Cream Puffs (Profiteroles)

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Mike woke up to these little beauties on Christmas morning.

Christmas morning I woke up at 3:43.  It was a loud thud from above, and no not Santa, lol…just the neighbors making merry.  Try as I might, I couldn’t fall back asleep for the life of me, and instead of waking Mike up with my incessant tossing and turning, I decided to get up and make pastries.  Doesn’t everyone do this when they can’t sleep, lol?  Ok, so it’s a little weird…but I had promised Mike cream puffs for Christmas and I was planning to make them later that morning anyway.

And really, nothing tastes better than a cup of coffee with a homemade French pastry in the pre-dawn hours.  ;)

A Note on the Custard Filling:  You can make the filling the day ahead if you want, but be sure to whip the cream and fold it into the custard right before you want to fill the pastries.  You might have a little bit of filling left over (it’s fantastic eaten on its own), but I’ve found that this amount of filling is just about perfect in that there’s enough to fill all the pastries without having a ton left over.

A Note on the Choux Pastries:  Don’t worry if you’ve never made choux before, it’s really not as complicated as it looks.  The batter is very versatile; the puffs don’t have to be filled with something sweet, they are just as delicious and perfect for a luncheon if you fill them with any number of savory fillings (mushrooms sautéed with garlic and butter and mushrooms in cream are favorite fillings of mine).  Or you can mix about 1 cup of grated cheese (such as Gruyère) into the batter and you have gougères.  (If you go with a savory option, omit the sugar and increase the salt to 3/4 teaspoon.)  And if you’re a fan of French Cruller Doughnuts (they’re my favorite!), you might be interested to know that this is actually the same batter that’s used to make them.

Scooping/Piping/Spooning the Choux Batter:  I used a 1 1/2 tablespoon ice cream scoop to measure out the batter, but you can just as easily use a pastry bag to pipe it into small circles (about the size of a half-dollar), or use two spoons to spoon it onto the baking sheets.

Cream Puffs (Profiteroles)

Makes 25 to 30 cream puffs

Custard Filling:

1 large egg

4 large egg yolks

3 cups milk (I used 2%)

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

Choux Batter [adapted slightly from Julia Child’s recipe for Puff Shells (Choux) in Mastering the Art of French Cooking; published by Alfred A. Knopf]:

1 cup water

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

5 large eggs

1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (for eggwash)

Chocolate Topping:

2/3 cup (4 oz) good quality semisweet chocolate chips

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1-2 tablespoons milk (any kind you like)

For the Custard Filling:  Whisk together the egg and egg yolks in a medium bowl and set aside.  Whisk together the milk, sugar, flour, and salt in a medium saucepan; bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Turn off the heat and very slowly ladle the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture while whisking, adding just a drop at a time at first.  Transfer the custard back to the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat; boil 2 minutes, whisking constantly.  Turn heat off and whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Strain the custard through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps.  Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the custard (to prevent a skin from forming).  Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate to chill.

Before filling the pastries, beat the custard until smooth with a handheld electric mixer.  In a separate bowl, whip the cream to stiff peaks.  Gently fold the whipped cream into the custard, adding 1/3 of the cream at a time.  Pipe this mixture into the center of each pastry (see below for more detailed instructions on filling the pastries).

For the Choux Batter:  Preheat oven to 400F and line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt up to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Remove from heat, pour in all the flour, and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend thoroughly.  Put the saucepan back on the heat and continue to stir until the mixture thickens and forms a ball, and starts to film on the bottom of the pan, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Turn the heat off and let the dough cool slightly, about 3 to 5 minutes, then make a well in the center of the dough, break an egg into it, and beat vigorously until the egg is absorbed; continue this way until all 5 eggs are incorporated.

While the dough is still warm, use a 1 1/2 tablespoon ice cream scoop to scoop out it out onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each pastry.  Lightly dip a pastry brush into the eggwash and very gently flatten each puff, being careful not to let the eggwash drip down the puff onto the baking sheet (this will prevent the puffs from rising).

Bake for 20 minutes (rotating the pans once halfway through), then turn heat down to 350F and bake until the puffs are golden brown and firm to the touch, about 5 to 15 minutes more, checking them every few minutes.

Remove the puffs from the oven and immediately pierce the side of each with a sharp paring knife (so the steam can escape).  Turn off the oven, put the pastries back into the turned-off oven, and let them sit in there for 10 minutes with the door ajar.  After this, transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

To Fill the Puffs:  Fit a pastry bag with a basic small-medium tip (I like to use a 3/16-inch tip); fill the bag with the custard filling.  Once the puffs are completely cooled, insert the tip of the pastry bag into the puff through the slit that you cut to let the steam vent; gently squeeze the custard into the puff and continue this way until all the puffs are filled.

