Baker Bettie

How to Make Cream Puffs, Classic Cream Puffs

Learn how to make cream puffs with this step-by-step tutorial. Cream puffs are delicate pastry shells made from choux pastry (pate a choux) and filled with whipped cream or pastry cream. 

Classic Cream Puffs filled with cream sprinkled with powdered sugar

Cream Puffs Overview

Cream puffs are delicate pastry shells made from baked choux pastry. The shells are then filled with a creamy filling like whipped cream or pastry cream. The filling can be piped into the shell or the shell can be cut in half and then filled. 

What is Choux Pastry? 

Raw choux pastry in a pot

Choux pastry, also known as pate a choux, is a classic French pastry batter used to make all kinds of things including cream puffs, profiteroles, french cruller donuts, and eclairs. Choux paste is made by cooking a mixture of milk, butter, flour, and eggs together to make a thick paste. It can then be baked, fried, or even sauteed. 

What is the Difference Between a Cream Puff and a Profiterole? 

Cream puffs and profiteroles are both made from the same pastry shell made by baking choux pastry. While cream puffs are filled with whipped cream or pastry cream, profiteroles are filled with ice cream and topped with a chocolate glaze. 

How the Make Cream Puffs

Step 1: Bring the Liquid & Butter to a Boil

Water, milk and butter melting in pot

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the water, milk, butter, and salt. Heat until the mixture comes to a boil.

The butter needs to be completely melted and the mixture should be boiling before moving on to the next step. This is why cutting it in small pieces is important. 

STEP 2: Add the Flour

Mixture drying out in the pot

Remove the boiling mixture from the heat and pour all of the flour into the pot at once. Stir vigorously until it all comes together into a smooth batter.

This first mixture is called a panade, which is just a culinary term for a starchy thickener.

Step 3: Dry Out the Mixture

Check the bottom of the pan for a film to see if it's done

Once the flour is completely incorporated into a smooth batter, bring the pot back to medium heat and flatten the mixture to the bottom of the pan. Let it sit there until you start to hear it crackling quite a bit.

Once you hear crackling, push the mixture to one side and if you see a thin film clinging to the bottom of the pan it is dried out enough. If it is not, continue cooking it until a film forms.

Step 4: Stir Until All the Steam Evaporates Out

Remove the mixture from the heat and stir it until most of the steam has evaporated off. This process continues to dry out the pastry and will allow the pastry to achieve a nice golden color when cooked.

Step 5: Mix in the Eggs

An egg added to the pot

Off of the heat, add the eggs in one at a time. Stir vigorously after each egg until it is completely absorbed into the batter before adding the next. Do not rush this or the batter will not absorb all of the eggs.

After all eggs have been added to the choux mixture

Once all of the eggs are added and thoroughly mixed in, the batter will have a smooth and glossy look. The glossiness is an indication of when the choux pastry is ready for use!

Step 6: Pipe the Cream Puffs

Choux batter after being piped into rounds on a baking sheet

On a parchment lined baking sheet, pipe small rounds of choux pastry about 1 1/2″ in diameter each. Dampen a finger to smooth out the tails created by the piping bag. 

Step 7: Bake the Shells

My finger pressing down the tips of the raw choux rounds

Bake one sheet pan of shells at a time. We will start them at a high heat for the first part of baking and then drop the temperature of the oven down to finish baking the shells. 

The high heat will cause the liquid to rapidly evaporate off the cream puffs, allowing them to quickly puff up. The lower heat will finish cooking the shells and set them creating a hallow shell you can fill. 

Step 8: Fill the Shells

A pastry bag filled with cream filling up the bottom of the cooked cream puff

Once the shells are baked, let them cool completely before filling them. If you will not be serving them within a few hours, hold off on filling them until closer to serving time. 

The most traditional cream puff filling is vanilla whipped cream, but you can fill them with anything you like. Pastry cream, lemon curd, or ganache would all be delicious fillings as well. 

