Cream Puffs

Cream puffs 12 Cream Puffs

In grade two, I entered a cooking contest at our local library. My chosen recipe: a towering croquembouche, made with homemade cream puffs glued together not with wispy threads of molten sugar (too dangerous) but altogether too much chocolate sauce, which I had to stand on a stool to pour over the lofty pile, precariously and arranged free-form on a fancy plate on the countertop.

I remember the look of alarm on my mom’s face as she tried to advise me to limit my chocolate pour – too much and it will collapse under the weight of all that chocolate! – but I continued to douse.

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The more chocolate the better, right? Surely the judges will appreciate the high ratio of chocolate to cream puff as much as my grade two self did. I doubt I considered how I might transport the monstrosity to the library intact, but somehow we did. And I can’t even recall if it won – it surely placed something for all that effort – and my sister’s banana cake was printed in the recipe book.

(Thanks for cleaning up after us, Mom.)

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And so began my love affair with cream puffs, which continued right up to present day – it was my item of choice when we stopped at bakeries, and often took the place of birthday cakes. Last month W’s cousin B opted for birthday cream puffs too, which provided me the opportunity to revisit my mad croquembouche making skillz. (This time it was just cream puffs. No use taunting gravity – she’s a harsh mistress.)

So. Cream puffs! Not really as complicated as their name – choux pastry – makes them sound. Bring water + butter to a simmer in a saucepan, then stir in the flour until it pulls away from the side of the pot and gathers itself together, glomming into a ball.

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Hey, remember last year’s croquembouche cake? Yeah – that.

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Put the steaming dough into a bowl and beat in the eggs, one at a time. It will look slimy/glossy and separate into smooth blobs each time you add an egg – just stir until it comes together. Once the final egg has been added, I like to let it cool a little and thicken up a bit.

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Then you drop spoonfuls of the batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet; you could pipe them out, or spoon the batter into a zip-lock bag, snip off a tip and squeeze them out that way. Whatevs.

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These are the spooned-out ones – I mostly opt to pipe because I get satisfaction out of it, not because they look significantly prettier afterward. In the end, a cream puff is a mere vehicle for whatever you want to reach your mouth in a deliciously crunchy carrier; a small scoop of ice cream or gelato or a load of whipped cream are my personal preferences.

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The key to keeping them from collapsing on themselves: poke a hole in the side of each one with a sharp knife to allow steam to escape. They’ll cool while keeping their shape and stay crisp. And you’ll need to cut them open anyway to load them up with whatever deliciousness you can find.

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Most often, they’ll require a chocolate bath. But age has taught me to ease up on the chocolate a bit. (Just eat more cream puffs to make up for it.)

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Cream Puffs

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
pinch salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

whipped cream or ice cream, for serving
chocolate sauce, for dousing

Preheat the oven to 400F.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water, butter and salt to a boil; remove from heat and stir in the flour, stirring vigorously until the dough comes together and cleans the side of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Set aside for about 10 minutes and then drop spoonfuls of batter onto a parchment-lined baking sheet; bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on the size of the spoonfuls) until puffed and golden. Immediately poke a hole in the side of each one with the tip of a sharp knife or a bamboo skewer. Cool completely before filling.

Makes 1-2 dozen cream puffs.

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February 27 2014 11:14 pm | dessert

16 Responses to “Cream Puffs”

  1. JudyB on 27 Feb 2014 at 11:57 pm #

    You know, much as I love dessert – I really like cream puffs as appies with something like crab salad or shrimp with dill sauce. They hold up well and look great, too!

  2. Mardi (eat. live. travel. write.) on 28 Feb 2014 at 3:55 am #

    My faves!

  3. Jules @ WolfItDown on 28 Feb 2014 at 5:27 am #

    These look fantastic Julie! Well done :D It sounds like it was a nice experience taking part in that competition! x

  4. Jan @ Family Bites on 28 Feb 2014 at 5:31 am #

    My favourite little treat! I just froze bundles and bundles of unbaked puffs so I can pull them from the freezer, bake them off, and stuff them with ice cream when the boys bombard me with their friends when they are all looking for snacks.

  5. Pamela on 28 Feb 2014 at 6:17 am #

    Julie,
    I can almost taste these!! And can I just say, homemade pastry is so much better than the puffs you buy frozen! And easy! People don’t realize how simple these are until they try.

  6. Julie on 28 Feb 2014 at 7:52 am #

    You’re so right Pamela – although I’ll (happily) eat the frozen cream puffs, homemade are so much better..

  7. Sherry on 28 Feb 2014 at 11:52 am #

    They look pretty easy to make, I will definitely try making them with my inmates (kids). I follow many blogs but I have used yours the most for recipes and ideas. You are relateable, likeable and your writing is funny and real. Thank you.

  8. shira on 28 Feb 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    i love the way you make things i would never think to try look so easy to make!

  9. Nikki on 28 Feb 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    Thank You! I love them also as gougeres…..the addition of cheese just makes it heavenly for me!

  10. Gerlinde (Sunnycovechef) on 01 Mar 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    My mom always used to bake them in Germany for a special Sunday treat. She would fill them with whipcream and dust them with powdered sugar. I loved them. When they were baking we were not allowed to open the oven door because that, according to my mom, would ruin the puffs.

  11. Claudia on 02 Mar 2014 at 9:15 am #

    I made something similar last night, but for an appetizer instead! Same recipe, just add 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere and maybe a pinch of herbs before you pipe them. Voila, cheese puffs! Serve hot with red pepper jelly, charcuterie, and olives. Mmmm.

  12. Julie on 02 Mar 2014 at 10:09 am #

    Nikki & Claudia – love gougeres!! Wow, this is an old post.. flashback! http://dinnerwithjulie.com/2008/06/25/gruyere-gougeres-citrus-salmon-bites-chicken-satay-with-peanut-sauce-bison-meatballs-with-blueberry-sauce-and-panna-cotta-spoons/

  13. Lana on 02 Mar 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    I was inspired by your Grade 2 story, and made these with my 8 year old. She loved it. Her favourite part was stabbing the hole in the side. No, her favourite part was filling them full of whipped cream and devouring them!

  14. Lily @ Life, Love, and Cupcakes on 03 Mar 2014 at 7:03 am #

    I love love loveeee cream puffs! I firmly believe there’s no such thing as too much chocolate, I would have problem drowned the pour things in it!

  15. Judy on 03 Mar 2014 at 9:49 am #

    I have not made cream puffs in ages. Occasionally I buy them at the local baker, but homemade tastes so much better and are fun to make with the kids!

  16. Elizabeth on 08 Mar 2014 at 11:58 am #

    Hi Julie! My daughter took one look at your croquembouche cake from last year and simply had to have it for her 11th birthday today! I am in the process of making your cream puffs as I type.(She’s going for the chocolate drizzle and sprinkles!) Thank you for your always amazing ideas!!!

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