For the Chocolate Topping:  Melt the chocolate and butter together in a microwave or double boiler, then stir in enough milk to make it smooth.  Spoon over the filled pastries and let the chocolate set before serving.

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46 comments to Cream Puffs (Profiteroles)

  • How wonderful! I wanted to make cinnamon rolls for Christmas but my MIL had no yeast!

  • Wow, I’ve never baked when I could not sleep (as I always sleep well…). Those are magnificent profiteroles!

    Best wishes for 2012!



  • Making pastries at three a.m.? The folks in your house must have all been very, very good this past year!! Cheers and happy 2012!

  • hahha…making merry ;). I do odd things when I can’t sleep- laundry, general cleaning, and I have baked & cooked too! These would make a great gift for a hostess

  • Lucky Mike—-and Merry Christmas (late) to you!
    Those look awesome :)

  • These look like a wonderful Christmas morning treat. Lucky guy!

  • Wow! Definitely impressive! Hope you had a lovely Christmas. Wishing you a very Happy New Year :)

  • Waw, You are so creative when you can’t sleep! Lucky partner!

    Your custard filled profiteroles look utterly delicious! Fabulous even!
    I also love gougères!

    MMMMMMMMMM,…!!!! I wish you a lovely & Happy 2012 filled with good food,health & joy in abundance!

  • You crack me up Faith, sort of like the energizer bunny baking French pastries for breakfast! Or even a French pastry chef, they wake up in the wee hours to make their croissants!
    They look perfect in your photos, especially the dollop of chocolate sauce, that’s impressive! I also made Profiteroles but with ice cream and chocolate sauce for dessert on Christmas but started them a bit later in the morning! Happy New Year Faith, looking forward to following you in 2012;-)

  • What a great way for Mike to start the day! Can’t say as that baking has ever crossed my mind when I wake up at 4am!

  • These puffs look delicious, I am definitely going to do some of these babies, Mike is very lucky :)


  • My ex loved these filled with ice cream. I had them for Christmas with berry and chocolate sauce… they are addictive. Great recipes… makes me want to make a little custard filling to use up the last of my little puffs!!

  • These look so wonderful! I have never made cream puffs but have always wanted to. Yum!

  • OK, you’re wigging me out! This is the second recipe on my bucket list you’ve made this week (the first being the Turkish delight)! Pinning this to my “bucket list recipes” board-LOL! I’ve always heard these are simple but I balk at them for some reason. My SIL made a layered cream puff dessert for Christmas that had the choux spread out and baked in a pan, then had chocolate filling and whipped cream on top, then some caramel and chocolate icecream topping swirled over the top. While very good, the bottom gets kinda soggy after a while so it’s not that great for storing. Can these be made in advance or do they need to be eaten as soon as they’re finished?

    • Veronica, I’m not sure how long these stay good for…the longest they’ve lasted in my house before getting eaten is about a day (they were still fantastic after a day, but the puff wasn’t as crisp). As far as I know, you can make the puffs up to a couple days in advance and store them in an airtight container at room temperature (you can also make the custard a day in advance), but wait to fill the puffs until right before you want to serve them (since the puffs should be as crisp/dry as possible, and the filling gives moisture to the shell). Hope this helps!

  • Oh wow great profiteroles. i tend to do my baking at the other end of the night sometimes baking until 2 AM

  • Yum yum,super tempting cream puffs,feel like having some.

  • Why don’t I EVER think to bake when I can’t sleep?!?!?

    These are gorgeous…seriously professional looking. For some reason I always thought choux batter was made with yeast, which doesn’t even make sense now that I think about it. These are a definite need-to-make.

  • These have to be one of my Top 10 all-time favorite desserts. How I would have loved to wake up to those on Christmas morning! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Faith. Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2012!

  • What a great thing to wake up to, they look fantastic!
    Wishing you a very happy New Year!

  • Profiteroles are one of my Dad’s top desserts ever so I know he would love these. They look so elegant and the custard filling is much more of a treat than standard whipped cream!

  • I love that you were making these long before the sun even comes up :) They look fantastic! Mike is one lucky guy :)

  • You are too funny, Faith! Lucky Mike to wake up to these gorgeous profiteroles! I wish I could wake up to these instead of santa… happy holidays and happy new year!!

  • Oh wow, I would love to wake up to these beauties…stunning and delightful!
    Wishing you an amazing 2012 Faith, hugs

  • Lucky Mike—what a wonderful Christmas morning treat. I do so love profiteroles, and yours look perfect.

    Wishing you a very happy new year–doesn’t your book come out soon?!!!


