October 13, 2012 by jenniebean10
Somebody told me an adorable story the other day about a friend and her cute man-crush attempting to make eclairs together. They failed miserably and ended up in a food fight and they were both covered with cream filling – the story was so sickeningly cute that it made me want to throw up all over the place. And then I was inspired to make eclairs. Only I didn’t really want to make eclairs, I wanted to make cream puffs. And it’s fall, so hey – why not pumpkin cream puffs?! Gotta satisfy my pumpkin craving somehow…
I didn’t have a cute man-crush nearby with whom I could make cream puffs, HOWEVER, I did get to fail miserably at making these! Choux, or pâte à choux, is the basic pastry dough used for making cream puffs/profiteroles, gougères, éclairs, croquembouches, and probably lots of other things. It’s incredibly easy to make, so when I failed, I was a little puzzled. I used David Lebovitz’s recipe, which I thought would be fail-proof….NOPE! My dough was all runny and thin and sticky and just not right. I tried baking off one sheet, and they looked like little hockey pucks. So I played around with the dough for a while and tried to think about what went wrong.
I found another recipe, where the blogger said it’s “so easy that even *I* an oven-fearing, non-baker could master it on the very first try.” This just made me feel pathetic, so I gave it another go. This time, my dough and little cream puffs came out PERFECTLY!
Here’s what (I think) went wrong: the first thing you do is melt the butter on the stove with a cup of water. In recipe #1, I just did this until the butter was melted. In recipe #2, it says you’re supposed to bring it up to a simmer. In both, after the butter is melted, you add the flour all at once, quickly, but recipe #1 says to remove from heat while you do this. Recipe #2 said to leave the pan on the stove while you add the flour, and then to cook it and let any excess water evaporate before you add the eggs. Finally, recipe #1 has you baking the puffs at 425°F for 35 min, whereas recipe #2 tells you to bake them at 425° for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350° for the last 18-30 min of baking. And THAT, my friends, is why I think I ended up with glup and burnt hockey pucks the first time around!
OK so now…..here’s the recipe that worked for me:
Cream Puff Pastry / Pâte à choux
adapted from Steamy Kitchen, makes 35 small puffs
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 c. water
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 generous pinch salt
2 t. sugar (for sweeter dough – omit the sugar and use salt if you’re making gougères)
Preheat oven to 425°F. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with the water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and stir well. Add the flour + sugar + salt all at once, and stir quickly in one direction (idk if that actually made a difference, but I did it) with a wooden spoon. The flour should absorb all the butter and water, and the dough should pull away from the pan easily. (If it doesn’t do this very soon, something has gone wrong!) Cook for a little bit longer (1-2 min) to cook off any excess water. Remove from heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating well and quickly after adding each one. The dough should go from shiny to slippery to sticky as you add the egg. You can bake the pâte à choux immediately, or refrigerate it for up to a day before using it.
Put the dough in a pastry bag, or use two spoons, and pipe onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or sil-pat into little puffs about 2 inches apart. Wet your finger and push down the little peaks, because they can burn in the oven. Place the baking sheets in the oven (you can 2 sheets in there at once, stacked – mine baked evenly) and bake at 425°F for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 350°F and bake for another 18-30 minutes, depending on how large your puffs are. Remove from oven, let cool completely, and fill!
Pumpkin Cream Filling
can be made up to 4 hrs in advance, fills more than 35 little cream puffs
1 pint (2 c.) heavy whipping cream
1/2 c. powdered sugar
roughly 1-2 t. pumpkin pie spice (I just blend mostly cinnamon, a little bit of allspice, and a little bit more nutmeg)
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
Beat the whipping cream for 1 min with an electric mixer, until it begins to thicken. Gradually add the powdered sugar and spices. Beat until the cream forms soft peaks, about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the pumpkin (I did it in 3 portions). Once the cream puffs are cooled completely, fill them with the pumpkin cream! Refrigerate until ready to serve.
And now these cream puffs are sitting in my refrigerator, just tempting me, until the German’s birthday party tonight. Don’t worry – I made a cake, too, but I’m not posting that on here yet because I want it to be a complete surprise. Minus the big failure at the beginning, these were very easy to make! I also have a cool tool for frosting cupcakes and filling pastries, which I used to fill these cream puffs. (A family I used to babysit for gave it to me as a gift, I feel like I owe them some cupcakes or something!) You don’t necessarily need this tool to fill the cream puffs. You could use a regular pastry bag (or ziploc freezer bag) with a nifty bismarck tip, or if you don’t have one of these, just cut the cream puffs in half and spoon some of the whipped cream in there.