Cream Puff FAQ

  • Can I freeze cream puffs?: Cream puff shells freeze incredibly well! I suggest freezing the shells without filling in them and then allow them to thaw at room temperature for several hours before filling and serving. Alternatively, you can freeze them filled with whipped cream and eat them as a delicious frozen treat however the whipped cream will not thaw well. 
  • How long before serving can I fill the cream puffs?: Ideally, you want to serve the cream puffs within a few hours or filling for the best texture. But you can keep them in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. The shell will just start to become much more soft as time goes on and if you use whipped cream it will start to lose its shape. 
  • My cream puff shells didn’t puff up enough. What am I doing wrong?: Your oven needs to truly be preheated in order for the shells to puff up properly! Make sure it gets at least 20-30 minutes of preheating time and use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven is heating to the proper temperature. 
  • My shells burned! What happened?: Your oven is likely heating hotter than what you set it at. Use an oven thermometer to determine how hot your oven is getting and turn the dial down according.

Cream puffs topped with powdered sugar

A few Notes About Developing this Recipe…

I initially had problems with was getting the shells to really puff as much as I wanted and making sure they didn’t deflate when I took them out of the oven. You want them to stand tall with a hollow center so you can fill them with all that beautiful cream chantilly!  I had a couple batches that didn’t rise very much, and a batch that fell flat. But I figured out a method that works well! 

Most cream puff tutorials suggest baking the puffs at 425F or 450F for some time and then dropping the temp down to 350F to finish them off. This still didn’t give me quite the rise I was looking for.

I decided to try a method I learned from Alton Brown in which you turn up the heat once you put something in the oven to increase oven spring. The theory is that when your oven is in the active heating cycle it will more rapidly evaporate the liquid out, creating more rise in your baked good. 

The rise that occurs in pate a choux pastries is all about steam. The pastry has a very high water content and we are relying on this to create the airiness in the final product.

So I tried Mr. Brown’s method hoping for better results. I preheated the oven to 425F and cranked it to 450F just as I was putting the puffs in the oven. I let them bake there for 10 mins then dropped the heat down to 350F for 15 more minutes.

This allowed the pastries to get a nice big puff and then continue cooking until completely set and dried out and hollow on the inside. The result was these gorgeous shells!

A cream puff with a bite taken out filled with cream

 Don’t forget to check out my tutorial post for step-by-step instructions on how to make pate a choux! It will make it seem as easy as it is! 

A cream puff with a bite taken out filled with cream

Classic Cream Puffs

Yield: About 24 Cream Puffs
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

This is the basic recipe for making cream puffs using the classic french pastry- pate a choux.

Ingredients

For the Shells

  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) whole milk
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup, 113 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • large pinch kosher salt
  • 2 TBSP (24 grams) granulated sugar (optional, but will sweeten them slightly)
  • 1 cup (127 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs

For the Cream Chantilly

  • 1 cups (237 ml) heavy cream, cold
  • 3 TBSP powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Instructions

For the Shells

  1. Place the water, milk, butter, sugar if using, and salt in a sauce pot over medium high heat. Stir until butter is melted and everything comes to a boil. When the mixture is boiling, take it off the heat and pour the flour into the pot all at once. Stir quickly and vigorously. This mixture is called the panade.
  2. When the mixture becomes smooth, flatten it to the bottom of the pan and return it to medium heat. Let the mixture sit on the bottom of the pan until you start to hear it crackling. At this point pull the mixture to the side and if there is a thin film left on the bottom of the pan it is dried out enough. If there is not, let it heat for a little while longer until a film forms.
  3. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir until most of the steam has evaporated. This is called "evacuating the steam" and is important to further dry out the pastry dough.
  4. Off of the heat, add one egg at a time into the mixture and stir vigorously until it is completely absorbed into the dough before adding the next. The batter will look smooth and glossy when it is ready. Use immediately or store covered in a cool spot for up to 3 hours.
  5. Place batter in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip or a zip top bag with the tip cut off. Preheat oven to 425F (we will crank up the oven heat once we put the cream puffs in). Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  6. Hold the pastry bag over the baking sheet and squeeze over one area until you have about a 1 1/2 inch round (or 2" for larger cream puffs). Release the pressure from the bag and pull up to release the dough mound. You will have a little peak on the each that can be smoothed out with a wet fingertip. Keep the mounds about 2 inches apart.
  7. Place one baking sheet at a time in the oven and turn to heat up to 450F. This will create an active heating cycle for your oven so that the shells will puff up quickly. Bake for 10 minutes (without opening the oven) then drop the heat down to 350F and bake for 13-15 more minutes until the shells are crispy on the outside and set. Allow the oven to preheat back to 425 F before baking the next sheet.
  8. Fill cooled pastries with creme chantilly (recipe follows) and dust with powdered sugar.