  • Wow never thought profiteroles were that easy to make :) i always thought the dough was really difficult but my sister and i love eclairs so i’m definitely going to try making them using the recipe from this choux batter :) yay!

    Happy New Years in advance!

  • Perfect! I haven’t made cream puffs in ages, but they’d be great to make for New Year’s day –
    Happy New Year!

  • I grew up on eclaires and absolutely love them as well as the cream puffs. I get custard filled doughnuts, also. That should tell you something.

    Happy New Year. Miss you.

  • Michelle

    My boyfriend loves it when I can’t sleep. Breakfast is made, his lunch is packed and there is usually something decadent coming out of the oven when he gets up. I’m sure he will enjoy my insomnia even more when I surprise him with cream puffs one morning.

  • Beautiful profiteroles Faith! The choux balls are perfect! I wish you a very prosperous and loving New Year!

  • Couldn’t sleep? Make profiteroles! They are sexy.
    Happy New Year!

  • these are awfully laborious, but when you sink your teeth in and meet that pool of cream, well, it’s worth every effort. :)

  • These are absolute beauties! I’ve been wanting to try a puff pastry recipe for quick some time, but I keep putting it off due to fear! You make it look so easy and achievable! I love your blog and I agree… there’s nothing better like some cream puffs at 4:00 in the morning!

  • I just had to come visit this post…especially since this is one of my top 5 desserts ;o)

    P.S. I also have started baking in the middle of the night…in my case it’s unfortunately hormones…and certainly not a possible Santa call neither ;)

    Flavourful wishes,

  • I really need to make these soon!!! Really fantastic photography, Faith! :)

    Tammy & Catherine

  • Nathalie

    Hey! I’m trying these and I was wondering, do you need to have that tip to fill the pastries? Or can I just do it with a plastic bag and cut off a small tip?? Please answer!!

    • Nathalie, In the post, here is what I said about how to deal with the batter: Scooping/Piping/Spooning the Choux Batter: I used a 1 1/2 tablespoon ice cream scoop to measure out the batter, but you can just as easily use a pastry bag to pipe it into small circles (about the size of a half-dollar), or use two spoons to spoon it onto the baking sheets.

      If you prefer to use a plastic bag with a tip cut off, that would definitely work also.

      Hope you enjoy the Cream Puffs!

  • Grace

    Hello! I was just wondering, I made mine but when I went to go make my batter, the dough wouldn’t absorb the eggs no matter how long I beat the egg in the well of the dough I made.. so I just mixed the dough all together with the eggs, but my dough became very liquidy and wasn’t like a ball-shaped form anymore. I was wondering if this is normal? or what did I do wrong perhaps? then i added some flour to try and make it more “put together” but that just made it worse I think. haha HELP

    • Grace, Without being right there in the kitchen with you it’s really hard to know exactly what went wrong, but the best thing I can ask you is if you followed each and every step mentioned in the directions. You should bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt up to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from heat, pour in all the flour, and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend thoroughly. Put the saucepan back on the heat and continue to stir until the mixture thickens and forms a ball, and starts to film on the bottom of the pan, about 1 to 2 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the dough cool slightly, about 3 to 5 minutes, then make a well in the center of the dough, break an egg into it, and beat vigorously until the egg is absorbed; continue this way until all 5 eggs are incorporated. Beating vigorously is key, but really, all the steps are very important. Hope this helps!

  • Samantha

    i tried making it and it didn’t work i don’t know what i did wrong :(

  • Isabel R.

    Made these last night and they were wonderful!! I made one recipe of the custard and doubled the choux recipe – I had to put the batter in my KA mixer cause adding that many eggs was a lot of work to do by hand. My batter was not too stiff, scooped out w/ a 1.5T ice cream scoop, they puffed up beautifully! made 53!!! the custard was just enough for put a bit in each one. Deffinitely make these again – not hard to make just a little tedious but well worth it! Thank you for posting such a wonderful recipe w/ description!

  • Ginny F.

    I made these today for a book club that had a French theme (we read/watched Julie & Julia. They were a HUGE hit!! Everyone loved them. Your recipe was so easy to follow. I do recommend anyone to make the cream as far ahead as possible…it was JUST getting cold by the time I was ready to fold in the whipped cream and fill the puffs with them. I will definitely be making these again!!

  • Jeannette

    Thank you so much for your clear instructions. I am in the middle of this recipe now and it was very easy.

    Can you publish or direct me to, the savory mushroom filling you wrote about?

    Again, Thanks!

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Hello! I’m Faith and I write An Edible Mosaic. This is my recipe collection of international favorites and updated American classics, with an emphasis on seasonal dishes. I focus on real foods that sustain body and mind, bring people together, and make a house a home. Welcome to my mosaic of recipes.

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