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What Are Cream Puffs?
Cream puffs are a dessert made of choux pastry spheres hollowed out and filled with whipped cream or pastry cream (crème pâtissière, custard, or vanilla pudding) and served with a dusting of powdered sugar. Choux pastry is a delicate pastry made from combining butter, flour, water, and eggs on the stovetop. (This is in contrast to puff pastry, which is made by layering dough with sheets of butter.) Known as pâte à choux in French, choux pastry dough is also used to make éclairs and profiteroles.
Cream Puffs vs. Profiteroles: What’s the Difference?
The only definite difference between cream puffs and profiteroles is size: Cream puffs are larger. There are a few less strict differences. Cream puffs are an American tradition, whereas profiteroles are a French pastry. Small profiteroles are often piled on top of each other into pyramidal croquembouche or gâteau Saint-Honoré, while cream puffs are served more casually. Cream puffs are full of cream (whipped cream or pastry cream), whereas profiteroles can be stuffed with anything—savory filling, sweet filling, or, as you'll often find in the United States, ice cream. Ice cream-filled profiteroles are usually served with a generous drizzle of chocolate ganache.
Homemade Cream Puff Recipe
Prep Time15 min
Total Time50 min
Cook Time35 min
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 1½ teaspoons sugar, divided
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plus one tablespoon water, divided
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs, room temperature, plus 1 egg yolk
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- ¼ cup powdered sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Chocolate ganache, for serving (optional)
- Raspberries or other fresh fruit, for serving (optional)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Make the choux pastry. In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, sugar, salt, and 1 cup water to a boil over medium heat.
- Remove from the heat and add the flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir until the dough comes together in a smooth ball, about 5 minutes.
- Add the eggs one at a time, stirring until well after each addition. Make the egg wash. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water.
- Transfer choux pastry to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe 2-inch balls onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the top of each cream puff with egg wash.
- Bake until puffed up, about 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and continue baking cream puff shells until golden brown, about 20 minutes longer. Transfer shells to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Meanwhile, make the whipped cream. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl using a hand mixer or whisk, combine heavy cream with 1 tablespoon powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Whip to form soft peaks and transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip.
- Once the cream puffs have cooled, slice each cream puff shell in half. Pipe the whipped cream into each cream puff shell and replace the top of the cream puff. Use a sieve to dust cream puffs lightly with remaining powdered sugar. Top with chocolate sauce and serve with fresh fruit, if desired.
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