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DIY: Cream Puffs

A sweet addition to any dessert table!
Photos By: Caroline Drake
Bringing a sweet menu to your wedding doesn't have to be expensive or very difficult. Cream puffs are perfect to serve at weddings, and bring the right amount of fancy, but are actually very easy to make!
The best part is that you can make them in advance, and easily put them together for the big day!
Pastry Cream Ingredients:
You will want to make the filling first, since you need to refrigerate it for at least a few hours or overnight to set. We adapted a recipe from Baking Illustrated.
2 cups half-and-half
½ cup sugar (divided into 6 tablespoon, and 2 tablespoons)
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp. cornstarch
4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1½ tsp. vanilla bean paste (this makes such a difference if you can find it!)
Pastry Cream Recipe Instructions: 
Heat the half-and-half, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  Meanwhile, combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
Pastry Cream Recipe Instructions:
When the half-and-half mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds.  Off the heat, whisk in the butter and vanilla.  
Pastry Cream Recipe Instructions:
Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.
Pâte à Choux Ingredients:
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tbsp. whole milk
6 tbsp. water
1½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup (2½ oz.) all-purpose flour
Place an oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 425° F. 
Pâte à Choux Recipe Instructions:
To make the pâte à choux, whisk the eggs and egg white in a liquid measuring cup.  You should have ½ cup (discard the excess).  Set aside.  Combine the butter, milk, water, sugar and salt in a small saucepan.  Heat over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring once or twice.  When it reaches a full boil and the butter is fully melted, remove from the heat and stir in the flour until incorporated and the mixture clears the sides of the pan.  Return the saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the pan (the mixture should register 175-180° F on an instant-read thermometer. Takes about 5-10 minutes on LOW heat.
Pâte à Choux Recipe Instructions:
Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open to cool slightly, 10 seconds.  
Pâte à Choux Recipe Instructions:
With the machine running, gradually add the reserved eggs in a steady stream.  When they have been added, scrape down the sides of the bowl, then process 30 seconds more until a smooth, thick, sticky paste forms.
Pâte à Choux Recipe Instructions:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip with the pâte à choux.  
Pipe the paste into 1½-inch mounds on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 1 to 1¼ inches apart (you should be able to fit 24 mounds on the baking sheet).  
Pâte à Choux Recipe Instructions:
Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in water to even out the shape and smooth the surface of the piped mounds.
Pâte à Choux Recipe Instructions:
Bake for 15 minutes (do not open the oven door during baking).  Reduce the oven temperature to 375° F and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm, 8-10 minutes longer.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven.  
Use a paring knife, cut a ¾-inch slit into the side of each puff to release steam; return the puffs to the oven, turn the oven off, and prop open the oven door with the handle of a wooden spoon.  
Pâte à Choux Recipe Instructions:
Dry the puffs in the turned-off oven until the centers are just moist (not wet) and the puffs are crisp, about 45 minutes.  Transfer the puffs to a wire rack to cool completely. 
(At this point the puffs can be stored at room temperature for up to 24 hours or frozen for up to 1 month in an airtight plastic bag.  Before serving, crisp in the oven at 300° F – 5-8 minutes for room temperature puffs, 8-10 minutes for frozen puffs.)
Cream Puff Assembly:
To fill the puffs, use a bread knife, and carefully cut the puff in half.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch plain tip with the pastry cream. 
Cream Puff Assembly:
Pipe some of the pastry cream onto the bottom half, then place the top on the pastry cream, and sift powdered sugar onto the top. Repeat to fill all the puffs.
This recipe will make about 24 small cream puffs. Such a simple treat to make, that will "wow" your guests!
Last Updated: March 20, 2015 at 12:00 pm
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