I'm sharing how to make perfect cream puffs from scratch! The thin crispy choux crust and rich & melty creme diplomat taste incredibly delicious… happiness overload in a month!!!
I am spilling all the tips and tricks so that you can make amazing cream puffs successfully at home.
In this post, you'll learn essential baking tips such as:
- How cream puffs rise - the science behind it
- All the dos & don'ts (& why) to make it successful at home
- How to make amazing diplomat cream as the filling
- I am comparing all the different types of cream puffs with different ingredients ... and so on!
📌 What Are Cream Puffs?
Cream puffs are originally called Choux à la Crème in French, It is a cute ball made with pâte à choux filled with cream.
Pâte à choux is also called as Choux Pastry, Pate choux etc. The word "pâte" just means dough or pastry in French and "choux" means cabbage in French because It kind of looks like it...!
📌 The Principal Of Cream Puffs
The steps to make cream puffs are very simple. First, heat water, milk salt, sugar, and butter in a pan. And add flour to it, mix, and heat it. And to that, add egg and mix. Finally, pipe on a tray and bake.
But it can be pretty tricky without knowing some crucial points. So let me briefly explain how choux pastry puffs up in the oven.
They are many reasons for this but there are 3 biggest factors:
Factor 1: Steam
1. If it can create enough steam in the oven to push the dough up.
Steam is created by liquids when they are heated. When the liquids turn into steam as the temperature goes up in the oven, the volume expands about 1700 times more! And that strong power pushes up the dough.
Factor 2: Stretchy dough
2. If the choux is very stretchy let the steam push up the dough.
For the dough to rise with the steam, the texture has to be stretchy like a balloon. The air we blow to make a balloon is like the steam for choux pastry. And for choux pastry, starch in flour contributes a lot to making the stretchy texture. Specifically when you heat liquids and starch together for enough time. By doing that, starch gets looser and more stretchy like glue.
And also, hot melted butter and liquids help to make the dough looser to rise better.
Factor 3: Bones to sustain the weight
3. If there is enough body or bone to sustain the shape after it’s risen.
Even if it rises, it can shrink if there is not enough bone to sustain the weight. And starch is not just strong enough to hold that.
Gluten in flour does the job mainly. It is created by mixing liquids and flour. And it creates a strong web that is completely set when it’s cooked through and becomes bone.
And egg also gets set when it’s cooked and does a supportive job.
So! Keep in mind these 3 factors as we proceed to the instruction below.
📌 Frequently Asked Questions
Once you fill the cream, you’ll need to store it in a fridge.
It is still edible for up to 5 days but I do not recommend that: The choux gets soggy inside and dried outside. Pate choux tastes the best when it’s just made. I recommend baking them and filling the cream right before you serve and enjoy the crispy choux and melty cream!
Yes! You can use this recipe for any basic choux dessert.
Yes. After you pipe them, freeze them and store them in a ziplock or air-tight container. If you are hoping to store them for a long time, I recommend wrapping them individually so that they are not getting dried.
No need to defrost them before baking. Just apply egg wash and bake them right away. The baking time gets longer. With my oven, I bake for 5-10 minutes longer than the regular ones. Adjust the time and temperature accordingly with your oven!
📌 What's In Cream Puffs?
- The baked choux gets softer with water. And the caramelization gets lighter.
- The baked choux gets crunchier with milk. And the caramelization gets darker.
- It helps to strengthen the gluten in the flour.
- Granulated sugar
- It helps to caramelize the surface more.
- Unsalted butter
- Butter adds a richer flavor. It also helps to stretch the dough more in the oven.
- Cake flour
- It's possible to bake it with all-purpose flour but the choux rises more with cake flour.
- Egg contributes a lot to letting the dough rise in the oven. The choux gets smaller when it's not added enough.
- Egg wash
- I mixed egg and water. 1:1
- Diced almond
- Optional. It adds amazing texture and flavor.
- Granulated sugar
- Just some sprinkles of sugar add an even nicer texture. Almond + sugar is my favorite topping for cream puffs!
Pastry Cream: (1.5 batches of my pastry cream recipe)
- Use full-fat whole milk.
- Vanilla beans
- I highly recommend using vanilla beans for its incredible flavor. My favorite kind is Madagascar vanilla beans.
- You can also use vanilla extract.
- Granulated sugar
- Sugar is necessary to make smooth and shiny pastry cream.
- Egg yolk
- It helps to thicken the cream and add rich flavor.
- Corn starch
- It helps to thicken the cream as well. It gives a light, slightly jelly-like texture.
- All-purpose flour
- It also helps to thicken the cream. Compared to corn starch, it gives a chinkier, heavier texture. I often like to blend cornstarch and all-purpose flour.
