Cream puffs may seem like a fancy pastry, but this is a shockingly easy recipe to make. Here's how to make the classic French dessert- and customize them any way you want!
It wasn’t super organized, so I recently decided to split them off into two posts, to really be able to do justice to each of these French desserts.
Of course, EVERYTHING ends up being very “If you give a mouse a cookie” in this house, so I ended up writing a whole series on working with choux pastry dough , including Chocolate Eclairs, Mini Eclairs, Profiteroles, and a bunch of fillings - more on that in a bit.
Doing a pastry recipe series has been a lot of fun, and made a bunch of people happy - my husband, his co workers, and a couple of Instacart delivery drivers who ended up with additional tips on the day I made this round of homemade cream puffs:
This classic dessert starts off with an easy, egg based French pastry dough.
Baked at a high temperature, the moisture in the dough expands and evaporates, leaving a hollow center, which is then filled with your choice of sweet cream filling.
Dust it with powdered sugar or drizzle it with chocolate ganache for an elegant dessert. It’s perfect for family gatherings, other special occasions, or just for the hell of it!
If it’s your first time making your own cream puffs, don’t be intimidated!
There may be a lot of information here, but each part is pretty simple on its own, from baking the hollow shells, to filling and finishing your own perfect cream puffs.
Let’s get to it!
The Cream Puff Shells
This recipe uses such incredibly simple ingredients, there’s very little to say:
I wouldn’t recommend deviating from the ingredients on the pastry shell.
When it comes to the filling, though... that’s when you can go really wild with the possibilities!
Cream Puff Fillings
The fun thing about homemade cream puffs is that you can fill them any way you like! Here are some ideas:
You can fill these with anything from Cool Whip or aerosol whipped cream, to a homemade whipped cream, from heavy whipping cream.
Personally, I recommend going with Stabilized Whipped Cream - it won’t break down / “weep” in the way plain whipped cream will.
Pastry Cream or Pudding
Some form of custard is a fairly standard cream puff filling.
When buying them in bakeries, it’s likely to come in the form of Crème Pâtissière - AKA pastry cream.
This is a super easy custard you can make at home.
Try my Pastry Cream recipe!
You can make anything from a simple vanilla pastry cream (whether with vanilla extract or a vanilla bean!), to various flavours using coffee, extracts, or even liqueurs.
Chocolate lovers should definitely consider trying my Chocolate Pastry Cream - same thing, but with a hit of chocolate goodness.
Want to go a bit easier?
Use a pudding mix. Butterscotch, pistachio, chocolate, or vanilla pudding ... it’s all good!
Ganache is a super simple mixture of chocolate and heavy cream... but with the right ratios, you can whip it up into a super rich chocolate filling.
I love making traditional mousse as a dessert, and any of my recipes for it can be piped into cream puffs as a filling.
How to Make Cream Puffs
The full recipe is in the recipe card at the end of this post, here is a pictorial walk through with step by step photos and some additional tips / info.
Make the Choux Dough
Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking sheet.
Note: It’s very important to not grease the pans - it will cause the pastries to flatten!
Remove from heat, add flour, stirring until well incorporated.
Reduce heat to medium heat, return saucepan to stove top.
Cook flour mixture for another minute or so - stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula - until the dough comes together, leaving the sides of the pan. You’ll notice a film on the bottom of the pan, also.
Note: You can use a large bowl and an electric mixer if you prefer.
Meanwhile, beat together eggs and egg whites in a small bowl.
With the mixer set to low speed (medium speed if you’re extra confident!), add egg mixture to dough a little at a time, allowing eggs to fully incorporate into the dough before adding more.
It may look like a separating mess, but I promise it will come together!
The consistency of the dough will be soft and a bit sticky, but more or less be able to hold its shape.
Pipe & The Puffs
Spoon the choux dough into a Large Pastry Bag. You can fit it with medium/ large round or star tip, or just cut the end off.
You can make a homemade piping bag out of a Ziplock bag, if you don’t have a pastry bag.
