whip the cream and flavoring on high speed until the beaters begin leaving trails on the surface of the cream- about 1-2 minutes.
  • Gradually add the sugar and continue beating for an additional 3-4 minutes. When properly whipped, the cream should be stiff and, when the beaters are lifted from it, hold peaks.
    Store the whipped cream, covered, in the fridge until you're ready to use it.

Decorate the Cream Puff Tops

  • Use a serrated knife to cut off the top third of the puff. Just think of it as the cream puffs "hat."
    Try to keep the "hats" beside their matching bottom for the sake of aesthetics.
  • Dip the tops into the thickened ganache, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl.
    Place the top onto a cooling rack set over a parchment-lined sheet pan to catch any drips.
    To speed up the setting of the ganache, place the tray of tops into the freezer for 5 minutes.
  • Dip the tops in ganache a second time for a thicker coating.
    After ganache on the tops has set slightly, decorate them with a big pinch of sprinkles.

Fill the Cream Puffs Just Before Serving (See Notes for Make Ahead Options)

  • If the puff's interior has sections created by lines of dough, just press down those lines to create a well.
    Try not to pull out the interior as that will likely cause a hole in the puff where the cream will later ooze out from.
  • Fit a piping bag with a 1M star or a plain round tip.
    Fill the piping bag with the vanilla whipped cream.
  • Pipe a generous amount of the cream- about 1/2 cup- into the middle of each puff. You can also spoon the whipped cream into the center of each bottom shell. 
    Top the whipped cream-filled puff with its matching dipped hat.
    Refrigerate the cream puffs until ready to serve.
  • Cream puffs are best if eaten within 24 hours.

Notes

Notes about making pâte à choux:
  • Depending on you climate and the humidity on the day you decide to make it, you may need to add one more (or less) egg. Pay close attention to the appearance of the dough to determine the need for more or less eggs.
  • If you only have one oven and want to make the full batch of dough, carefully, but quickly, transfer the baked puffs to your microwave. Leaving them in that enclosed space will accomplish the same task so long as the pan fits in the microwave.
To Freeze Unbaked Pâte à Choux Dough:
  1. Pipe all the dough onto a lined sheet pan into your preferred shape and size.
  2. Place the pan into the freezer and freeze the dough until solid.
  3. Transfer the frozen dough to a freezer storage bag and freeze for 3 months.
  4. To bake: remove just the amount of dough you want to bake, add an additional 4-5 minutes of baking to account for their being frozen.
  • You can also freeze the whole batch of pâte à choux- unpiped- for 3 months in a sealed container. Thaw in the refrigerator before forming and baking as instructed.

Cream puffs shouldn't be filled until you're ready to serve them. The moisture in the cream will seep into the pâte à choux and will cause them to become rubbery. My tip is to bake only what you're going to eat that day.

Cream Puff Swaps:

Optional Sauce Toppings:
Whipped Cream Flavor Suggestions:
  • Almond
  • Rum 
  • Brandy
  • Cinnamon
  • Maple
Swap the Whipped Cream with:
Sprinkles on top or gel food coloring added to the whipped cream are easy ways to tailor your cream puffs to the occasion or holiday. 
Storage Tips for Baked, Unfilled Puffs:
  1. Bake the puffs as instructed and allow them to cool completely before transferring them to plastic storage bags.
  2. Store the puffs in the refrigerator (uncut and unfilled) for 1 week. Crisp them in the oven for 5 minutes at 350°F before cutting.
To Freeze Baked, Unfilled Puffs:
  1. Cool them completely as instructed. 
  2. Transfer the cooled puffs to a freezer-safe storage bag or container. 
  3. Freeze the puffs for 6 months. 
  4. Remove them from the freezer as needed and cut the tops while frozen. 
  5. Fill and serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 519kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 38g | Saturated Fat: 23g | Cholesterol: 188mg | Sodium: 126mg | Potassium: 155mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 1231IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 92mg | Iron: 2mg