Ever wanted to make perfect Cream Puffs at home? Today I'm showing you exactly how to make them completely from scratch in the comfort of your own kitchen. And guess what: It's not even that hard!I'm sharing my grandmother's easy recipe for choux pastry and filling it with my simple vanilla pastry cream. For extra tips and visual hints be sure to check out my how-to VIDEO at the bottom of the recipe! I recommend preparing the pastry cream first as it will need to cool for at least 2 hours. It can alternatively be made a day or two in advance.
Combine cream, milk, ⅓ cup (67g) sugar, vanilla bean, and salt in a medium-sized heavy bottomed saucepan. Place on stovetop over medium heat. Stir frequently until sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes (stir occasionally).
Meanwhile, in a separate large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 3 Tablespoons of sugar. Whisk vigorously for about 15 seconds, until sugar is beginning to dissolve.
Sprinkle cornstarch over egg/sugar mixture and whisk until combined and slightly thickened.
Once your cream mixture has cooled, slowly drizzle about ⅓ cup of the cream mixture into the egg mixture while whisking constantly (this will temper your eggs and gradually adding the heated cream will prevent them from cooking!). Slowly, while still whisking, drizzle in the remainder of your cream mixture until the cream and egg mixture are completely combined.
Pour mixture back into saucepan and return to stovetop over medium heat. Whisk frequently until thickened.
Remove from heat and pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl (vanilla bean should be caught by the strainer and should be discarded now).
Whisk in butter, one piece at a time until completely combined. If you didn’t use a vanilla bean, stir in the vanilla extract at this point, too.
Place plastic wrap directly in contact with the surface of the pastry cream to keep a skin from forming. Allow to cool at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until near room temperature, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 2-4 hours. Meanwhile, prepare your choux pastry.
Preheat oven to 400F (200C) and line a large baking sheet or two smaller baking sheets² with parchment paper. Set aside.
Combine water, butter, and salt in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat and bring to a rolling boil.
Once mixture is boiling, add flour and turn down heat to medium/low. Stir continuously with a spatula until moisture is absorbed and mixture forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the pot.
Remove from heat and stir for several minutes to cool down the mixture. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring very well after each addition until mixture is smooth and velvety.
Transfer mixture to a piping bag (or to a large Ziploc bag with one corner snipped) and pipe onto prepared baking sheets by mounds about 2” wide by 1” tall, spacing each mound at least 1 ½ inches apart. Lightly dampen your fingers with cold water and gently press down any peaks on the pastry mounds.
Transfer to 400F (200C) oven and bake for 30 minutes or until cream puffs appear dry and light golden brown.
Remove from oven and use a sharp knife to pierce the lower center of each cream puff, inserting knife about halfway into cream puff (be careful, cream puffs will be hot!)³. Replace each puff on baking sheet and return to oven. Turn off oven and let pastry sit in the oven with the oven door cracked for another 10 minutes.
Once 10 minutes has passed, remove from oven and allow to cool completely on baking sheet.
Allow to cool completely before piping with pastry cream.
To fill with cream, place pastry cream in a piping bag fitted with a small tip (I used a Wilton 5). Insert piping tip into each cream puff and fill until pastry cream is beginning to come out the hole.
Lightly dust the top of each cream puff with powdered sugar just before serving (the sugar will dissolve in the refrigerator if not served right away).
Enjoy! Store cream puffs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or freeze for several weeks.
¹If you don’t have a vanilla bean, instead use 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract. However, don't add the vanilla extract until step 7. ²Make sure that if you use a large baking sheet there is enough room to fit all 20 cream puffs, and if you use two smaller ones make sure they will both fit in your oven. Choux pastry takes a while to cook and you want to be able to cook all of your puffs at once.³If your preference is to slice the cream puffs in half rather than piercing and filling them, you can skip this step of piercing them (particularly if you wish to fill them with something that's not easily pipe-able, like ice cream). Simply turn off the oven, crack the door and allow them to cool as instructed then slice them in half once they are completely cooled.