Homemade Cream Puffs and Eclairs

Plus Easy Cream Fillings

Homemade Cream Puffs and Eclairs

The first time I made cream puffs was for a client during my catering days. At the time I could make just about any kind of dessert, including pie recipes from scratch and French tarts, so why was I intimidated when the request was made for cream puffs? It was the French language that got me. She called them pâtè a choux. After researching, I found that pâtè a choux, along with gougerès, Paris-Brest, profiteroles, and eclairs are all made from the same easy cream puff recipe. Pâtè a choux translates as cream puffs.

So I made my easy cream puff recipe. As always, I was amazed at how simple it was and how beautiful the puffs turned out. Talk about versatile. Cream puffs can be savory or sweet and the fillings are endless.

Even with detailed instructions, the recipe goes together fast. Puff, they’re done!

Easy Cream Puff Recipe

Makes about 12 big puffs, 36 small puffs, or up to 24 eclairs.

Ingredients

1 cup water

1/2 cup unsalted butter

3/4 teaspoon salt

1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup whole eggs (4 large eggs), room temperature

Instructions – Making Dough

Preheat oven to 400. Line baking sheets with parchment or use spray.

Combine water, butter, and salt in a heavy saucepan over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil. Remove pan from heat, and add flour all at once, stirring vigorously until incorporated. I use a wooden spoon.

Return pan to low heat, stirring all the while to avoid lumps, until mixture smooths out, forms a rough ball around the spoon, and leaves sides of the pan. You may notice a “skin” on the bottom. This takes a couple minutes.

Remove pan from heat, and let the dough cool for a few minutes. It will still be hot, but you’ll be able to hold a finger in for a few seconds. Now you’re ready to add eggs.

Place dough in the mixer and beat in eggs one at a time on medium-low until each is incorporated. Don’t worry if it looks a little curdled. By the time you add the last egg it will be shiny and smooth. Beat for a couple minutes after adding the last egg. You can also use a food processor.

easy-cream-puff-recipe
Ingredients for cream puffs and eclairs.

 

easy-cream-puff-recipe
Cooked dough – see the “skin” on the bottom.

 

easy-cream-puff-recipe
Dough after adding eggs.

Forming Puffs

Use a small ice cream scoop or teaspoon to make mounds. For larger puffs, use a tablespoon or larger scoop. Place 2″ apart.

Wet your finger and smooth tops if you like.

Forming Eclairs

Pipe batter into logs using a plain tip. For smaller eclairs, make 3” logs about 1/2″ in diameter.

For larger eclairs, make them about 4-1/2” x 1-1/2”. Place two inches apart.

To shape eclairs without a pastry bag, place a baggie into a glass, rolling its edge over the rim to hold in place. Spoon dough into a bag. Cut off a corner, about a half inch. Squeeze dough onto baking sheet.

You can also roll a lump of dough into a log, using gentle pressure with your hands.

easy-cream-puff-recipe
Ready to bake.

Baking

Bake 15 to 20 minutes, depending on size, until puffed and golden.

Reduce heat to 350. Bake 10 to 20 minutes or so, depending on size until doubled in size and golden brown.

Remove from oven, poke a small slit into the top of each. Turn off oven, return pastries to oven for five to 10 minutes to dry the insides.

easy-cream-puff-recipe
Baked cream puffs.

Cooling and Splitting

Place on rack to cool. When cool enough to handle, split each in half horizontally; splitting and exposing the centers to air will help keep them from becoming soggy.

Centers should be hollow, but if they’re not, pull out excess.

Filling

Fill the bottom half generously with your favorite filling, and put the top on after filling.

To fill whole pastry with a pastry bag, make an “x” in the side, push the tip in, and fill until filling starts to ooze out.

Tips

Refrigerating dough — Dough can be refrigerated, covered, for a day. You will need to bring it to room temperature before proceeding with the recipe.

Freezing baked puffs — Freeze unfilled, baked puffs for up to one month. Thaw before filling.

easy-cream-puff-recipe
Excess dough removed from inside of puffs. Bottom halves filled.

 

easy-cream-puff-recipe
Cream puffs filled and dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

Crème Chantilly Filling

This is a classic you’re sure to love!

