perfect cream puffs

My mom has a thing for cream puffs. That is why I chose to take on the challenge of making my own fresh cream puffs at home for Mother’s Day.
Whenever we go to visit family in Hawaii, we always set aside a moment to share a delicious Beard Papa’s puff together. When we were in New York City this past Spring, we savored some of the most delicious cream puffs ever — made by a little Japanese woman behind at a tiny counter in a busy market. I guess you could say that sampling the world’s cream puffs has become one of the special things that we do together.
When I took on this challenge of making these simple puffs at home, I realized that a lot of the recipes out there were quite complicated, with various rituals such as leaving the oven open to let the puffs dry out, or with complicated recipes for french pastry cream. However, cream puffs don’t have to be this complicated — with a good pate a choux recipe up my sleeve, and a fool-proof recipe for fresh whipped cream, I was able to create these beautiful, fluffy, eggy pastries with ease.
With love,
Erica

after being popped out of the freezer
fresh from the oven, before being piped with cream

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • Powdered sugar (for dusting) 

Recipe Notes:
You can freeze the piped dough rounds on the baking sheets, then transfer to resealable plastic bags and freeze for up to 1 month. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing apart (do not defrost) and continue with recipe (brushing with egg wash and baking at 375F). This is especially helpful because cream puffs are best when freshly baked, and do not keep very well after being piped with cream.  

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit 1 large pastry bag with plain 1/2-inch tip (I usually use a plastic freezer bag with 1/2-inch cut from one bottom corner.



Bring milk, butter, 1 tsp. sugar, salt, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a medium sauce- pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add flour all at once; reduce heat to medium-low. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a dough forms and pulls away from sides of pan, 1–2 minutes.
Continue beating vigorously for about 1 minute. Transfer to a medium sized bowl.

Add 1 egg and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until egg is incorporated and dough looks dry again, about 2 minutes. Repeat with 4 more eggs, adding one at a time and stirring vigorously to incorporate before adding the next. Dough should be smooth, shiny, and thickened.

Scoop dough into prepared pastry bag; pipe out rounds about an inch high and with a 2 1/2 inch diameter on prepared sheets, leaving 2 inches between rounds.  (now would be the time to freeze the rounds if you plan to bake them later)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk remaining egg with 2 tsp. water and brush each puff all over with egg wash. Bake for 25 minutes until puffs turn a deep golden brown.



Prepare a second bag with 1/2-inch open-star tip. Beat heavy cream and remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form (I flavored the cream with a fresh vanilla bean, but feel free to flavor it however you please). Place whipped cream into prepared pastry bag. Puncture a small hole in the side of each puff, and fill each puff with cream. Dust tops of cream puffs with powdered sugar.

The Perfect Cream Puff

Sometimes, the best baked treats come not from the popular, hip bakeries of the city (ex. Georgetown Cupcake and Magnolia Bakery), but rather come from those little specialty stores that may not even have a name. I had the honor of discovering one of these places today in New York City. After having a quick shot of espresso at Café Zaiya, I ventured next door, to a little Japanese grocery store that I think is called Yagura. In the front of the store, there was a little lady set up with a stand, selling fresh cream puffs. They were so fresh, she piped the cream into the puff right as you ordered it. Simple as that. There were only two things that one could order at this little stand – plain, and azuki cream puffs. But this lady sure knew what she was doing! I ordered the plain cream puff, and it was the best cream puff I have ever tasted. It had a thin, crispy, lighter –than-air puff, with a delicate, eggy flavor filled with flawlessFrench pastry cream with just the perfect amount of vanilla. Delicately dusted with just enough powdered sugar – this cream puff was a work of art. I hope that next time you find yourself in the city, this little lady will still be whipping up her delicious, perfect cream puffs. 
With love, Erica
 
Freshly baked choux, before being piped with pastry cream

The simple beauty of the cream puff

Look at that light and fluffy texture!