Pâte à Choux with Creme Patissiere (Cream Puffs!!)

As much as I eschew dessert making, I do seem to volunteer to make it often when we have a dinner to attend. Perhaps it’s because no one else likes making dessert. Or I secretly love hearing the gushes, “oh my gosh, wow, this is SO good!!”. And I do have my partner baker husband. We’ve made homemade pop-tarts filled with (homemade) apricot jam and lavendar ice cream for my book club couples’ dinner last year, French vanilla ice cream and cherry cobbler for a July 4th  party that was swoon-worthy, boozy Brennan’s bananas Foster for this year’s book club couples' dinner, and most recently cream puffs for friends' New Year’s Eve party.
Cream puffs have been on my culinary bucket list for a long time. When I was a kid, I recall my mom making them for family dinners, and I was given the job to slit the baked puffs to let the steam escape (I wasn’t that smart then; I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time). Now that I’ve made them myself, I won’t disclose my mom’s secret HOW easy these are to prepare. They are truly delicious, somehow very light but rich with the uber-easy crème filling, and extraordinary.

Perhaps it’s because people don’t want to invest the (minimal) time in the kitchen to make something old-fashion like this, or they’ve never tasted homemade crème puffs. Next time you need to take something impressive to a party, think pâte à choux with crème patissiere. You and everyone at the party will be happy you did.

Pâte à Choux with Crème Patissiere (Cream Puffs)
35 – 40 small puffs

1 cup water
6 tablespoon butter, cut into cubes
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of nutmeg
¾ cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 220º

Bring water to a boil in a pan with the butter, salt, sugar, and nutmeg. Boil slowly until butter has melted. Remove from heat and immediately pour in the flour and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for several seconds to blend thoroughly. Beat over a moderately high heat for 1 to 2 minutes more until mixture begins to leave the side of the pan and forms a mass.

Remove pan from heat and make a well in the center of the mixture. Break one egg into the center of the well and beat thoroughly until blended. Continue with the remaining 3 eggs, beating in one by one until combined and smooth.

Place a silpat or waxed paper on a baking tray. Spoon mixture into rounds approximately 1" in diameter and ½" high onto the baking sheet. Space the mounds about 1" apart to allow for spreading.
Put the trays into the upper and lower thirds of the preheated oven. Bake for about 20 minutes until the puffs have risen and are golden in color, firm and crusty to the touch.

Remove from the oven and pierce the side of each puff with a sharp knife to let the steam out. Put the trays back into the turned-off oven and leave the door ajar for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and put puffs onto a cooling rack.
Crème Patisserie
1 cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup flour
2 cups boiling milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow and forms "the ribbon". Beat in the flour.

Beating the yolk mixture, gradually pour on the boiling milk in a thin stream of droplets.

Pour into a saucepan and set over moderately high heat. Stir with a wire whisk, reaching all over bottom of the pan. As sauce comes to a boil it will get lumpy, but will smooth out as you beat it. When a boil is reached, beat over moderately low heat for 2 to 3 minutes to cook the flour. Be careful custard does not scorch in bottom of pan.

Remove from heat and beat in the butter, then vanilla extract. If the custard is not used immediately, clean it off the sides of the pan, and dot the top of the custard with softened butter to prevent a skin from forming over the surface.
(Apparently, crème patisserie keeps for a week under refrigeration, or may be frozen.)


  1. So impressive! I personally am not a baker which makes me appreciate those that can even more!

    1. Elizabeth, thanks for the compliment. I'm typically not a baker either, but as I said, these are SOOOO easy and very impressive. Give 'em a try for the next dinner when you need to supply dessert. And the puffs can be savory and used for an appetizer, too.

  2. Cream puffs are one of the first things I baked when I was a tad - decades and decades ago! I've made them once or twice since then, but it's been ages. These are actually on that great big list of stuff to make! They really are easy, and loads of fun. Good stuff - thanks.

    1. John, interesting that these take us both back to our younger days. I helped my mom bake them countless times, and then I forgot about them. It's a recipe I'm glad I revived and finally made. A keeper for sure.



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