A Very Simple Way to Make Very Good Cream Puffs

(Includes raspberry, cherry, and lemon variations)

If you can make cupcakes, you can make cream puffs.  They’re that simple.  I don’t mean fancy, decorator cupcakes; I mean bake-them-from-a-mix-and spread-frosting-on-them cupcakes.  They are not just amazingly good; they’re easy.

I don’t remember when I had my first cream puff.  I was a kid.  I remember that they were kind of mysterious—something magical.  I had no clue how they were made but I sure liked them.  Now I know how simple they are.

With cream puffs, you can be a successful pastry chef—a magician in your own kitchen.  They’re so easy, they’re foolproof and so good that you’ll dazzle your family and friends.

There are three parts to cream puffs: the baked pastry shell, the Bavarian cream filling, and the chocolate topping.  It’s not just the combination of tastes; I love the crisp shell against the cool, silky smooth Bavarian cream along with the melt-in-your-mouth chocolate.

Step 1:  The pastry shell.  The batter for the pastry is extremely easy.  It’s only three ingredients excluding the water.  There is no baking powder or yeast; these are leavened with steam.   The key in baking the shells is to get your oven hot enough that the moisture will quickly turn to steam expanding the dough until it triples in size and then baking them just until they get a little caramel colored with crispy edges.

Step 2:  The filling.  Buy premade Bavarian cream.  You can buy it cheaper than you can make it and it’s a lot less trouble.  It comes in a two-pound squeeze pack.  Cut a quarter-inch off the plastic package, insert the tube in the edge of a pastry, and squeeze.  You’ll feel the pastry become heavier and start to swell as the Bavarian cream fills the pastry.  It’s the easy way to fill cream puffs.  It’s also the easy way to fill cupcakes with pastry cream.
When you’re through filling your cream puffs, fold the corner on the pastry bag over, put a paper clip on it, and store the rest of your pastry cream in the refrigerator for up to six months.

Step 3: The chocolate.  You can use any sweet, high-quality chocolate.  Chocolate wafers are made for candy making and have a smoother grind and more cocoa butter than chocolate chips.  You can either dip your cream puffs in the melted chocolate or spoon it over the top of each.  The hotter the chocolate, the thinner is the coating.  If it is melted but not too hot, you’ll get a thick layer of chocolate.

The Recipe

This is the recipe for traditional cream puffs made with Bavarian cream and chocolate.  Following are instructions for making variations like raspberry, cherry, and lemon cream puffs.

Ingredients

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter (one cube)
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
Bavarian pastry cream
Chocolate wafers or other good quality melting chocolate

Directions

  1. Mix the dough.  In a medium saucepan on medium-high heat, place one cup of water and one stick (1/2 cup) of butter.  After the butter is melted, turn off heat and add one cup all-purpose flour all at once.  Stir until the dough forms a ball and flour is absorbed.
  2. Place dough ball in your stand-type mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until the dough starts to cool, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the eggs all at once and mix on low speed until the dough absorbs the eggs and the dough becomes very sticky. This will take about 8 to10 minutes.
  3. Bake the cream puffs.  With a large ice cream scoop (1/4 cup), spoon mounds of evenly spaced dough onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes and then turn the oven down to 350 degrees for
    another 10 minutes. You can also use a small cookie scoop as shown in the pictures. You’ll just need to lower the baking time to 15 minutes at 400 degrees and then turn down to 350 for another 7 minutes.
  4. Fill the cream puffs with Bavarian cream.  If you are using a scratch recipe, make a horizontal slit in the edge of each cream puff and slip a large spoonful of cream into each cream puff.  If you are using professional Bavarian cream, insert the tip of the plastic bag into the edge of each cream puff and squeeze.

Melt the chocolate.  You can do so in the microwave using 20 second bursts or in a chocolate melting pot.   Do not overheat the chocolate.  You can either dip the tops of the cream puffs into the chocolate or spoon chocolate over the cream puffs.  Let the chocolate set before serving.

The Family of Recipes:  Variations on a Theme

Discover a whole new world of cream puffs like raspberry cream, cherry cream cheese, and lemon cream puffs.  You can make these by simply varying the filling and the topping.

New Fillings for New Cream Puffs

Professional pastry fillings come in the following types:

While you can fill your cream puffs with any of these pastry fillings, they just don’t seem like “cream” puffs without the cream filling.  You can mix the cream fillings with the fruit fillings to make a raspberry cream filling, a cherry cream cheese filling, or a lemon cream filling.  You can do that two ways.  You can mix raspberry and Bavarian cream filling in a bowl and spoon your raspberry cream filling into the cream puff pastries.  We don’t bother mixing the two in a bowl.  Simply insert the raspberry filling with a squeeze and then squirt Bavarian cream in through the same hole.  The filling will be red streaked with Bavarian cream but no one seems to mind; the streaks are attractive.

Adding a Frosting

The topping doesn’t have to be melted chocolate.  You can top your cream puffs with melted white chocolate or with frosting.  You can tint your frosting or white chocolate with professional color gels and add flavors.

A lemon cream cheese frosting on a lemon cream puff is delightful.  A raspberry cream filling and a raspberry frosting tinted light pink is a favorite.  (We recommend Marsden and Bathe Flavors and Americolor Professional Food Color Gels to get your frosting the right flavor and color.  They are both reasonably priced and Americolor comes in such a wide selection of colors like four shades of pink.)

We used this recipe:

3 oz. cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 t. vanilla or other flavor
milk

1. Whip the cream cheese until soft. Add the powdered sugar.
2. Stir in the flavor. Add enough milk and continue stirring until it reaches the desired consistency.