Learn how to make cream puffs from scratch! These chocolate cream puffs consist of light and airy choux pastry, filled with a creamy chocolate filling and a luscious chocolate ganache. They are a family favorite and can be served for any occasion. By the way, have you tried my chocolate soufflé yet?
How to make cream puffs - video tutorial
Note: For a comprehensive photo tutorial and FAQs on making choux pastry, see my chocolate eclairs post.
- How to make cream puffs - video tutorial
- What is choux pastry?
- Are cream puffs, profiteroles, and croquembouche the same?
- Top tips for choux pastry success
- Tips for making the chocolate filling
- How to make a super glossy chocolate ganache
- Storage and freezing instructions
- More European desserts to try
What is choux pastry?
Choux pastry, also known as pâte à choux, is a pastry dough usually made with water, butter, flour, eggs, sugar, and salt. It's a high moisture dough with a low flour content. During baking, the high moisture content in the dough creates steam and evaporates, causing the pastry to puff up. Choux pastry is also used for profiteroles, eclairs, and croquembouche.
Are cream puffs, profiteroles, and croquembouche the same?
All three are French choux pastry filled with either pastry cream, custard, ice cream (profiteroles only), or whipped cream. Cream puffs and profiteroles are usually topped with powdered sugar or ganache, and the only difference is that profiteroles are served frozen and puffs chilled. Croquembouche is a cone-shaped tower of filled puffs held together by caramel. You can use this recipe for all three types of desserts.
Top tips for choux pastry success
- Cook the dough until a film forms on the bottom of the pan (watch the video of visualization). If the dough is undercooked, it will be too moist and will cause your pastry not to puff properly.
- Add one egg at a time to the dough and stir until it comes together before you add the next egg. The dough will separate after each egg, but that's normal. In the end, the dough is sticky but firm enough to hold a stiff peak.
- Press down the tips of the dough with wet fingers to even them. This is important to create the desired round shape and that the tips don't burn.
- Do not open the oven while baking. Don't be tempted to rotate the pan during baking. The temperature change from opening the oven door would likely cause your pâte à choux to collapse.
- Bake the puffs long enough until puffed and golden. If you remove them from the oven too early, they will deflate and become tough and chewy.
Tips for making the chocolate filling
- It's important to temper the eggs before adding them to the simmering milk, otherwise you could end up with scrambled eggs if the eggs get too hot too quickly.
- Remove the custard from the heat when it has thickened and coats the back of a spoon. If you cook it too short, the filling could end up runny.
- For a super smooth choux filling, press the chocolate custard through a mesh strainer to remove any small lumps that may have formed while cooking the custard.
- Cover the chocolate filling with plastic wrap to prevent it forming a skin as it cools.
Tip: These are also delicious with pastry cream!
How to make a super glossy chocolate ganache
Chocolate ganache consists of only two ingredients, chocolate, and cream. However, I love adding a little corn syrup for that extra shine. The corn syrup helps create a super glossy glaze and makes the chocolate cream puffs look even prettier. However, you can omit it or replace it with honey or golden syrup if preferred.
Storage and freezing instructions
You can either store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze them for up to 3 months. Either thaw in the refrigerator overnight or serve frozen (let sit on the counter for 10 minutes to let them thaw a bit).
More European desserts to try
If you love European desserts like this one, you've come to the right place. The following recipes are some of my favorites and loved by family, friends, and readers around the world.
Chocolate Cream Puffs (with chocolate filling and ganache topping)
Chocolate Cream Filling
- 4.6 oz semi-sweet chocolate bars, finely chopped
- ⅜ cup heavy whipping cream, hot but not boiling
- Optional: ½ tablespoon light corn syrup (for an extra glossy glaze)
Chocolate Cream Filling
- In a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. Place the bowl next to the stove.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk and heavy cream to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Decrease the heat to low and whisk about ½ cup of the hot milk into the egg yolk mixture to slowly temper it. Then, slowly whisk the tempered egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, until the filling is thick and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt until smooth and fully incorporated, 1-2 minutes.
- Pour the custard into a strainer placed on a medium heat-proof bowl, and use a spatula to press the cream through the strainer into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent it forming a skin. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Also, prepare the egg wash by combining the egg and water in a small bowl and set aside.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon and cook for about 2-3 minutes until a film forms on the bottom of the pan. Stir constantly while cooking.
- Then transfer the dough to a large heat-proof bowl and let cool for about 2 minutes.
- Still using the wooden spoon, stir in one egg at a time. You will notice that after every egg, the dough will separate. Keep stirring until the dough comes together again before adding the next egg. Repeat until all the eggs are incorporated. Once all eggs are incorporated, the dough will be sticky but firm enough to hold a stiff peak.
- Transfer the dough to a piping bag, pipe 1.5" (3.5-4cm) circles on the 2 prepared baking sheets, and spin the tips. You can stick a bit of dough to the baking sheets underneath the parchment paper to hold the paper in place and make piping easier. Press down the tips of the dough with wet fingers to even them.
- Lightly brush with egg wash and bake one sheet at a time for about 30-32 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Don't open the oven while the choux pastry is baking, or it will collapse. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
- Transfer the filling to a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Using the tip of a sharp knife, cut a little X into the bottom of each choux pastry, then pipe the filling into the puffs. Set aside.
- Place the chopped chocolate in a large heatproof bowl, pour the hot whipping cream over the chocolate and let rest for 1-2 minutes. Stir until smooth and the chocolate has completely melted. Add the corn syrup and stir until combined. Let rest for about 5 minutes.
- Dip the tops of the filled puffs into the glaze and place them on a wire rack to let dry. Store leftover cream puffs in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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