Cream Puffs

Cream PuffsWow, it’s been awhile since I’ve updated. Sorry! I have absolutely no internet at my house now. None at all. And no money to bring it back at the moment. So I’m forced to borrow from wherever I can. Boyfriend. Work. The library. Unfortunately, I’m too lazy most days to get in the car and drive to these places for my internet fix. So, until I get the internet situation figured out, there might be a slight delay in posting. Sincere apologies to my adoring fans! All 2 of you out there.

Without my internet to post things, I haven’t even been baking that much! But I finally got my act together the other day. I was invited to a going away party for a coworker, Chloe, who is moving to Germany for six months. (Jealous! Totally and completely jealous!) It was a bonfire gathering at another coworker’s house, complete with a German theme—brats and beer! I decided to bring dessert, but what would be German enough? The first thing I thought of was German Chocolate Cake, but another baking coworker was already making one to bring to work on Chloe’s last day. Boyfriend, being the muse that he is, suggested Cream Puffs. Perfect! I absolutely LOVE the cream puffs from Schmidt’s, a local German restaurant, and I’ve always wanted to make them!

This was completely new territory for me. I’ve never made pastries before. Pâte à choux is a completely foreign word to me. (Honestly, I’m not even sure how to pronounce it.) And pastry cream? No idea what I’m doing. Needless to say, I was absolutely terrified of this project. But, I’m always up for a challenge, so I dove in head first. I made the cream first, since it would take longer to cool than the pastries themselves. Plus, I was finally smart and read through all my ingredients and instructions first, and realized I could use the whites I separated from the eggs in the cream, for my puffs! My cream came together much quicker than the recipe said it would. I was just stirring away with one hand, while reading the new Dan Brown book I laid out on top of the stove (not the smartest idea to put a book on a heated stove, but hey--I was at a good part), and suddenly my whisk got kind of stuck. I looked down, and realized I had pastry cream! Thick, perfect pastry cream! In not even 3 minutes.

The pâte à choux came together quicker than the recipe said as well. My milk boiled over while I was getting my other ingredients organized, and once I dumped the flour in and started to stir, my dough came together almost instantly. It was really only about a minute of the 5 minutes it claimed it would take. So my advice, definitely watch your stuff closely, because it probably won’t take as long as it says it will. Oh and my other advice. Don’t try to taste the unbaked dough. I’m totally one for dipping my finger in raw dough and sampling it, but I had to keep reminding myself not to do that with this. It’s not very tasty uncooked. Unless of course you like the taste and texture of wallpaper paste. Then, by all means. Taste away.

Piping the dough onto the cookie sheets proved to be a slight challenge. The recipe says to pipe out a golf ball sized ball of dough. I had no balls of dough. As soon as I piped them out, they immediately started to spread. They ended up more like disks than balls. No matter how quickly I piped and tried to throw them in the oven, each mound of dough ended up flattened. Well, maybe they’d rise back up in the oven.

Wrong. I took them out of the oven after 45 minutes of baking and was immediately disappointed. Without a picture of my recipe to guide me, I had been imagining Schmidt’s Cream Puffs. These HUGE, tall, flaky pastries full of rich, thick cream. Puffs you had to eat with a fork. Pastries that were almost a full meal’s worth of goodness. Mine? Tiny little flat, round disks that were barely an inch tall. No fork needed here. 2 bites and they were gone. I don’t know which of the two the real cream puff is, but mine was not what I had envisioned when I set out to make them. With only a few hours left until the party, I decided to give it one more shot. I was gonna make another batch of dough. Doubling the original recipe, maybe I could get some big impressive cream puffs out of this yet. I didn’t have time to make more cream, so what I had would have to do…

Once again, piping out the dough wasn’t going well. With even more dough piled up, it flattened out even faster. And taking them out of the oven when they were done… They were even worse than the first batch. They were wider, but definitely not taller. Some of them actually sunk. I had no idea how I was going to get the pastry cream into most of them. There was no way to cut off the top ½ inch like the recipe said. I ended up putting the pastry cream into a piping bag with a medium sized round tip, and just jamming the tip into to side of the cooled pastry and squirting the cream into it like an éclair. The smaller first batch actually ended up being the ones that worked the best. The bigger ones had sunk in on themselves so much that it was impossible to get the cream all the way through. Half of them only had cream on one side.

I was a bit disappointed in my cream puffs and even thought of not bringing them with me, but I had spent most of my day working on these, and I hate to show up to a party empty handed, so I taste tested one to see if it was even worth it. Oh man. They may not look or taste much like Schmidt’s, but they were good! Kind of soft and totally egg-y. The pastry itself almost tasted like French Toast (probably from the egg wash.. but man is it good), and the cream is really just a custard. It was like eating a tiny little custard filled donut! Totally tasty. Everyone at the party liked them too! Yay! I planned on taking the rest into work the next day, but left the tray sitting on my counter as I walked out the door. I made a trip back over with them after I was off, but didn’t stick around to find out how everyone liked them. Hopefully they did!

