Easy to make at home, these delicate cream puffs come together with a soft, flaky choux pastry, a simple whipped cream filling, and a dusting of powdered sugar.
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Table of Contents
- About Homemade Cream Puffs
- What is choux pastry?
- Tools you’ll need
- Tips for perfectly whipped cream
- Can you make cream puffs in advance?
- Can you freeze decorated cream puffs?
- Can you freeze just the choux pastry?
- How long do cream puffs last?
- Notes & tips for cream puffs
- More delicious desserts
- How to make homemade cream puffs
- Recipe Details
About Homemade Cream Puffs
Although these cream puffs have all the flair of a fancy French pastry (because, well, they are) they’re still shockingly easy to make at home. You only need to whip up a batch of simple pastries and some homemade whipped cream before you’ll be decorating your way to pastry heaven.
I’ve outlined all the tips and explanations below. Because if me and my two left whisks can whip up a batch of light, flaky cream puffs then anyone can.
What is choux pastry?
Although the name might be common, we’ve all most likely seen choux pastry before. Not only is it what the light and crumbly pastry we know and love in cream puffs is called, but it’s also used in eclairs and even some churros. It’s light, flaky, and perfect for pairing with creams.
Choux dough is simple and typically contains butter, water, flour, and eggs. One of its trademarks is that it uses water as a rising agent to puff the pastry instead of more common methods like baking soda, baking powder, or yeast.
Tools you’ll need
- Mixer – You can either use a hand mixer or stand mixer, but if you have a stand mixer, it’s best to fit it with a flat edge (paddle) attachment.
- Wooden Spoon – Normally you don’t need to be too specific in what utensil you stir with, but this wooden spoon is important. The wood will help keep the choux pastry at an even temperature while mixing. Other materials, like metal, will absorb heat and alter this cooling down process.
- Toothpicks – Used to poke a hole in the baked buffs to help release heat and assist in even cooling. You can either use a toothpick, cake tester, or pairing knife.
- Mixing bowls, a baking sheet, and some parchment paper – Standard fare for the best baked goods.
- Pastry bags and piping tips – Pastry bags make everything easier, and a few decorative tips will give your cream puffs some extra flair. For the choux pastry, using a 2A or similar large, round size will do. For the whipped cream, pick a tip that will give the cream a texture you’d like.
Tips for perfectly whipped cream
Since I posted this recipe a few years ago, readers have commented that they’ve had trouble getting the heavy whipping cream to whip properly.
For this recipe, the whipped cream should be fairly thick, so getting the consistency right is key. The recipe states that the cream should form stiff peaks, and that’s exactly what it sounds like: when you remove the mixer blades, the cream should pull upward and then keep its shape, looking like mountain peaks.
To help ensure this happens, try these tips:
- Use high-quality whipping cream that’s extremely fresh (just purchased, just opened).
- Chill the heavy whipping cream in the freezer 15 minutes before use. Use the cream as soon as it’s removed from the freezer.
- If you’re using any metal, porcelain, or glass attachments for mixing (bowl, whisk, etc) try freezing or chilling them beforehand.
Can you make cream puffs in advance?
Yes, you can! You can make them up to 24 hours in advance, but there are two important points:
- For best results, store the baked choux pastries undecorated (so no whipped cream or powdered sugar yet). They can be stored in a sealed container on the counter for up to one day.
- To ensure the best texture for the filling, plan on preparing the whipped cream just before decorating. However, the whipped cream can also be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator; just know that the consistency may change slightly the longer the cream sits.
Can you freeze decorated cream puffs?
The quick answer here is no… and yes. The question really comes down to how much cream is “exposed” around the puff, usually in one of the following two ways:
- Option A: If you decorate the cream puffs as pictured (with a thick cream filling that’s clearly visible along the sides, creating a large gap between the top and bottom halves), then no, I would not recommend freezing these. Too much cream is exposed.
- Option B: If you decorated the cream puffs by filling the puffs like a cream donut (so the puffs are not cut in half, but a hole is made in the side and the whipped cream is piped in), then yes, you could freeze them. Little to no cream should be exposed.
So, if you’re cream puffs look more like Option B, you can use the following steps to freeze them:
- Once prepared, place cream puffs in a single layer in a freezer bag or storage container. If at all possible, avoid stacking pastries and place in a safe spot in your freezer; the pastries are delicate.