- It adds more depth in flavor.
- Unsalted butter
- It is optional. It adds richness in flavor and thickens the cream slightly more.
- Heavy cream
- about ½ amount of the pastry cream
These are the ingredients for choux pastry today. Water, milk, salt, sugar, butter, flour, and egg. Depending on the recipes, the ratios of the ingredients are slightly different. But they are the basic set!
📍 The printable recipe is at the very end of this post.Jump to Recipe
📌 How To Make Cream Puffs
Once you start heating the pot after this, everything moves so quickly, so I recommend finishing all the preps below in advance.
First, start by warming your egg with warm water. Make sure that the water is not too hot so that you are not cooking eggs. We just want to make it to room temperature or slightly warm when you use it.
And also sift flour. I recommend using a fine sieve so that it can eliminate all the small lamps. Especially cake flour is very lumpy, so don’t skip this part.
Set a pastry tip in a pastry bag.
And set a silicon mat or parchment paper on a tray. ( Some parchment papers are too slippery and it’s not the best for cream puffs to rise high, so just be careful with that)
I like to leave marks like the image above with a cookie cutter and flour (any regular flour. I used all-purpose flour.)
You can make about 12 cream puffs with one batch of the recipe!
Lastly, Preheat your oven to 395F which is 201C.
Step 1: Heat water, milk, salt, sugar, and butter in a pot.
First, add water, milk salt, sugar, and butter to a pot. And heat it with medium-high heat.
Cut butter into small pieces so that by the time the water and milk are bubbling, all the butter is melted already. When you add a big chunk of butter, you’ll need to wait until it melts and liquids can evaporate too much. Which we do not want!
Shake a pot sometimes and make sure the butter is melted before the liquids are boiling.
And to this, we add flour but because of factor 2, it is important to boil water and milk all the way to cook the starch. Once you see it started simmering, turn the pot or mix with a spatula and make sure that the temperature is even so that you can judge better.
As soon as you see milk and water boiling hard, remove them from the heat.
Step 2: Add flour and mix.
Add flour right away before the temperature goes down.
And immediately mix and let the flour absorb the hot liquids.
We remove from heat while we do this just to make sure liquids are not evaporating too much or we are not burning anything.
Once it forms a ball or comes together like the image below, heats again with medium heat.
Step 3: Heat it over mixing.
That is because the starch in the flour is not cooked quite enough yet at this point.
For the starch to get very stretchy, we need to heat it to about 80 C | 176 C specifically. You could insert a thermometer to check but I don’t do it since it’s a bit too troublesome. I’ll show you how I check later.
You don’t want to cook the same spot, so push it down like in the image below and make it flat to cook flour evenly, and then flip, and repeat that process!
When you cook too long though, the liquids to create the steam goes out too much here.
Once you see a thin skin formed on the bottom of your pot, it is done. How long that takes depends on the amount of the dough and the strength of the heat but with one batch of the recipe, it usually takes about one minute. (Judge with your eyes to be more accurate!)
Step 4: Mix the dough in a bowl.
And then immediately remove it from heat and move it to a bowl. We are adding eggs to it but wait for just a second. before that, I like to knead just a bit with a pedal for about 30 seconds for one batch. By doing it, you can make sure that the dough is even and it also prevents eggs from cooking partially by cooling it down just a bit.
But Don’t wait too long, because we want the dough to feel still warm by the time we pipe them.
If you don’t have a stand mixer, no worries, you can do this with a spatula as well.
Step 5: Add egg and mix.
Now add eggs. I like to add about ⅓ or a little less than ½ amount of the egg. If you add a little amount, the egg can get cooked with the hot dough. So you can add a generous amount at the very beginning.
And immediately mix.
It looks separated at the beginning. And especially when you are using a spatula to mix, it takes some time to get blended and you may feel nervous if this is ever gonna look right. But no worry, keep mixing and it gradually comes together!
Add about a half amount of the rest when it is almost completely blended and even.
And repeat the same process one more time. I like to divide 3 times usually and maybe 4 times not more than that so that I can finish this process quickly to keep the dough warm.
Don't forget to clean out a bowl, pedal, and spatula on the way to make an even dough!
Point: The number of eggs you add:
The amount of egg you need to add varies slightly depending on how much liquid was evaporated in a pot. It varies slightly by the size of the pot or the strength of heat, etc. That is why The recipe says between 205-220g (7.2-7.76oz)
So, don’t add all the eggs (220g | 7.76oz). Save about 1 tablespoon so that you can add it later if you need to. Once you add too much egg, you can not fix it. So it’s safe to save it for now!