For the Creme Chantilly

  1. Whip cream by hand, in stand mixer with whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer until just starting to thicken.
  2. Add sugar and vanilla and continue whipping until soft to medium peaks form.
  3. Fill a pastry bag with the cream, and pipe into the bottom of the puffs until filled.

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Nutrition Information:

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 124

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197 comments on “How to Make Cream Puffs, Classic Cream Puffs”

  1. Ohhhh Bettie.. I could not adore this series more. I am making my first batch of Pate a choux tonight… I have learned something new here. I would encourage another series if you are inspired.

    • Thank you Clorinda! I’m so glad you are enjoying the series and I was just thinking this morning that I want to do more of them! I am having a blast and learning a ton myself. I will think up some. If you have suggestions of what you would like to see, I’m all ears! Please let me know how they turn out!

  2. Can you make these ahead of time? And if so how long can they be frozen and/or refrigerated?

    • cream puffs in general are meant to be frozen (that’s how you buy them in the store) and usually they last a good couple of months 🙂

  3. you can never have too much pate a choux,and your cream puffs look picture perfect

  4. I would also like to know if these could be frozen, filled or not filled?

  5. Pingback: Calumet Cream Puffs | RecipeReminiscing

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  7. I'm making these now… have never even used premade puff pastry. Just about fell off my chair when I saw them rising, I feel like such a cake boss! Cant wait to try, they look perfect. I piped them out with a star tip and they're rising with these super cool swirls on the outside, they look so pretty

  8. I'm so glad you are making them Rio! But just for your information, this is not puff pastry. Pate a choux is a similar idea in that is rises from the butter, but puff pastry is much more labor intensive and takes about 6 hours to make from start to finish.

    I hope you enjoyed the cream puffs! You'll have to show them off to friends so they can see how amazing you are!

  9. Ok I JUST came across this like 20 min ago on Pinterest and realized I had the ingredients so I decided to try it! I'm soooo thrilled!!!!! I can't believe how easy it is!!!! Bringing a little class to super bowl today thanks to you!!!!! Ps adorable site, Love the retro!!!! I'll be back VERY SOON!!!!!

  10. I don’t have a mixer, cam I use a hand mixer wit regular attachments? Or should I just use a wooden spoon?

  11. Thanks so much for the active baking cycle tip. I did this with my popovers and I don’t know why I didn’t think to use it for these. I am still trying to get my dough right! Maybe my thighs don’t want me to! LOL! Thanks again for all your great tips!
    Jennifer

  12. Could pastry flour be used instead of all-purpose? Thanks!

  13. Pingback: Classic Cream Puffs | Food WoW

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  15. Sooooo trying this tomorrow!

  16. Pingback: Fawned Friday: Fairy Gardens, Coffee Creamers, And Ceramics | So Fawned

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  18. Pingback: Classic Cream Puffs | Food- Mafia

  19. Hi there! These look wonderful! I am going to make them for party tomorrow night. 2 questions…Can this recipe be doubled? (or is it better to mix one recipe at a time?) and If I bake/cool/fill them tonight will they hold up in the fridge over night? (The party is tomorrow evening.) Thanks!

    • I had to adjust my oven temps (my first two batches had burnt bottoms, oops!), but once I got the hang of it they turned out great! So yummy…the kids were thrilled!

      • So sorry I didn’t see your first comment before you had to bake them! So I’m sure you figured this out, but yes the recipe can definitely be doubled if you have enough pastry bag to hold it in. I do prefer to make it in single batches though because working in the egg in larger batches can be very tiring if you are doing it by hand, which I do a lot. I would suggest to bake them and then fill them right before the party. You can also fill them and freeze them and serve them frozen or slightly frozen. Cream puffs purchased in the grocery store are frozen and they are quite tasty that way!

        So sorry you had problems with burnt bottoms. Some ovens are finicky. Glad you got it to work out!

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  22. This is the third time I make these but they completely collapsed and burnt a little. I fallowed everything correctly.
    I thought maybe it was my oven, because I tried it on convectional and then I tried again with just the regular oven and they turned out better but it still collapsed 🙁
    I don’t understand.. It went so well the first 2 times I made them…

    • I’m so sorry you are having problems with them! You are correct in thinking the convection oven could be a problem so I would definitely suggest using your regular oven. Question, are you opening the door to the oven at all? You don’t want to let the steam out. You might also try keeping the oven temp at the high degree for another minute or two before dropping it down if you are still having problems. That is the time when the shells set.