Although they were a bit of a challenge, they were worth it. I can now officially say I’ve made cream puffs! But I’m still on a quest for the perfect Schmidt’s-like giant treat! And even though I haven’t been baking much lately, this next month will be chock-full of baking fun! Between Boyfriend’s birthday (the big 3-0!), a Pumpkin Cookie Throwdown, Cupcake Camp, and several events at work, I’m going to be slaving away in the kitchen for WEEKS! Hopefully I’ll have time somewhere in between to pack up all my stuff and search out some internet to put up some posts too!

Cream Puffs
From Baking at Home with the Culinary Institute of America
Makes 20 cream puffs

Cream (Pastry Cream):
¼ cup cornstarch
¾ cup sugar, divided
2 cups whole milk, divided
4 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Puff (Pâte à Choux):
1 cup whole or low fat milk
½ cup butter (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup bread flour, sifted
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
Egg wash (1 large egg whisked with 2 tablespoons cold milk)

1. Make the Pastry Cream: Combine cornstarch with ¼ cup sugar in a mixing bowl, then stir in ½ cup of milk. Blend the yolks into the cornstarch mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until completely smooth.
2. Prepare an ice bath. Combine the remaining 1 ½ cups milk with the remaining ½ cup sugar and the salt in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove pan from the heat.
3. Temper the egg mixture by gradually adding about one-third of the hot milk mixture, whisking constantly. Add the remaining milk mixture to the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan and continue cooking over medium heat, vigorously stirring with a whisk, until the mixture comes to a boil and leaves a trail in the pastry cream, 5-7 minutes. As soon as the pastry cream reaches this stage, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla and butter. Transfer pan to an ice bath. Stir occasionally until the pastry cream is cool, about 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
5. Make the Pâte à Choux: Combine the milk, butter, granulated sugar, and salt in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. (Careful! This boils over pretty easily once it gets going.) Reduce the heat to medium, and add the sifted flour all at once, and stir well. Cool, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the dough begins to come away from the sides of the pan, about 5 minutes. (Mine took only like a minute to come together.) Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until cooled to body temperature. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat in the egg white.
6. Transfer the pâte à choux dough to a pastry bag with a plain round tip. Pipe or spoon the dough into 20 equal sized balls (about the size of a golf ball) onto the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Brush the unbaked puffs very lightly with egg wash.
7. Bake until the pastries are puffy and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 325F and continue to bake until the puffs appear dry and a rich golden brown, another 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely on wire racks before splitting and filling.
8. When the pastry has cooled, slice off the top ½ inch from each cream puff.* Pipe a dollop of pastry cream onto each base. Replace the top of the cream puff and dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Note: *Mine only rose to barely an inch tall, so it was nearly impossible to cut off the top ½ inch. I ended up putting the pastry cream in a piping bag with a round tip and jamming the tip into the side of the puff and squirting cream inside. It actually worked pretty well.
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Kiesha Jenkins-Duffy said...


My cream puffs had the exact same problem. They didn't rise and started spreading as soon as they hit the cookie sheet. There's some secret that the baking books don't tell you so pastry chefs can stay in business!

Getting excited for CupcakeCamp! You've got a lot of competition in Best Harvest, and a little in North Market-Inspired.

Anonymous said...

They still look darn tasty to me! I would give one a shot ;)

Erin said...

Those still look good to me! Love your blog too!

Leila said...

I think there are definitely more than 2 readers out there :) Hope you get your internet back soon - love catching your posts.


I think they didn't rise because there was too much liquid and maybe because of the parchment paper, you don't want to encourage these things to spread so an ungreased baking sheet is better. Try this recipe next time and you should have that problem. Good luck!

# 1/2 cup butter
# 1 cup water
# 1/4 teaspoon salt
# 1 cup all-purpose flour
# 4 eggs

# In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Stir in flour and salt until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or stand mixer, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.
# Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.

Danae - The Busty Baker said...

Thanks Guinness! I'll have to try that one out too and see how they come out! I figured the recipe I was using had a little too much liquid in it, but having never made them before, I didn't know what to cut down on!

Ingrid said...

I've made cream puff and they actually turned out perfectly. Not sure why yours didn't work out but I used the Joy of Baking's recipe. I'd give you the link but I'm not sure how to do that.

Busy Mom said...

I think I will have to follow @ILUVGUINNESS advice. I made a batch this morning and they seem so dense and the butter leaked out everywhere. My version had 1/2 c butter, 1/4 c water, 1/2 c flour and 2 large eggs. I'm thinking that doubling the flour and adding the additional eggs will help it come together better.

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