Ingredients and Instructions

2 cups whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

  • Whip the cream on low speed, adding sugar gradually. Increase to high. Add vanilla and whip into firm peaks.

Nutella Filling

Ingredients and Instructions

2 cups whipping cream, divided into 1-1/2 cups and a 1/2 cup

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup Nutella, room temperature

  • Beat 1-1/2 cups cream with vanilla on high speed until peaks form. Blend in Nutella. Beat in remaining cream. Chill before using.

Mocha Mousse Filling

This keeps up to a day in the refrigerator. Try it as a filling in my easy angel food cake recipe.

Ingredients and Instructions

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon instant coffee granules (optional)

1-1/2 cups whipping cream

3/4 to 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

  • Put vanilla, coffee, and cream in mixer and blend. Add sugar and cocoa and blend. Whip on high until stiff.

No-Cook Boston Cream Filling

This pudding-like filling is perfect for eclairs. Keeps up to three days, covered in the refrigerator.

Ingredients and Instructions

1-1/2 cups milk

1 box, 3.4 oz., instant vanilla pudding mix

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup whipped topping

  • Beat milk,  pudding, and vanilla for two minutes. Refrigerate 10 minutes to thicken. Fold in the topping.

Cooked Vanilla Custard Filling

The egg is the secret to making the filling taste like it has been made from scratch.

Ingredients

1 large egg

Milk, either whole or two percent – see instructions

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 box, 3 oz., cook & serve vanilla pudding mix

Instructions

Put the egg into a two-cup spouted measuring cup. Beat lightly to break it up. Pour milk on top to equal two cups. Blend.

Put milk mixture into a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in vanilla.

Whisk in pudding mix. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat. Place in a bowl.

Spray a piece of plastic wrap and place on top of pudding, sprayed side down. This prevents skin from forming. Chill in refrigerator.

 “Bavarian” Cream Filling

A true Bavarian cream contains gelatin and is cooked in a double boiler. This simple cream works well in both eclairs and puffs. It keeps up to three days, covered, in the refrigerator.

Ingredients and Instructions

1/2 cup shortening

2 tablespoons softened butter

2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 cup marshmallow fluff

  • Beat everything but marshmallow fluff together until fluffy. Beat in marshmallow fluff.

Chocolate Glaze

Dip top half of puff or eclair into the glaze or pour on glaze. Can be made a week ahead, refrigerated, and warmed to dipping consistency. The corn syrup is optional but helps keep glaze shiny when refrigerated.

Ingredients and Instructions

1/2 cup whipping cream

4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon light corn syrup (optional)

  • In a small saucepan, heat cream just to boiling. Remove from heat and add the chocolate and corn syrup. Let stand for five minutes and stir until smooth.
Easy-cream-puff-recipe
Filled eclairs with chocolate glaze.

Savory Cream Puffs with Cheese 

Called gougerès, these are simply bite-size versions of my easy cream puff recipe, and are delicious unfilled or filled.

All you do is add a generous half cup of your favorite shredded cheese and a shake of cayenne pepper to the dough after adding eggs.

Easy-cream-puff-recipe
Bite-size savory cream puffs.

Chicken Salad Filling for Gougerès

Try finely minced chicken, ham, egg, or tuna salad. Or add a little Boursin cheese in the bottom half of the puff, add thinly sliced roast beef and top with grated horseradish. Elegant!

Here’s a nice chicken salad filling. Deli chicken is yummy in this recipe since it already has so much flavor.

Ingredients and Instructions 

1 generous cup finely diced cooked chicken

1/2 cup finely diced celery

Juice of half a lemon or to taste

1/4 cup real mayonnaise or salad dressing

Seasoned or regular salt, and pepper, to taste

Finely chopped toasted pecans

  • Mix everything together. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Another option is to dab horseradish sauce or Boursin cheese in the bottom half and top with thinly sliced roast beef. Add another dab of sauce or cheese, put the top half on, and you have an elegant hors d’oeuvre.

Easy-cream-puff-recipe
Savory puffs filled with chicken salad.

Paris Brest

Pipe dough into a ring, bake and slice horizontally. Fill for a stunning centerpiece dessert.

Profiteroles

These are cream puffs filled with ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *