Cream puffs are made from a choux pastry (aka pâte à choux) which is just a light pastry dough made with flour, eggs, butter, and water. The puffed up hollow shells are perfect for filling with pastry cream or whipped cream for an easy, elegant dessert!
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My sister-in-law Deborah has been one of my biggest blog supporters from the very beginning. I've already shared her incredible knotted orange rolls and flood mud hot fudge recipes. But I have been meaning to share her wonderful cream puffs for a while now!
Both Deborah and I share a love of France and French culture (and food!) and these cream puffs are a testament to that shared interest. Cream puffs are a classic french dessert made with choux pastry, which is the same stuff that is used to make eclairs and even churros.
It might look and sound intimidating, but it's really as easy as can be and you can make incredibly light and wonderful cream puffs on your first try without much difficulty at all by following this recipe!
Making your own cream puffs with custard filling is so much better than buying the tiny frozen ones from the store. These large cream puffs are perfectly proportioned desserts that make for an easy, elegant presentation that are great for entertaining since all the work is done in advance!
I promise this cream puff recipe is one you’ll want to hold on to for a long time. With this easy recipe for cream puff shells and filling, it’s simple, elegant, and absolutely tasty.
Cream puff ingredients
For the choux pastry you will need:
- Salted butter
For the filling you will need:
- A batch of homemade pastry cream
- Whipping cream
- Powdered Sugar
- Vanilla extract
Lots of people go really simple and just fill their cream puffs with whipped cream. And I'm including Deborah's favorite filling in the recipe notes since it's one we have enjoyed when she has made cream puffs for us. But my personal favorite is french pastry cream that is lightened up just a bit with whipped cream mixed in, also known as creme diplomat, which is what you see here.
How to make cream puffs
In a medium saucepan, add water, butter, sugar, and salt. Cook on medium-high heat until the butter is melted and the mix comes to a full rolling boil.
Add in the flour (all of it at once) and then remove the pan from the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together to make a thick paste that forms a ball and comes away from the sides of the pan.
Add in the eggs, one at a time, and stir well after each. At first, it will look like the flour mix comes apart and doesn’t want to get back together, but put your elbow into it and it will become a thick paste again. Some people even transfer the dough to their stand mixer at this point, although I hate to dirty an extra dish when really it's not hard to do this part by hand.
Let the batter cool for 15 minutes and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
To shape the cream puffs, either fill a pastry bag with a large round piping tip and pipe the batter into mounds or drop it by tablespoonfuls onto the parchment paper. You’ll want about 3-4 tablespoons per mound. Keep them at least 3 inches apart since they will rise and expand while baking. I always get 12 large puffs, which is about ¼ cup of choux pastry for each cream puff.
Bake them in the oven for 35-45 minutes until the cream puffs are golden brown and puffy. Turn the oven off and crack the door partway and allow them to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from the oven. (This keeps them from deflating).
To make the filling, beat the cream with powdered sugar and vanilla, taking care not to overbeat the cream and turn it into butter. Add the whipped mix to the prepared pastry cream (which can be made a day or more in advance and kept in the fridge) and fold them together. Transfer the filling to a piping bag fitted with a large decorative tip.
Split each cream puff in half horizontally and pipe the thick swirls of filling into each and then top with the other half like a sandwich. Alternatively, you can use a smaller tip and poke it into the sides of an uncut cream puff shell and squeeze the filling inside until they’re heavy. I just personally prefer the presentation of the sliced shells where you can see generous swirls of pastry cream filling.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
How far in advance can you make cream puffs?
You can make the shells up to 2 days in advance if you keep them unfilled and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Then simply fill before serving and you’re good to go!
Can you put cream puffs in the fridge?
Once you have filled your cream puffs you should keep them stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. They aren't quite as good as when they are freshly made and filled, but still pretty darn delicious.
Why did my cream puffs collapse?
If your cream puff shells collapsed during baking it’s usually as a result of there being too much moisture. You can poke a small hole in the underside of the pastries with a sharp knife during the last five minutes of baking to help vent out some of the steam inside of the puffs to keep them from deflating if this continues to be a problem for you.
Can you freeze cream puffs with cream in them?
After you’ve filled your cream puffs, you can freeze them for up to 2 months. Keep them stored in a resealable plastic bag or in an airtight container until you’re ready to eat. Then, place them on the counter to soften for a fast thaw or place them in the fridge for an hour or two.
More dessert recipes like this
- Fresh Strawbery Cupcakes
- Sour Cream Cake
- Best Carrot Cake
- Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting
- Homemade Churros
Did you make this recipe?
Let me know what you thought with a comment and rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
Cream Puff Shells
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup salted butter
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 1 recipe [vanilla pastry cream]
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Additional powdered sugar, for dusting
- In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt over medium-high heat.
- Cook until the butter is melted, then bring to a full rolling boil over high heat.
- Add the flour all at once and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon until everything comes together in a clump that is like a thick paste that cleans the sides of the pan.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the eggs, one at a time. The mixture may seem to break or curdle at first, but keep stirring and it will come back together by the time you add the last egg. Let the choux pastry cool for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Fill a piping bag with a large round tip with the choux pastry and pipe 12 large puffs, each using about ¼ cup of the choux pastry, onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Dab your finger in water and press down any points on top.
- Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Turn off the oven and crack open the oven door to let the cream puffs cool down slowly for 10 minutes before removing from the oven. This prevents them from deflating.
- Beat the cream with the powdered sugar and vanilla, then fold into the pastry cream. Transfer the filling to a piping bag fitted with a large decorative tip.
- Split each shell down the middle with a serrated knife, then fill with the pastry cream filling. Top with the other half of the shell and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
- Deborah's Filling: Beat 3 ounces cream cheese, ½ cup powdered sugar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla extract in a medium bowl. In another bowl, beat 1 cup whipping cream until soft peaks form, then fold this into the cream cheese mixture. Use this to fill the cream puff shells, along with your favorite fruit like sliced strawberries or raspberries.