- When eggs are not added enough, the choux does not rise well mainly because it can not create enough steam.
- And when too many eggs are added, it spreads wider and can not stand high due to a lack of glutens to support it.
How to check the consistency of choux pastry
To check the consistency, first, make sure that the dough is evenly mixed. And scoop a lot with a spatula.
And hold it flat so that the choux is attached to the spatula all around.
And drop. To check, pay attention to:
- It should fall in 3-5 seconds depending on the amount. (It drops faster when it’s heavier.)
- The dough is hung in a triangle shape.
- It should look shiny, stretchy, and smooth.
Check a couple of times to judge it well and add more egg if you need to.
When the eggs are cold at this point, the butter tightens up and the dough looks firmer.
Step 6: Pipe!
Now pipe immediately and bake.
Don’t be afraid to pipe high to make tall round cream puffs.
How to pipe choux pastry dough:
- First, set your pastry tip away from the mat.
- And squeeze fast from that position. (You can move it up a bit as you pipe or set it high, don't move the position and squeeze all. )
- When you are done, swish to the side fast to cut off the dough so that it does not create a pointy tip.
Insert your thumb into the pastry nozzle and squeeze everything out in the end. You'll be amazed how much you can get just by doing that. Don't waste any dough to make nice big puffs!
Step 7: Apply egg wash.
And Apply egg wash. You can use whole egg or water.
- With whole eggs: the surface gets firmer and gets darker caramelization.
- With water, The surface gets softer with less caramelization.
Egg : Water = 1 : 1
I like to use an equal amount of water and egg for my oven since my oven tends to create strong caramelization.
Apply a good amount of egg wash. It helps the dough to rise better.
Apply evenly and gently so that you are not squishing the shape.
And I love attaching diced almonds all around the surface. It adds very nice crunchiness and it goes so well with the melty cream. I also love to sprinkle a good amount of sugar on top of almonds to add an extra pleasant texture. That’s my favorite combination. Please try it out if you haven’t yet!
Add I left the other half simple, just with egg wash.
Apply egg wash right before you bake since it can get dried pretty quickly.
Step 8: Bake!
- Bake at 395F | 201C for about 20 minutes until you see nice golden caramelization all around.
- Turn down the temperature to 365F | 185C for about 15 minutes to cook through the center.
- Stop the heat completely, and leave them in the oven for about 15 minutes or more to make them extra crispy.
We need a big heat to create big steam expansion.
Now they are puffed up to the reach and started caramelizing more and more to harden the shape. At this point, the inside is not cooked through all the way yet. But if you leave them at the same temperature, they can get burned. (Which we do not want!)
So turn down the temperature to 365F | 185C for another about 10-15 minutes to cook through the center.
After that, stop the heat completely, and leave them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes or more to make them extra crispy. You can open the oven door at this point. This is the technique a lot of pastry chefs use. You can omit this part if you want a softer texture.
Just pay attention to the color so that you are not burning them.
When you open the oven door too early:
It is very important not to open the oven until the choux is cooked through which usually happens in 20-30 minutes depending on the oven or the size of the dough.
That is because by opening the door on the way, the power of steam drops suddenly, and the choux collapses. And even if you heat them again, the steam has to start over and it will not rise to where it was supposed to be.
The type of ovens plays a big part too:
Depending on the oven you use, how much they rise or the overall final look can look drastically different.
If your oven has the setting, make the heat from the bottom stronger. It helps to push up the dough with the steam and rises better. A gas oven works better for choux pastry for that reason.
My electric convection oven, unfortunately, does not have the setting and the heat from the top is a bit too strong for my liking. But still, it’s possible to bake them nicely. so Just play around and adjust the time and temperature accordingly with your oven!
Step 9: Diplomat cream
Now let’s make creme diplomat. Today, I am using my pastry cream recipe. (We make 1.5 batches of the original recipe.) For a creme diplomat, I love to add a lot of vanilla beans, so I used 1 small pod which is more than the original recipe.
If you want to learn visually, also check out the video on my YouTube channel.
Once you made it, cool it completely. This takes some time, so I recommend making pastry cream first before baking choux pastry and finishing the cream in the end.
Once it is completely cooled, it’ll look rubbery like in the image below. Mix it well until it gets looser and shinier.
Next, whip heavy cream. Whip until it gets very fluffy and stiff to make a cream that is easy to pipe and holds shapes well.
Next, add one big scoop of that to the pastry cream. And mix until it gets even.
(When you need to blend 2 different components, always add about ⅓ to the firmer one, mix and add the rest. That way, 2 can blend easier than adding that to a softer one.)
