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. 

How to Make Classic Cream Puffs- Baker Bettie

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? 

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

How to Make Cream Puffs- Baker Bettie

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.

How to Make Cream Puffs- Baker Bettie

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!

 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! 

Classic Cream Puffs

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

  1. I’ve been looking for a good cream puff recipe, pinning this one!

  2. Pingback: Basic Pate a Choux Recipe- Baker Bettie

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  4. These look SO good! I need one (or ten) right now!

  5. Just made these and they came out perfectly! Your tips are so helpful and detailed. They are delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

  6. My husband and I made these tonight on a whim, and they are delicious! Surprisingly simple and yummy. Thanks for the clear directions, especially for something that can seem really intimidating beforehand.

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  11. Hi I stumbled over this page and want to try making them. When I was a child we used to eat a similar kind on the Island Bornholm in Denmark. But the difference was: our baker Stubholm’s puff buns were big! Not petite. I once asked him many years later after he went on pension, what was the secret in making them so big? He said he always added as little as the tip of a knife of horn salt to the dough. That would prevent that they would collapse or not rice enough and he could make them as big as he wanted. He made two kinds. One with double cream and one with Raspberry mixed double cream. Both kinds had melted chocolate on top instead of powder sugar. The last was an absolute favorite!
    And the whipped cream did not contain vanilla sugar! If you try this please name this variation “Stubholm’s cream puffs” that will make him smile from heaven. Greetings from Pia

  12. This is a very old favourite…try filling with ice cream and serving with chocolate sauce drizzled over the top..add a couple of mint leaves to decorate, great on a hot day….also can be filled with savoury goodies such as curried prawns, asparagus morney etc etc…really yummy!!!

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  15. can you make these with an all purpose gluten free flour?

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  18. Try: instead 8tbsp butter put 6 tbsp butter and everything will be OK

  19. Drooling! That looks so perfect and gorgeous!

  20. Pingback: Easy methods to Make Cream Puffs- Baker Bettie – Clara Jone Blog

  21. Hi! This looks so delicious &light in texture .thank you.

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  23. I made these tonight and it was so easy!! They turned out great. I filled them already and then wondered if I should have waited until tomorrow. Can I refrigerate these overnight or should I freeze them instead?

  24. Hello! I have a little FYI that I learned and wanted to pass on. Let me know what you think if you try it and I hope you do. To make really perfect pate choice, try using bread flour and also you won’t have to use but one steady temp. The eggs are crucial because you just have to add enough to get the right consistency. I love your blog!! Oven temp 375°F.

  25. Hello! You wrote 11/2 cups heavy cream did you mean to put 1/2 or 1 & 1/2 cups??? Please answer, thanks!

  26. Thank you so much for the recipe! I love the cooking instructions and how you referenced Alton brown, one of my favorites. Mine came out with the perfect air pocket for my maple butternut squash cream cheese filling. I making them for thanksgiving this Thursday! Cheers
    Tara

  27. If you want even higher rise, fill aluminum (not dark) muffin tins or the mini muffin tins about 3/4’s full and bake shells in 400 degrees F oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Important that the puffs are golden/crisp or they may collapse. Even when they look done, leave them in a full minute or so longer to ensure the inside is cooked well. Remove from oven and cool completely. When you cut the tops to fill, the inside will still be a little wet but that’s ok bc you are going to remove that part so you can fill them — I fill the bottom with homemade vanilla cream pudding and whipped cream on top, incredibly delicious and everyone wants the recipe every time. Such an easy dessert that looks like you slaved over for hours. Freezes well, too!

  28. Hi, I just tried them and they were just perfect and it was so easy compare to other recipe. Thanks a lot

  29. Hello. Making these tonight for my dad’s birthday tomorrow. Question about the oven. Most other recipes called for oven to be preheated. Yours reads to turn on when puffs go in. Is this correct?
    I thank you so much. Looking forward to making these.

    • Hi Amanda!

      You actually preheat the oven to 425F and then crank it up to 450 right when you put the puffs in. This creates an active heat in your oven and helps them to really puff up. Hope that helps!

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  32. Is is possible to make the puffs ahead of time and freeze then thaw and fill when ready to serve? I’m trying to plan ahead a bitfor the holidays.

    • Hi Pat,

      I would recommend freezing just the shells after they are completely cooled. The day you want to serve them, let them thaw at room temperature for about 15 minutes and then fill them!

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  34. These looked super delicious, but every single one of them came out burnt. The tops looked fine, but the bottoms were black. I followed the recipe exactly….and then had to cut the bottom off of each of them. I was very disappointed as I prepared them to make for multiple potlucks. I have made cream puffs previously, but could not find the recipe I had used before. I think I managed to salvage them, but will be choosing another recipe the next time I decide to make cream puffs.