Just fill the bag, pushing the dough into one of the bottom corners, trying to avoid creating air bubble. Cut a small hole in that corner, and pipe from there!
Use a moistened finger to pat down any peaks of dough that may form as you finish piping each.
If you’d like, you can brush tops of the pastries with an egg wash - 1 egg, 1 tablespoon water, whisked together. I generally don’t bother.
Once the bake time is over, crack the oven door open a few inches, turn the heat off, and allow the golden brown pastry puffs to cool in the oven for 30 minutes.
This step allows the insides to dry out, providing a stronger structure to prevent collapse.
You can allow the pastries to cool to room temperature right in the oven, or remove them and allow them to cool to room temperature on a wire rack on the stove top.
Once cool, you can assemble them immediately, or store in an airtight container until you’re ready to fill - ideally the same day as baking, but will be fine for a few days.
Pipe or spoon the cream filling of your choice on the bottom half, place the top half of the pastry on top of the filling
Dust with powdered sugar, drizzle with chocolate, and/or serve with fresh fruit or berries!
More Fancy Recipes
Planning for a special dinner, whether Valentine’s Day, a special date, or a fancy dinner party? Here are a few recipes to consider!
Balsamic Mushroom Baked Brie
Chocolate Dessert Ravioli
Clementine Mousse with ChampagneFancy Tea Sandwiches
How to Make Cream Puffs and Croquembouche
Mushroom Brie Turnovers
Mushroom & Goat Cheese Braid with Balsamic Glaze
Pepper Crusted Tuna with Wasabi Cream Sauce
Phyllo Crab Triangles
Savoury Tomato Shortcake
Shrimp & Artichoke Stuffed Mushrooms
Traditional Raspberry Mousse
White Chocolate Almond Amaretto Truffles
Wild Rice Stuffed Chicken Breast with Dijon Chive Cream Sauce
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Homemade Cream Puffs
- 2 Baking Sheets
- Parchment Paper
- Disposable Pastry Bags Large size is best
- Large star tip and coupler Optional
- 1 cup Water
- ½ cup Unsalted Butter
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 cup Flour
- 3 Large eggs
- 2 Large Egg whites
- Filling of choice Whipped cream, pastry cream, pudding, etc - see post.
- Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a nonstick baking sheet. It’s very important to not grease the pan - it will cause the pastries to flatten!
- Combine water, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium or large saucepan, heat to a boil over high or medium high heat.
- Remove from heat, add flour, stirring until well incorporated.
- Reduce heat to medium, return saucepan to stove top. Cook for another minute or so - stirring constantly - until the dough comes together, leaving the sides of the pan.
- Transfer dough to the bowl of your mixer. Using the paddle attachment, beat the dough for a minute or so to allow it to cool slightly.Note: You can use a large mixing bowl and an electric hand mixer if you prefer.
- Meanwhile, beat together eggs and egg whites in a small bowl.
- With the mixer set to medium, add egg mixture to dough a little at a time, allowing eggs to fully incorporate into the dough before adding more. It may look like a separating mess, but I promise it will come together!
- When all of the eggs are incorporated and the mixture forms a dough that is smooth and shiny, it’s ready to pipe!It’ll be soft and a bit sticky, but more or less be able to hold its shape.
- Using a pastry bag with a medium/ large round or star tip, pipe out rounds that are about 2-2.5" in diameter and 1 ½" tall, leaving 2-3" between mounds.
- Use a moistened finger to pat down any peaks of dough that may form as you finish piping each.
- Bake for 12 minutes, then -WITHOUT opening the oven door - turn the temperature down to 350°F (180°C) and bake for another 35 minutes.
- Crack the oven door open a few inches, turn the heat off, and allow the puffs to cool in the oven for 30 minutes.
- This step allows the insides to dry out, providing a stronger structure to prevent collapse.
- Once puffs are completely cool, cut in half horizontally, and fill with your choice of pastry cream, pudding, or mousse.
- Dust with powdered sugar, drizzle with chocolate, and/or serve with fresh fruit or berries!