A Very Simple Way to Make Very Good Cream Puffs
(Includes raspberry, cherry, and lemon variations)
Notes and Update
In February 2016, we taught several classes. From that experience and comments from class members, we’ve made the changes and passed on suggestions that are noted here.
Four different people have used this recipe in our test kitchen. No one had a problem until they doubled the recipe. Then three of the four had problems.
“Why?” I wondered. The chemistry doesn’t change. The method is the same. Finally, we figured it out.
It was the temperature of the batter. In a bigger batch, the temperature wasn’t held hot enough, long enough. The temperature had to be held hot for the starch in the batter to gelatinize. We changed the directions and the problem was solved.
From the class, this is what we learned.
More people liked chocolate rather than raspberry or lemon.
People love the Bavarian cream but they like a good whipped cream filling even better. Make the whipping cream and insert it in the side with a pastry bag.
The favorite cream puffs were filled with caramel whipped cream. Make caramel whipped cream like vanilla whipped cream but substitute brown sugar for white sugar and caramel flavor for vanilla. Add a couple of tablespoons of meringue powder to stabilize the whipped cream and keep it from melting.
Instead of melting chocolate, we heated Sweet Sensations Fudgy Frosting and dipped the tops of the cream puffs in the melted frosting. It’s quicker and less expensive than chocolate.
Instead of dipping the cream puffs in the fudgy frosting, try the salted caramel frosting. Fill them with caramel whipped cream for incredible cream puffs.
How to Make Cream Puffs
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. There are only three ingredients excluding the water. There is no baking powder or yeast; these are leavened with steam.
There are two important keys to success:
- Get your oven hot enough that the moisture will quickly turn to steam expanding the dough until it triples in size. You then turn the oven down and bake them just until they get a little caramel colored with crispy edges.
- Get the dough hot enough that the starch in the flour gelatinizes and makes the batter gummy. My science books tell me that wheat starch gelatinizes between 175 degrees and 205 degrees—almost boiling. You do that by adding the flour to a boiling combination of butter and water.
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 same way we fill cupcakes. See the easy way to fill cupcakes with pastry cream.
When you’re done 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 the coating. If it is melted but not too hot, you’ll get a thick layer of chocolate.
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.
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
- 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, keep the heat on and add one cup all-purpose flour all at once. Stir quickly until the flour is absorbed, scraping or tapping the flour from your whisk or spoon, and then turn the heat off. Be careful not to scorch your batter. Continue stirring until the dough forms a ball and flour is absorbed.
- Place the 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 one at a time and mix on low speed until the dough absorbs the eggs, steam is no longer rising, and the dough becomes very sticky.
- 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. 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.
- 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. You can try filling your cream puffs with whipped cream instead, if you’d prefer. We tried both and the whipped cream was a hit.
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
- 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.