Alex's Classic Cream Puffs
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Recipe courtesy of Alex Guarnaschelli

Classic Cream Puffs with Chocolate Sauce

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 45 min (includes chilling time)
  • Active: 1 hr 55 min
  • Yield: 20 cream puffs
My mom made this dish once the entire time I was growing up and I remember the texture, the taste of the eggs (in a good way) and the perfect balance of textures and sweetness. I think I have been chasing that very cream puff ever since. I had some great ones in Paris but none quite like Mom’s… Cream puffs are made from classic choux pastry, which is also used to make sweet éclairs and savory, cheesy gougères. The choux pastry gets its name from chou, meaning cabbage, and it refers to the round shape of this cream-filled pastry. Note about substitutions: If you don’t have vanilla paste, simply sub 3 teaspoons vanilla extract.


Pastry Cream:

Cream Puff Dough:

Chocolate Sauce:


Special equipment:
a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round pastry tip
  1. Make the pastry cream: In a medium saucepan, whisk together the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in the egg yolks until combined, then whisk in the milk. Heat over medium-low heat, whisking constantly, until it starts to thicken, 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately remove from the heat.
  2. Whisk in the butter and vanilla bean paste. Transfer to a bowl, then press a sheet of plastic wrap on the surface of the pastry cream. Let cool, then refrigerate until chilled through, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  3. Start the cream puff dough: In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, butter and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture comes together. Cook until the mixture starts to pull away from the sides of the pan into a ball and looks dry, 3 to 5 minutes more.
  4. Finish the cream puff dough: Using a wooden spoon, beat in the eggs, one at a time, waiting until they are fully incorporated before adding the next. Mix until the batter is shiny and stiff. Alternatively, you can use a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-low speed to incorporate the eggs. Transfer the batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round pastry tip.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Form and bake: On the prepared baking sheet, pipe rounds of dough that are 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide and about 1 inch high, allowing 1 inch between each. Alternatively, measure out a scant 1/4-cup dough for each puff. Wet your finger and press down any pointed tops on the cream puffs. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven to 350 degrees F and bake until firm to the touch, another 15 to 20 minutes.
  7. Finish baking: Shut the oven off. Let the puffs dry inside the oven for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  8. Assemble: Using a paring knife, hollow out a hole in the bottom of each of the puffs. Pipe the pastry cream into the hole. Alternatively, you can cut the top off each puff and remove any undercooked dough in the center, then fill with the pastry cream and top with the top again. Hold in the refrigerator until ready to garnish and serve.
  9. Make the chocolate sauce: In a small pot, heat the cream. In a small bowl that fits over the pot of cream (without the bottom of the bowl touching the cream), combine the chocolate with the cinnamon. Use the pot of cream as the bottom of the double boiler and melt the chocolate over the cream. When the chocolate is melted, add the heated cream to the bowl with the chocolate and whisk to combine. Keep warm.
  10. Top the cream puffs with a sprinkle of confectioners’ sugar and some of the chocolate sauce.