I use to be pretty indifferent toward cream puffs. I thought they were good, but pretty boring – just a plain pastry shell with cream inside. Maybe it’s because I’d only eaten the frozen storebought kind before. I had heard people raving about Beard Papa’s and waiting in ridiculously long lines to get their cream puffs, but I didn’t understand what the big deal was about.
But my suitemate Chanmi requested that I make cream puffs, so I decided to try them out last night. They. were. amazing. The pastry shells were light and airy, and oh my gosh, the pastry cream was to die for! I could eat it by the spoonful, it is seriously that good. And of course, the chocolate glaze made the cream puffs especially delightful 🙂
Note: I made half recipes of the pastry cream and chocolate glaze, and it was just enough for the 12 pastry shells.
For the pastry cream:
2 cups half-and-half
½ cup sugar
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
For the choux pastry:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon granulated white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
For the egg wash glaze:
1 large egg
1/8 teaspoon salt
For the chocolate glaze (optional):
3 tablespoons half-and-half
2 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1. To make the pastry cream, heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
2. When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla. Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and salt. Set aside.
4. Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon, quickly add the flour mixture. Return to heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about a minute or two). Transfer the dough to an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, and beat on low speed a minute or two to release the steam from the dough.
5. Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste. Spoon or pipe 12 mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Beat together the egg and salt for the glaze. With a pastry brush, gently brush the glaze on the tops of the dough.
6. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake for a further 30 to 40 minutes or until the shells are amber in color. Turn the oven off and, with the oven door slightly ajar, let the shells dry out for a further 10 – 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.
7. When the pastry shells are cool, split them in half with a knife, and pipe with the pastry cream.
8. To make the glaze, place the half-and-half and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave for 20 seconds at a time, until the mixture just begins to steam. Whisk together thoroughly, add the confectioners’ sugar, and whisk until completely smooth. Drizzle the puffs with the glaze and let it set completely before serving.