Simple cream puffs with endless variations

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Photo by Sarina Petrocelly

You won’t believe how easy it is to create these airy pastry shells!

Are you in love with lightning? Fancy a croquembouche? All you need is this basic cabbage recipe. (pronounced “shoe”) pastry and whatever you want for the garnish. With just a handful of ingredients and a little imagination, you can make cream puffs to rival any bakery.

Recipe: Basic cream puff shells (choux pastry)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs

Method:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter in the water. When it comes to a boil, quickly pour in all the flour and mix it with a wooden spoon until a ball of dough forms. Remove from the heat and transfer the dough to a mixing bowl.

Beat the eggs, incorporating them one at a time. A hand mixer really gets the job done quickly if you have one. When you’re done, you should end up with a thick paste that you can easily slip through an icing bag. For bite-sized cream puffs, use a star tip and form a quarter-sized mound, gently flattening the peak. Bake for 15 minutes on an ungreased cookie sheet. Don’t worry, they won’t stick!

When the puffs are golden and puffed, take them out of the oven, slide them onto a dish and poke a small hole in the side of each with a toothpick. This is to let the steam escape so that they don’t collapse. Don’t skip this step! As written, this recipe will make about 5 dozen puffs. If you choose to make them bigger, increase the cooking time and take a peek every 3 minutes or so to make sure they aren’t browning too much.

amuse bouche
Photo by Sarina Petrocelly

From here, the sky is the limit! Simply fill them with a little whipped cream, chocolate mousse, or any sweet or savory topping of your choice. Garnish the éclairs with a silky chocolate ganache or tinted royal icing. One of the easiest toppings that still has a homemade taste is a mix of pudding and whipped cream. If you don’t have a pastry bag to fill the sprouts, you can use an inexpensive plastic squeeze bottle to get the job done.

Variants:

  • These cute little puffs can also be tasty! Toss cream cheese or softened goat cheese with herbs and freshly chopped chives, or try adding smoked salmon and tossing it for something more sophisticated.
  • If you’re feeding a crowd, try stacking your cream puffs filled with a little caramel or chocolate ganache in a croquembouche. The resulting tower can be decorated with fresh flowers, icing, or even spun sugar if you’re feeling very creative.
  • In a hurry but want to go profiteroles later? Take bigger puffs and place them in the freezer once they are cooked and cooled. Let them thaw at room temperature before slicing the top off and filling them with ice cream or whipped cream. Drizzle or serve over a pool of chocolate sauce with fresh berries.

Do you have a favorite combination of cream puff filling and filling? Share it with us in the comments.


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