    • Hi Kaitlyn,

      Sorry to hear that these didn’t turn out for you! Since this is a tested recipe, I would love to help you troubleshoot. It sounds like your oven may be cooking too hot. Do you by chance have an oven thermometor to check if the stated temp on your oven is the actual temp? You also want to be sure that your oven rack is positioned in the middle of your oven, and not lower as that could contribute to burnt bottoms. Another possible issue could be using a pan with a dark coating. Was that by chance the kind of pan you were using?

  35. Per your video you need to add milk but it is not an ingredient in the recipe. When I made it it was a fail. 

    • Hi Sam,

      I’m so sorry to hear this didn’t work out for you, I would like to help you troubleshoot! I’m a bit confused because this recipe does not have a video and does not call for milk. Did you add milk to your batter? That would have definitely changed things.

  36. I dfid a test run on this recipe and they came out perfectly! I wan t to serve these at a party. Do you think they will hold up sitting out filled for a few hours ? I’m concerned about the cream.

  37. Hi there! Just wondering how many cream puffs this recipe makes. I must be missing it.

  38. I just made these and they are my first dessert pastry that I have ever made! You are awesome at the specific, easy directions! Thank you! I don’t know if it was because I did not have oarchment paper or what, but I burnt the bottoms I just cut the bottoms and off and doctored them up a bit and they were still great! 

    • Hi Heather! I’m so glad to hear that! Can I ask what color was the sheet tray that you were using? You definitely don’t want to use one with a dark coating. If that wasn’t it, what rack in the oven did you have them on? Also, very possible your oven is just cooking hotter than it says it is. It is so common for ovens to not be calibrated right! An oven thermometer is a cheap and worthwhile investment! I’m so glad you liked them!

  39. I love cream puffs and have made them a couple times but sometimes they did not work right so after reading your post about pate a choux dough and this cream puff recipe it really helped. I do have a couple questions though.
    My dough is always really yellow from the eggs but I noticed yours is white/cream colored. Why is that?
    Do you cut a small hole in the bottom of the cream puffs right after they baked to let out the steam?

    • Hi Sarah! Do you get farm fresh eggs? Some eggs just have a much darker color in their yolk! But choux pastry in general is a pretty yellow batter. The image may just not be conveying that. I do not let the steam out when they come out of the oven. I let them cool and then poke the holes to fill them.

  40. This is my go-to cream puff recipe! The oven temperature tip is so helpful. 

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  44. Great blog Bettie! I made double the pastry recipe and I just doubled all ingredients to the letter, but it turned out too liquidy, unsure what to do next. Should I cool it? Start over from scratch? Clearly I can’t pipe it and bake it as is. Thanks for taking the time to read this 🙂

    • Oh no Heaven! I wonder if maybe you added the eggs in too quickly. Each one really needs to fully absorb into the batter before the next one is added. The batter cannot absorb too much liquid at once. If you check out my instagram page (@bakerbettie) I have a video tutorial saved to my highlights on that page if you want to see exactly how to make it. If it is that thin, then yes, I think you will have to start over.

      • It only took me five months to respond! Thanks for the advice. I did just dump the whole mix but I never tried again. Gonna try again now. Will let u know (sooner than five months!) how it turns out 😉

          • YAYYYYYYYY! UNBELIEVABLE! All I had to do was mix in the eggs well! They turned out FANTASTIC! I just made them and am very grateful to youuuuu 🙂
            I wish I can yell out loud to everybody who failed in making these in the past like me: MIX THE EGGS WELL!!!! I have tried for years! My fist successful attempt EVER! I’m dancing!
            God bless you! 

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  46. These didn’t bake long enough and were doughy in the center and the bottoms were burnt – had to throw them and found a different recipe that worked 

    • Hi Arlene! So sorry to hear you had difficulties with these! Since this is a tested recipe that has been made successfully by quite a few people, I wonder if your oven is temperature could be off? It might be good to invest in an oven thermometer to make sure it is heated to the stated temperature. Also, make sure you aren’t using any pans that have a dark coating and make sure they are on the center rack. I’m glad to hear you had some success with another recipe!

  47. I was not impressed with this receipe as they came out doughy and burnt on the bottom and my parchment paper was dark brown. Ended up throwing them out and found a receipe that baked at a lower temp and for longer time and was awesome.

    • Hi Arlene! Hopefully you saw my response above to your last comment. Again, so sorry you had issues with these. Definitely sounds like your oven is too hot with the way you describe your results. But I’m so glad you found a recipe that worked for you! 🙂

  48. How long do these bad boys hold? Thinking of making these for a party and want to make them as soon as possible (less work closer to my party, the better). Thoughts? Really appreciate your help! Thank you so much!

    • Hi Alma!

      When I make these ahead, I bake the shells, let them cool completely, then freeze them unfilled. The day of the party, whipe fresh whipped cream and fill them. The whipped cream will make them soggy if you fill them too early. But the shells thaw very quickly from the freezer!

  49. I was nervous to make these since they seemed so intimidating but this recipe turned out perfectly! No one can stop talking about them, thanks!!

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