Cream Puffs Filled with a Little Bit of Heaven...I Mean, Vanilla Bean Pastry Cream.
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Trust me when I say these are as close to a perfect bite as you're gonna get in this lifetime. Fresh, crispy, soft-in-the-middle puffs, filled with velvety cream that would be amazing (maybe a little weird) to sit in a bathtub full of...sigh...they are worth the bit of work to make the pate a choux dough and cream for sure. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!
VANILLA BEAN PASTRY CREAM
1/2 cup (3.5 oz, 98 gr) granulated sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup cornstarch (1 oz, 28 gr)
1/8 tsp Morton kosher salt or table salt (use 1/2 tsp if using Diamond kosher)
2 1/2 cups (20 fl oz, 590 ml) whole milk
1/2 a vanilla bean pod, split and scraped or 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste (optional)
2 TBSP (1 oz, 28 gr) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Blanch the Egg Yolks: In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar either with a whisk or an electric mixer until foamy and about double in size. This is called "blanching" the egg yolks and will ensure a smooth pastry cream.
Add the Cornstarch & Salt: Whisk the cornstarch and salt into the egg/sugar mixture.
Heat the Milk: In a saucepan, heat the milk (and the vanilla bean pod and seeds if using) to a boil. Remove the vanilla bean pod if it was used.
Temper the Egg Yolks: Slowly pour about half of the milk into the egg/cornstarch mixture while whisking continuously. It can be helpful to nestle the mixing bowl in a damp kitchen towel to stabilize the bowl so you can whisk with one hand.
Cook the Custard: Pour the milk/egg mixture back into the pot with the remainder of the milk and cook over medium/low heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil.Strain: Pour the hot custard through a fine mesh sieve.
Flavor: If you are adding any chocolate or other flavorings, they can be whisked in at this point. Add the cold butter and whisk in.
Chill: Place a piece of plastic wrap right on top of the custard and refrigerate until completely chilled before using, about 2 hours.
Store: Pastry cream can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To make Chocolate Pastry Cream: Add 2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder in with the milk when you bring it to a boil. After the mixture has been strained, stir in 6 oz of finely chopped bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate.
To make Coconut Pastry Cream (can be used for pie filling): Replace 1/2 of the milk with full fat coconut milk. 1 cup of toasted coconut flakes can also be added.
PATE A CHOUX
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup water
1 cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In 2 quart pot, combine the butter and water. On a piece of wax or parchment paper, sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Bring the water and butter to a rolling boil, remove from heat and dump the flour mixture in all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon or paddle to incorporate.
Return the sauce pot to high heat and cook, stirring, for about one minute. The mixture will form a ball and coat the pan with a thin film.
Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl or standing mixer equipped with the paddle attachment. Mix the dough for a minute or so, on low speed, to release some of the heat. Add the eggs, one at a time, completely incorporating each one before adding the next. Beat until the dough gets thick and ribbony. Be patient with this step, it may take a bit longer than you think for it to all come together and become a cohesive dough/batter -- it will get there!
Fit a pastry bag with a round #5 tip (the largest round tip I had at the time was a #12 and made very decent sized puffs. For eclairs, I would definitely recommend a larger tip than a #12- as close to a #5 as you can get!) and fill with the warm dough. Line a heavy cookie sheet with parchment paper and anchor it to the tray with a little dab of the dough at each corner. Pipe about forty to forty five 1 1/2-inch mounds about 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden and puffed. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes or until they are golden brown and there are no droplets of moisture in the crevices. Turn off oven and leave the choux to dry for another 10 minutes. Use when cool, or freeze, wrapped in a plastic bag, for 2-3 months.
Once the puffs are cool, use a tip that is specifically used to fill pastries - it makes it a lot easier. They have a long "tubular" shaped end that allows you to really get into the pastry and fill it well. No one wants an empty puff!