- Cream puffs can be frozen for up to two months.
To thaw cream puffs:
- Allow them to thaw in the refrigerator for at least two hours or on the counter for 30 minutes.
- If needed, dust with fresh powdered sugar before serving.
Can you freeze just the choux pastry?
Yes, you can – but I can only recommend freezing the baked choux pastries and not the raw dough. The dough has a delicate process from mixing to baking which can be tricky to interrupt, so you’ll be on a better path to success if you prepare the pastries fully before attempting to store them.
To freeze choux pastries:
- Prepare choux pastry per recipe instructions and allow them to cool completely to room temperature.
- Place choux pastry in a single layer in a freezer bag or storage container. If at all possible, avoid stacking pastries and place in a safe spot in your freezer; the pastries are delicate.
- Choux pastry can be frozen for up to two months.
How long do cream puffs last?
Once prepared, it’s best to eat them as soon as possible. If you’d like to save them, see the freezing instructions listed above.
Notes & tips for cream puffs
- Want to make a double batch? No problem! This recipe adapts well to increasing the yield.
More delicious desserts
How to make homemade cream puffs
This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.
Step 1 – To begin to choux pastry, start by adding milk, butter, sugar, and salt to a medium saucepan. Let the butter melt and bring to a boil.
Step 2 – While stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, pour in the four until the batter starts to appear dry and doesn’t cling to the pan or the spoon.
Step 3 – Transfer the batter to another bowl to cool, stirring occasionally to help release heat.
Step 4 – Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer + large bowl), add the warm dough and one egg. Mix until the batter is smooth, then add another egg. Repeat this step until all of the eggs have been mixed in and the dough easily sticks up from a spoon without sagging.
Step 5 – Add the dough to a pastry bag with a 2A piping tip, then pipe the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Aim to create mounds that are two inches wide and once inches tall, and keep each mound about two inches apart. Once all 12 of the mounds have been formed, sprinkle water over the dough and parchment paper.
Step 6 – Bake!
Step 8 – When ready to decorate, prepare the whipped cream. Whip together the heavy whipping cream and vanilla until bubbles start to form.
Step 9 – Add some sugar to the bowl, then mix until thoroughly absorbed. Repeat this step a few times until all the sugar has been used and the consistency is thick and creamy. Add the finished whipped cream to a pastry bag with a decorative tip.
Step 10 – Slice the cooled choux pastries in half, then pipe the whipped cream onto one side. Top with the other half of the pastry and dust with powdered sugar.
Step 11 – Serve and enjoy!
Homemade Cream Puffs
For the Choux Pastry
- In a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir together milk, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil.
- While stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon, pour in the flour mixture until the batter starts to appear dry and no longer clings to the pan or spoon, about 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer dough to a bowl and let rest for 5 minutes, stirring a few times to help release heat.
- Using a stand mixer with a flat beater attachment (or hand mixer + large bowl), add the warm dough and one egg. Mix on medium-high speed until completely smooth, then add another egg, again mixing until smooth. Repeat this process for each egg. Dough is ready when it sticks up without sagging on the end of a spoon.
- Transfer dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 2A piping tip or similar size. While holding the pastry bag straight down over prepared baking sheet and not moving, pipe out the dough so that it puffs up and outward, creating mounds that are roughly 2 inches wide and 1 inch high. Space each mound at least 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Repeat this step until all the dough has been used, creating 12 mounds.
- To help the choux pastry puff up while baking, sprinkle water over the mounds of dough and some on the baking sheet.
- Bake choux dough on a lower rack for 10 minutes. REDUCE heat to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes or until the pastries are golden brown and firm to the touch.
For the Whipped Cream
- Using a stand mixer (or hand mixer + large bowl), add in heavy whipping cream and vanilla. Whip on high speed until bubbles form, about 1-2 minutes.
- Drop mixer speed to medium-high and add 1 tablespoon of sugar, then mix thoroughly, about 1-2 minutes. Repeat this step until all of the sugar has been used and the consistency is thick and creamy.
- Add whipped cream to a piping bag with a large piping tip of your choice.
Putting it all together
- Slice cooled choux pastries in half, creating top and bottom halves. Pipe cream onto the bottom half and then cover with the matching top piece. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Repeat this step until all cream puffs have been prepared.
- Serve immediately.
I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.