Cream puffs have always been one of my favorite little desserts! Especially when covered in chocolate! These little shells are made with choux pastry, then filled with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate.
What is Choux Pastry (Pâte à Choux)?
Choux pastry (or Pâte à Choux in French) literally translates to "cabbage paste" because the pastry resembles little cabbages when baked. But choux pastry is so much more than that! It's a thick "paste" that falls somewhere between a dough and a batter. It's stiff enough to hold it's shape, but also thin enough to be piped which is part of what makes it so versatile!
When baked, choux pastry puffs up into a hollow shell that has a soft interior and super crispy shell. This is what makes it perfect for filling!
If you want a super in-depth explanation of all the science behind choux pastry, I recommend this article from Serious Eats!
How to make Choux Pastry?
A lot of people making choux pastry seem super complicated but I actually find it quite easy! At it's core, all you're doing is bringing the liquid and butter to a boil, then adding in the flour to form a thick paste. Let it cool slightly and then beat in the eggs. Then pipe and bake. That's it!
The only special tool you really need is an instant read thermometer so that you can ensure the choux pastry is at the proper temperature.
The main ratio you need to follow is:
- 1 cup liquid
- 6 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup flour
- 4 large eggs
I also add a little bit of salt and sugar but that doesn't change much.
For the liquid component you can use water, milk, or a combination of both. Milk will cause the pastry to brown much more quickly in the oven, so it works fine for these mini cream puffs. However, if you're making something larger with a longer bake time, you might want to use water instead. I love using half water and half milk.
Cream Puff Tips
You can use either parchment paper or silicone mats for making cream puffs. I love using my macaron mat because it has 1 inch circles already on it, so piping the mounds of choux pastry is super easy! After you pipe the mounds, lightly dip your finger in water to smooth out the tops!
Before baking, I like to just very lightly brush the pastry with a little egg wash.
The biggest thing that can go wrong when making cream puffs is that the steam trapped inside the puffs can soften the crispy shell. To prevent this, I cut them in half immediately after removing them from the oven to allow the steam to escape.
What else can you make with Choux Pastry?
Choux pastry is super versatile and can be used for a ton of different desserts! From profiteroles and éclairs to crullers and churros, mastering choux pastry opens up the doors to so many fun treats! You can also add cheese and herbs for savory gougères!
So what's the difference between cream puffs and profiteroles? The pastry is exactly the same, its just the filling that's different! Cream puffs are typically filled with whipped cream or pastry cream. And profiteroles are filled with ice cream and then frozen!
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Mini Chocolate Covered Cream Puffs
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup whole milk
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- Preheat the oven to 425°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
- Combine the water, milk, butter salt, and granulated sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir until the butter has melted. Bring the mixture up to a rolling boil and remove from the heat. Immediately add in the flour and stir for about 1 minute until it's completely incorporated and the dough clumps together into a smooth ball.
- Place the dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Let rest for about 10 minutes or until the internal temperature of the dough is below 125°F.
- Turn the mixer to low and add in the eggs one a time. Wait until each egg is fully incorporated before adding in the next. Beat the dough until the mixture is shiny, thick, and smooth with a pipeable consistency.
- Transfer the choux pastry to a pastry bag fitted with a ½ inch round piping tip. Pipe 1 inch wide mounds of dough onto your lined baking sheet, about 2-3 inches apart. Lightly dip your finger in water to smooth down the tops of the mounds. Then brush lightly with egg wash if desired.
- Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until the pastries are puffed up and golden brown. DO NOT open the oven while the puffs are baking!!
- Remove from the oven and immediately cut in half to allow excess steam to escape (this keeps the shells nice and crisp). Allow to cool completely before filling.
- Fill with homemade whipped cream and drizzle with melted dark chocolate. Cream puffs are best eaten the same day.