Made with just six simple ingredients, this homemade cream puff recipe looks impressive but is easy to make! Perfect for family gatherings, bridal showers, birthdays, and more.
Cream puffs are a classic French dessert consisting of a delicate pastry dough filled with sweetened whipped cream or pastry cream. Cream puff shells are made from pâte à choux, also known as choux pastry. It’s a pastry dough made from water, butter, flour, and eggs that can also be used to make other desserts, like eclairs.
Cream puffs are an incredibly impressive looking dessert, but they’re not too difficult to make — so long as you follow the right steps, that is.
I know making a cream puff recipe intimidates many people, so in today’s post I’ll be going through the ingredients needed to make cream puff shells and have also included step-by-step photos of the baking process so you know what exactly you’ll have to look forward to.
Ingredients for This Recipe
Cream puffs require surprisingly few ingredients, which is why it’s important that you use all the right ones. Here’s an overview of what goes into this recipe:
- Water: Water straight from the faucet will work.
- Butter: The butter needs to be sliced into tablespoon-sized pieces. I always use unsalted butter when baking because the amount of salt in salted butter can vary between brands.
- Granulated Sugar: This ingredient is optional, but it adds just a little bit of sweetness to the cream puff shells.
- Eggs: Make sure that your eggs are at room temperature so they blend together properly with the warm dough. If you forgot to set your eggs on the counter to warm up, put them into a bowl of warm water for 5 to 10 minutes before making the recipe.
- Salt: Adds flavor to the dough.
- All-purpose flour: It’s very important that you spoon and level the flour when measuring it. If you scoop the flour from the bag using the measuring cup, you’ll compact the flour and will likely measure out too much.
How to Make Cream Puffs
Before getting started, make a template for piping the dough. I like use a 2-inch round cookie cutter and trace ten 2-inch circles on a piece of parchment paper.
Once you’ve made your template, you can start on the dough. Add the sliced butter, sugar, salt, and water to a large saucepan and set it over medium heat. Once the mixture comes to a boil, stir in the flour.
Keep cooking the dough for another two to three minutes. You’ll know it is ready when it pulls away from the edges of the pan, forms a smooth ball, and leaves a film on the bottom of the pan.
Scoop the mixture into a large heat-proof bowl and let it cool for three minutes, then mix in the eggs one at a time until each one is fully combined. You can do this step with an electric mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon. After the fourth egg is mixed in, the dough should form a V-shape when you lift your beaters or spoon out of the bowl — this means it’s ready to pipe!
Transfer the dough to a large piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch round piping tip. Place the piping bag perpendicular to the parchment paper, about ½-inch above it. This will ensure that the cream puffs rise straight up. You want to avoid piping these at an angle, otherwise they can end up lopsided.
When you are done, make sure to swirl the tip and don’t pull straight up (this can leave peaks, which will burn in the oven). You should end up with 18 to 20 circles total.
Dip your finger in a little water and gently smooth out any pointed peaks of dough.
Before baking the cream puff shells, brush some egg wash over the tops to ensure they turn a lovely golden brown in the oven. Once they go into the oven, do not open the oven door! Sudden rushes of cold air can cause cream puffs to deflate.
Once they’re done, turn off the oven, remove the cream puffs, and pierce a hole in the side of each one with a skewer or a knife. This will allow any steam to escape and prevent them from becoming soggy inside.
Then, return them to the oven with the door cracked open for 10 minutes so that they can dry out. Let the cream puff pastry shells cool completely before filling them.
What Makes These Deflate?
If your cream puffs deflated in the oven, it might be because you opened the oven door early or underbaked them. Sudden exposure to cooler temperatures is a surefire way to deflate the delicate pastry dough.
If your cream puffs merely look lopsided, that’s likely because you piped the dough out incorrectly. Don’t fret, you should still be able to add the filling and enjoy them!
Cream puff shells may be store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for one to two days. Once filled, they can be stored in the fridge for up to three days.
- It’s important that you let the pastry cool completely before adding the filling. If you try to fill them while they’re still warm, the filling will ooze right out.
- My two favorite cream puff fillings are whipped cream and pastry cream. If desired, you can flavor the filling as well.
- These cream puffs can be prepared and frozen for up to two months. They thaw incredibly well, making this the perfect make-ahead dessert for parties!
More Classic Desserts to Try!
- 1 cup (240 ml) water
- ½ cup (115 grams) unsalted butter , sliced into tablespoon sized pieces
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (125 grams) all-purpose flour , spooned & leveled
- 4 large eggs , room temperature
- Egg Wash: 1 large egg plus 1 tablespoon water
- Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Tear off a large piece of parchment paper the same size as your baking sheets and use a 2-inch cookie cutter to draw 10 2-inch circles on it, making sure to leave some space between each one (this will be your template for piping the dough). Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- Combine water, sliced butter, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the cup of flour with a wooden spoon until fully combined. Keep the mixture over medium heat and continue stirring until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan, forms a smooth dough, and leaves a film on the bottom of the pan (about 2 to 3 minutes).
- Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer it to a large heat-proof bowl to cool slightly for 3 minutes.
- Mix in the eggs, one at a time, with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer, making sure to mix in each one until fully combined before adding the next. Once the 4th egg is fully mixed in, the dough should hold a V-shape on the end of the spoon or beaters.
- Transfer the dough to a large piping bag fitted with a ½-inch round piping tip (I use the Wilton 1A tip).
- Place the template underneath the parchment paper on one of your prepared baking sheets. Place the piping bag perpendicular to the parchment paper about ½-inch above it, this will ensure that the cream puffs rise straight up. Applying even pressure, pipe 2-inch circles, letting them expand in both height and width, and making sure to swirl the tip when you are done (do not pull straight up). Remove the template beneath the parchment paper and repeat with the other baking baking sheet, you should end up with 18 to 20 circles total.
- Dip your finger in a little water and gently smooth out any pointed peaks.
- To make the egg wash: In a small mixing bowl, whisk the egg and water together until fully combined. Gently brush the top of each one with the egg wash.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the cream puffs are golden brown, making sure not to open the oven door as they are baking. Once they’re done, turn the oven off, remove them from the oven, use a knife or skewer to pierce a hole in the side of each one, then return to the oven with the door cracked open for 10 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled fill with whipped cream, pastry cream, or your favorite filling.