Cream puffs were sold at every cake shop in my hometown growing up. Sitting in a confectioner’s case, they were big and sweet, overflowing with creamy caramel filling, and glazed with chocolate. I absolutely adored them, so much so that I used to secretly sneak into my parents’ closet and fumble in the pockets of their clothes looking for change, just so I could buy myself a cream puff. Little thief with a sweet tooth.
These days I try to limit my exposure to sweets 🙂 but I still have a soft spot for these puffs. And I’m happy to say that even though they may seem complicated, making them is actually pretty simple. The caramel whipping cream needs to be made the night before, and if you make the puffs at the same time, the only thing you’ll need to do the next day is to fill them and let them sit in the fridge. Easy – peasy, and a lot of bang for the buck. They do need to be filled couple of hours before serving, so that the crispy pate a choux pastry has time to soften a bit under the cream. You can either glaze them with melted chocolate, or use the recipe for caramel glaze I’m offering here. Either way, they’re delicious, and when I take a bite, they take me straight back to my childhood. Once again I’m the little girl with pigtails looking through the window of the pastry shop, trying to decide what to get. And even though many times I wanted to branch out and try other deliciously looking cakes behind the glass, at the end I’d always go for a good old cream puff, and not even once was I sorry I did.
Caramel Cream Puffs
- 1 cup (250 ml, 8 oz.) water
- 100 ml (3.5 oz.) unsalted butter, melted
- pinch salt
- 140 g (5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 4 tablespoons white sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 2 cups (500 ml, 16 oz.) whole milk, divided
- 90 g vanilla “cook and serve” pudding (a little over 2/3 package)
- 1 cup (200 ml, 8 oz.) heavy whipping cream
Caramel whipped cream:
- 100 g (3.5 oz.) granulated sugar
- 5 tablespoons water
- 2 cups (500 ml, 16 oz.) heavy whipping cream
- 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 100 ml (3.5 oz.) milk
- powdered sugar to make a semi-thick glaze
- The night before, make the caramel whipping cream: In a deep saucepan, combine sugar and water. Cook over medium heat until the water evaporates and the sugar turns nice caramel color. Watch the caramel closely, it burns easily. Do not stir, just gently swirl the sugar syrup from time to time as it cooks.
- When the sugar caramelizes, carefully pour in the cream (The mixture will sizzle; watch it so it doesn’t boil over). Stirring constantly, cook the caramel cream mixture until the crystalized caramel dissolves again. Pour the caramel cream into a jar and refrigerate it overnight.
- For the puffs, place a pan with boiling water on the lower rack in the oven, and preheat the temp to 390 °F (200 °C). Line a big rimless baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a saucepan, combine water, butter, and salt. Heat the mixture until it starts to simmer. Take off the heat and immediately add the flour and mix together. Over a low heat, cook the butter – flour mixture for about 5 minutes, stirring vigorously, until the mixture coats the bottom of the pan and your spoon, pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Set the pan aside and let the mixture cool till lukewarm.
- Transfer the lukewarm mixture into a bowl of your food processor. With the motor running, one by one add the eggs, mixing well after each addition.
- Drop by tablespoons onto the parchment lined sheet, or transfer the dough into a pastry bag with decorative tip and pipe out a 2.5 inch (5 cm) mounds.
- Place the baking sheet on the top rack with the pan of water underneath, and bake the puffs for about 20 minutes until they’re risen and nice golden brown, depending on the size of your puffs. Do not open the oven during baking, or the puffs won’t rise. Immediately after taking them from the oven prick each one with a toothpick, and let them cool completely. (The puffs can be made the night before, or even sooner if you decide to freeze them.)
- To make the Caramel Filling, combine water and sugar in a saucepan. Cook until the water evaporates and the sugar caramelizes. When the sugar turns into caramel, carefully pour in 1 1/3 cups milk. The mixture will sizzle; watch it so it doesn’t boil over. Cook the caramel in milk until it dissolves.
- Meanwhile combine the remaining 2/3 cup milk with the powdered pudding until smooth. Pour the mixture into the caramel milk and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and creates a nice caramel crème (about 3 – 5 minutes). Take the caramel crème off the heat, immediately place a piece of saran wrap on the top so it doesn’t form a skin, and let it cool completely.
- When the caramel crème is cool, whip the cream until soft peaks form, and using a spatula, combine it gently with the caramel crème into a light filling. Set aside.
- Make the Caramel Whipped Cream: Take the caramel cream you made the night before out of the refrigerator and whip it until firm peaks form. Set aside.
- Assembling the Caramel Cream Puffs: Cut each puff into halves, not cutting all the way through, so the puff stays together. Spoon about 1 – 2 tablespoons of caramel crème filling into each puff and place some caramel whipped cream on top of the filling. Cover with the top half.
- Make the Glaze: Combine sugar and water and cook until the sugar turns into caramel. Pour in the milk and cook until the crystalized caramel dissolves again. Combine the caramel milk with powdered sugar to make a thick glaze.
- Glaze the tops of the puffs. Chill for about 2 hours before serving.