Baker’s Choice: Sweet or Savory Cream Puff Pastry
Cream puffs are light, fluffy, and oh-so-delicious with any number of sweet fillings. But did you know these pâteâ choux, as the French have named them, are also easy to make and bake? Basically a four-ingredient dough, these magically simple yet fancy pastries emerge from a combination of water, butter, flour, and eggs.
For a sweet touch, the classic take on a cream puff is to fill it with a rich pastry cream, then top the golden pastry with a chocolate or fruit sauce. Halve the mini pastries, fill with pretty scoops of ice cream, add a candle and you have a stylish and fun alternative to birthday cake!
Cream puffs can also be made as a single large pastry that can be sliced and filled, made into six-inch puffy bowls to be plated with a warm dinner ingredient such as tarragon chicken or beef stew, or made into bite-sized little appetizer marvels to entice party guests with the perfect taste treat. Baker’s choice!
Gather Your Tools:
- 6-quart Saucepan
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Baking Pan and Rack Set, Half Pan Size
- Firm spatula or wooden spoon
- Mixing bowls
- Piping bag fitted with a large filler tip, or a gallon zippered storage bag
- Parchment paper
Gather Your Ingredients:
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar, if desired
- 1 cup flour
- 5 large eggs, room temp
- 1 egg, beaten with 1 T water (egg wash)
Get Ready to Bake:
- In saucepan on medium-high heat, bring to a boil the water, butter, salt, and sugar (if desired).
- Whisk in flour, a little at a time until a soft mass forms.
- Remove from heat and cool for five minutes. If you prefer, you can transfer the dough into a large mixing bowl at this stage.
- In small bowl, lightly beat one egg. Add to pastry dough and stir until fully incorporated and smooth. Repeat with remaining eggs. Dough will thicken and take on a glossy, golden appearance.
- Baker’s Note: If you are adding savory ingredients, blend them in now.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Line baking sheet with parchment.
- Fit piping bag with filling tip and fill with dough. If using a zippered storage bag, fill with dough then snip 1/2” from corner. Pastry will begin to flow, so work quickly.
- For mini cream puffs, pipe your pastry in 1 ½” to 2” circles, then top with a small round of pastry to create the cream puff cap.
- Baste each pastry with egg wash to achieve a golden exterior.
- Bake on parchment-lined baking pan for 30 minutes until golden brown.
- Cool in pan on baking rack.
- To fill, cut a small x in the bottom of each cooled pastry. Using a smaller filling tip, pipe filling inside and arrange on serving platter.
Baker’s Bits: This classic pastry recipe is an incredibly versatile base for many creations. Filled with Chantilly cream, cream cheese filling, ice cream, preserves, or nut cream, these cream puffs make the perfect bite-sized dessert. Unfilled shells can be frozen in an airtight container, defrosted, then filled before serving.
For a savory (and impressive) dinner accompaniment, fold in 2/3 cup shredded Gruyere or other nutty Swiss cheese, 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard, and 1 Tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, minced. Season with salt and pepper. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, pipe the dough in a 9-inch circle. Pipe a smaller 7-inch circle inside the first one. Pipe a third circle on top of both circles, overlapping the gap in between. Baste pastry with egg wash, sprinkle with cheese and herbs, and bake until golden. Experiment with your favorite seasonal herbs and seasonings.
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