  23. Pingback: How to Make Profiteroles- Baker Bettie

  24. I just tried this recipe, it being my first time making any form of choux pastry. They turned out delicious (a bit lopsided, and not exactly beautiful, but definitely delicious!) and not too sweet! I tried dipping the top of some in some melted chocolate, and went for the classic icing sugar on top.

    Your recipe made it so easy to make them, and it’s so much easier to make choux pastry than I thought it would be after using your recipe! Next time I’m going to try matcha green tea cream puffs with matcha cream (because I’m all about everything matcha!).

    Thank you!

  25. how long will these stay good for? whipping cream tends to weap after a while of sitting, ever use gelatin to keep the fluff? not that they will be sitting around for long….but in case i were going to bring them to someone the next day or whatever….

    • I would just wait to make the whipped cream and fill the shells until right before you serve them.

    • I have been stabilizing my whipping cream by adding about 2 Tblsp. powdered milk to a litre of cream. It will stay forever, even freeze them filled with the cream and when thawed, they are just like fresh baked. Hope this tip helps others.

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  27. old recepie is the best. thanks to share

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  29. Pingback: Classic Cream Puffs

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  31. Gorgeous!! Will make these. How do you store them if you want to serve leftovers the next day? Refrigerate them without the powder sugar? Or just eat them all gone so you don’t have to store them. Thanks for the recipe!

    Cher

  32. This is a wonderful cookie, in my country is called the Donut Princess.
    Very easy to do, my favorite with a filling of vanilla cream, definitely a cake that attracts appearance and taste. Your cake looks beautiful!

  33. Pingback: Classic Cream Puffs | F o o d t o t a s t e

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  35. Mouthwatering photos! I may just give this a go, despite feeling a little intimidated. What’s the worst that could happen right?

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  37. I’m going to try this to bring to my youth group and have high hopes. 😀

    A question: Can I fill the puffs with whip cream? You know, whipped cream from the can that you….spray out? Squeeze out? Pump out? I don’t know. Well If you know what I’m talking about, is it good to use that?

  38. I’m going to try this to bring to my youth group and have high hopes. 😀

    A question: Can I fill the puffs with whip cream? You know, whipped cream from the can that you….spray out? Squeeze out? Pump out? I don’t know. Well If you know what I’m talking about, is it good to use that?

    sorry this is my second time posting, reply to this one plz……………i needed to do something

  39. So good! I didn’t have any problem with the cream puffs collapsing. I just need more practice at piping them; a few were misshapen after baking.

  40. Thanks for a great post on cream puffs – inspired me to make a batch for my daughter’s birthday.

    http://susanhoang.blogspot.co.at/2015/04/happy-4th-birthday-el-profiteroles.html

    Cheers from Austria!
    Susan

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  43. Love the article, and can’t wait to try it! You might already know but it looks like this blogger is taking credit for your recipe, since it is word for word (the recipe at the bottom) the same as yours but you have the story behind the method! http://omgchocolatedesserts.com/cream-puffs/

  44. I love to learn so checked out your post. I have been making cream puffs for over 40 years and I also found the tempurature of the oven to be the critical factor. For a little while mine were not turning out and I asked my husband what could be the matter since he was a chemist major. He thought for a while and said, “We bought a new stove, check the temperature out!” My recipe said bake at first at 400 degrees but in trying different temperatures out I found that they turn out best at 450-500 degrees. The temp. must be turned down for final baking.
    Also I fill mine with Vanilla pudding made like for a pie, less milk and can be done a day ahead. When I am ready to fill I beat a cup of whip cream until stiff, then stick the beaters in the vanilla pudding and beat until fluffy and fold the two together for my filling. I just cut enough of the top off to fill and then place it back like a little hat.

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  46. I made a version of these that were flavored like tiramisu. I used coffee instead of water for the pate au choux and replaced some of the heavy whipping cream with coffee liqueur and added marscapone cheese. I sprinkled a bit of cocoa powder over them in addition to powdered sugar.

  47. What if you don’t have enough room or pans to make all of they at once do you need to throw the rest away or will they still bake ok?

  48. I feel like something i did was off….the dough turned to liquid after the eggs were in, i did everything right step by step but still the consistency isn’t right. They taste great and i can still use them, they are more like pancakes.

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