Add the rest and finish folding.
The richness of pastry cream and the fluffiness of whipped cream makes the amazing melty cream. For me, cream puff has to be this cream!
Step 10: Fill the cream!
There are 2 ways to pipe.
1. You can make a hole in the bottom and squeeze in from there.
To fill the maximum amount of cream, break some choux skins inside using a chopstick or something similar.
2. Cut the top and pipe inside.
Fill a lot of creams to make it look extra gorgeous and delicious!
Dust some powdered sugar on top to make it look extra fancy.
📌 VIDEO: Cream Puffs
To learn how to make it visually and have a deeper understanding of all, watch this video.
Don't forget to subscribe if you liked it😉
📌 Comparing Pate Choux With Different Ingredients
With only water: When you use only water, the color gets lighter and the texture gets softer.
With only milk: On the contrary, when you use only milk, the caramelization gets stronger and the texture gets firmer. The flavor gets stronger as well.
With oil: When you use oil instead of butter, The texture gets lighter and softer. But the flavor gets more neutral.
With baking powder: If you want it to get bigger and even softer, you can add baking powder as well.
With all-purpose flour: You can also make it with all-purpose flour instead of cake flour. The texture gets slightly firmer. And crunchier.
If you want to make the softest cream puff with a lighter look, use only water, and oil with baking powder.
And use only milk, butter, and all-purpose flour for the firmest texture with a darker look.
📌 The Printable Recipe
- Pastry tip
- Pastry bag
- Silicone mat or Parchment paper
- Stand mixer with a pedal or Bowl for choux pastry
- Stand mixer with a whisk, hand mixer or whisk for diplomat cream
- 3.5 oz Water
- 3.5 oz Milk
- 0.1 oz Salt
- 0.18 oz Granulated sugar
- 3.17 oz Unsalted butter
- 4.2 oz Cake flour
- 7.2-7.76 oz Egg Set aside about 1 tablespoon from 220g and add more if needed.
- Eggwash Egg : water = 1 : 1
- Diced almond for topping
- Granulated sugar for topping
- 21.1 oz Milk
- Vanilla beans
- 6.3 oz Granulated sugar
- Egg yolk
- 1 oz Corn starch
- 1 oz All-purpose flour
- 1.6 oz Unsalted butter
- 14.1 oz Heavy cream
- * Warm up eggs to room temperature.* Sift flour.* Set a pastry tip in a pastry bag.* Set a silicon mat or parchment paper on a tray. * Preheat your oven to 395 F | 201 C.
- Heat water, milk, salt, sugar, and butter in a pot until it starts boiling.3.5 oz Water, 3.5 oz Milk, 0.1 oz Salt, 0.18 oz Granulated sugar, 3.17 oz Unsalted butter
- Remove it from the heat, add flour, and mix until it forms a ball.4.2 oz Cake flour
- Heat it again at medium heat while pushing and flipping it constantly to cook evenly.Stop when it looks a bit looser and slightly more transparent. It usually takes about one minute with one batch. (Judge with your eyes to be more accurate!)
- Move it to a bowl and mix the dough in a bowl until the temperature goes down slightly. (about 30 seconds with one batch)
- Add egg and mix:And add about ⅓ or a little less than a half amount of eggs. And mix well. Once it looks combined, add the rest, dividing it into a few more times.7.2-7.76 oz Egg
- Pipe immediately. I piped 12 this tme.
- Apply eggwash all over the surface. (& Attach diced almond and sprinkle sugar on top)Eggwash, Diced almond for topping, Granulated sugar for topping
- 3 Steps To Bake:1. Bake (Preheated) at 395 F | 201 C for about 20 minutes until it puffs enough and you see dark caramelization on the surface. 2. And lower it to 365 F | 185 C and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the caramelization gets darker and even. 3. Turn off the heat and leave them in the oven for another 15 minutes or more to make them crispier as an option.* Do not open the oven door until the choux gets harden completely.
- Make pastry cream (Check out the separate blog post to see the instruction.)21.1 oz Milk, Vanilla beans, 6.3 oz Granulated sugar, Egg yolk, 1 oz Corn starch, 1 oz All-purpose flour, Salt, 1.6 oz Unsalted butter
- Whip heavy cream.14.1 oz Heavy cream
- Combine pastry cream and heavy cream.
- Fill the cream.
- Bake(Preheated) at 395F | 201C for about 20 minutes until it puffs enough and you see dark caramelization on the surface.
- And lower it to 365F | 185C and bake for another 10-15 minutes until the caramelization gets darker and even.
- Turn off the heat and leave them in the oven for another 15 minutes or more to make them crispier as an option.
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