I don’t make many things with choux pastry – but I had the urge to make cream puffs. I was tossing up between the cream puffs or piping out the pastry and making chocolate eclairs but the simplicity of the puffs won!
Choux pastry is really very easy to make and very versatile. The cases can be filled with either a sweet cream or custard, or with a savoury filling .
The pastry can be made into tiny little cocktail “one-bite” puffs, tea-time puffs, or long eclairs. Dessert profiteroles are cream puffs, filled with a cream or custard of your choice and drizzled with warm chocolate sauce – yum!
The beautiful wedding cake croquembouche is made with choux pastry puffs, usually filled with a liqueur flavoured cream, piled into a pyramid shape and drizzled with toffee, which also serves as a “glue” to hold the masterpiece together. Crystallised violets or rose petals provide the final elegant touch. Have a look HERE for a photo.
My cream puffs were filled with double cream whipped and flavoured with sugar and vanilla bean paste. They were dusted with unsweetened quality cocoa powder and icing sugar.
This is the recipe I used – there are many different recipes, all with the same basic ingredients but with varying quantities of butter or egg. This is the one that works for me and the one I am happy to share as foolproof. Having said that, they are some very important tips I want to pass on first:
- always pre-heat the oven to 220C. The pastry must go into a hot oven
- after 15 minutes of baking, open the oven and without taking the puffs out prick them in about 4 places with a skewer or pointy end of a knife, this releases the steam that has built up inside. Lower the heat to 170C and bake for another 5 minutes.
- No matter what anyone says puffs are best eaten on the day they are made. They will soften over time. This does not detract from the yumminess at all, at least I don’t think it does, but they won’t be so crisp.
- Puffs can be iced with melted chocolate or dusted with icing sugar. They can be filled with cream, custard, mousse or your choice or savoury filling.
Here is my recipe. This made about 12 puffs:
- 125g butter – not margarine
- 1 cup of water
- 125g plain flour
- a pinch of salt
- 4 good quality eggs
Put the butter and water into a pan and bring to a fast boil over a high heat. Don’t boil for too long, just ’till the butter melts – you don’t want to lose too much liquid through evaporation.
Take the pan off the stove and tip in the flour ALL AT ONCE. Stir vigorously until the pastry balls up, becomes smooth and comes away from the side of the pan. This doesn’t take that long, maybe about 20-30 seconds.
Tip the paste into the bowl of your stand mixer and leave it to cool down a bit. Spreading it up the sides of the bowl quickens the cooling. It needs to cool a little so the eggs don’t cook when you add them.
Add the eggs one at a time until each one is well mixed in. At first it will seem like the paste is resisting the egg but it will happen.
I used 2 soup spoons to blob my mixure onto a baking sheet lined with non-stick baking paper. You can pipe them out in any size or shape you fancy. Remember though, baking times will need to be adjusted depending on the size you choose.
Here’s another very important point. Do not open the oven door until at least 10 minutes has passed. The pastry needs this time to puff up using the steam inside that will be generated by the hot oven. After this time they do become more stable and you can have a little peek to see how they’re going.
When they look almost done remember to poke the little holes in them to release the steam and give them another couple of minutes in the oven.
Cool on a wire tray.
When you split them there may be some excess wettish pastry inside – just pull it out with your fingers if you want.
Fill before serving and either dust with sugar and/or cocoa or glaze with melted chocolate.
I hope my recipe works for you. These really are a lovely tea-time treat or special dessert.