Cream Puffs Filled With Vanilla Pastry Cream
Choux pastry is a very traditional and common baked good in France. You can find it in all the bakeries in different shapes and filled with many type of creams. So today we’ll start with the basics : chouquettes and cream puffs filled with a vanilla pastry cream.
Chouquettes are choux that are not filled and simply baked with pearl sugar on top. It might not sound very exciting, but it is actually delicious just as is, out of the oven. Definitely the kind of pastry you want to eat the day of, the next day the pearl sugar is gone – melted – and the choux pastry is soft. In Canada, pearl sugar can be found in European stores, I bought mine in an Italian store.
When making cream puffs, pearl sugar isn’t necessary, even though it add a nice crunch to the choux. You can also sprinkle them with icing sugar, dip them in chocolate or cooked sugar…
Choux pastry is a bit technical
and might requires you to play around with your oven. It makes it even more satisfying when you see it rising in the oven or when you bite into it to make sure the inside is empty, success!
The way I bake it never failed me, even with my actual not so great oven. I preheat it to 425°F – 220°C, put the choux pastry in for 10 minutes, turning the oven off. After 10 minutes, I put the oven back on to 330°F – 165°C, and bake the choux for another 20 minutes. Remember to never open the door when baking choux pastry.
Freezing choux pastry
Since choux pastry is something you can’t keep for a long time without the quality being altered, I like to bake the amount I need and freeze the rest raw.
To do so, I pipe the choux on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, egg wash and flatten them with a fork. You don’t need to leave space between them since it’s just for the storage. Wait for a couple of hours to place them in an airtight container – I cut the parchment paper which the choux are on and transfer them like that. When you want to bake the choux, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, let them defrost at room temperature for about 30 minutes and bake them.
Pastry cream can be made the day before
When making pastry cream, I always mix in some of the sugar in the milk to prevent it from burning in the bottom of the pot. Also, once the other part of the sugar is poured in the egg yolks, mix straight away or the sugar is going to burn the yolks and you’ll have lumps in your pastry cream.
Pastry cream requires egg yolks so if you’re looking for recipes to use leftover egg whites, here are a few : pavlovas, financiers, oatmeal pancakes. You can also freeze egg whites in an airtight container for up to 6 months.
Filling cream puffs
You can choose to cut or dig a hole in the choux. I personally prefer the second method but if you’re not too comfortable with piping or simply don’t have the tools, you can cut the choux in half. If you do so, remember that you won’t be able to dip the choux in chocolate or cooked sugar afterwards.
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment
Vanilla pastry cream
- 2 cups milk 500 ml
- 1 vanilla bean or 1 tsp vanilla extract / paste
- 6 egg yolks 120 g
- ½ cup sugar 120 g
- ⅓ cup + 1 tbsp cornstarch 50 g
- ¼ cup unsalted butter 50 g – in pieces
- ⅔ cup water 150 ml
- ⅓ cup butter in pieces – 75 g
- 1 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour 160 g
- ½ tsp salt 3 g
- 3 eggs 150-160 g
- 1 egg for the egg wash
- pearl sugar to sprinkle
Vanilla pastry cream
- In a pot, bring the milk, half the sugar and the scraped vanilla bean to a boil. The sugar is going to prevent the milk from sticking and burning at the bottom of the pot.
- Mix the rest of the sugar with the cornstarch in a bowl, add the egg yolks and mix straight away with a whisk.
- Once the milk starts to boil, pour some of it in the egg yolk mix, whisk quickly and pour back in the pot.
- Keep stirring with the whisk on medium heat, until it boils again. From that point on, cook for one minute, mixing continuously.
- Remove from the heat and add the butter, mix until combined. Pour the pastry cream in a container and cover with saran wrap directly on top to prevent a skin to form. Refrigerate.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F – 220°C.
- In a pot, put the water, salt and butter. Bring to a boil on medium heat.
- In the meantime, weigh the flour and the eggs.Prepare the egg wash – beat the egg with a fork with a pinch of salt ; a glass of water with a fork ; a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and a piping bag with a round tip.
- When the water starts to boil and the butter is dissolved, pour in the flour and mix straight away with a wooden spoon to dry the pastry, count 1 minute.
- Once dried, place in the bowl of your stand mixer and mix for a couple minutes with the paddle on medium speed so that the steam goes away and the choux pastry finish drying out.
- Keep mixing, adding one egg at a time and scraping the bowl each time.
- Place the dough in the piping bag and stick the parchment paper with a bit of dough in the corners.Pipe Ø 1.2 inch – 3 cm choux, leaving some space between them.
- Egg wash lightly with a brush and flatten softly with the fork – dip it in the water every other choux so it doesn't stick.
- Sprinkle pearl sugar.
- Put in the preheated oven and turn it off for 10 minutes.
- Turn the oven back on at 330°F – 165°C, and keep baking for 20 more minutes. Don't open the door!
- Allow to cool down at room temperature.
Filling the cream puffs
- Using a small round tip or a metal straw, dig a hole on the bottom of the choux. Beat the pastry cream with a rubber spatula to soften it a bit – don't over beat it as it would get to runny. Fill a piping bag with a small round tip.
- Fill the choux with pastry cream and scrape with a spatula.
- Store in an airtight container, in the fridge, separating each layer with parchment paper.