Cream puffs are something I never in a million years thought I’d be attempting on my blog. Then again, I never thought we’d be in quarantine for a month so here we are. These light cream puffs, I have to say, are so damn impressive. I am not a baker–I say that all the time. I watched people make cream puffs online dozens of times before working up the courage to attempt these. The idea of light cream puffs passed my mind plenty of times, but I never wanted to attempt these because it seemed impossible. Turns out, all it takes is a national pandemic to be crazy enough to attempt light cream puffs–plus I was out of ingredients for other stress baking.
Let’s rewind for a second to see how we got here
One month ago, our school started dropping hints that we may need to move to online classes. Last month, COVID-19 seemed so far away. It was in China. Then Iran. And Italy. Seven days ago, we were asked to brush up on our Google Classroom. That Wednesday, we were told our Friday classes were replaced with a snow day so teachers could prepare for writing distance learning lessons and our faculty meeting would be replaced with Google Classroom workshops. Positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in local counties and the first case in our county was announced. Thursday came, and the realness and panic started to set in. On Friday, we came in to plan lessons, and we were gathered in a room by 1:45 pm to be told that the district was closed for two weeks. That was a month ago.
The tone of the meeting was uncertain, scary, and I was dressed like this:
I was wearing socks and fake Birkenstocks, sunglasses on my head, and a wicked cool floral and tiger print shirt. My wife took this picture and said, “you’re not really going to wear that, right? People are going to think you’re an asshole.” They did not, for the record. At least the people who don’t already think that.
Like most Americans, I went shopping preparing for the unknown–unsure when I would be at a supermarket again. I originally went after school for a three-hour shopping adventure, and I came home with only a few essentials like dinosaur planters, diapers, and cake mixes. I did get a few other things, but no meat, no dairy, and a carton of eggs with at least four broken eggs that leaked all over the cart (I still bought it).
When I returned to Wegmans at midnight, and I shopped until 3 am trying to find essentials. The video will be uploaded soon when I figure out how to do that.
Keep in mind, this was at almost 3 am after a long week, and I was out there making the best of it. What else can we do besides trying to find some joy in this mess?
Finding the New Normal
Now that the dust has settled and my wife and I grow into our new roles as kindergarten teachers + distance learning teachers, things are getting back to normal-ish. We celebrated my oldest’s birthday at the beginning of April with a drive-by parade of cousins and singing birthday via Zoom. We’ve gone on more walks than we ever have as a family. Cooking has changed too, and we’ve become more cautious of ingredients we use. I am trying my best to not go to the store which is hard as a parent, food blogger, and someone who really likes food shopping.
Easter is coming up, and we are trying our best to keep traditions alive, but it will definitely be challenging. We go to my parents every year for an Easter Egg hunt, and my dad takes a million pictures of all the grand-daughters; I have four brothers and collectively we have seven daughters and no sons. We do a painfully early Easter “dinner” at like 3 in the afternoon at my in-laws where we eat cold Honey Baked Ham and mashed potatoes (Sidenote: I know it is recommended to be served cold, but I grew up only eating hot ham and I find this so bizarre).
Luckily I thought ahead and picked up Easter supplies my first round of shopping in the apocalypse. I have been to the store once since then, and I remembered to buy more Easter candy since “someone” stress ate the entire supply of Reese’s peanut butter cups. Easter won’t be the same this year, but I am trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy during these times. One thing that we have had for dessert for Easter for as long as I can remember are cream puffs. Specifically, the not-quite-thawed cream puffs somebody inevitably picks up from the grocery store but forgets to thaw in time for dessert.
Simple ingredients and tools your probably have on hand
The ingredients are pretty simple; You’ll need flour, butter, sugar, and nonfat Greek yogurt. If you are on WW, there’s a good chance you have these on hand. For the filling, I used whipped cream because I bought it mid-panic even though I can’t remember the last time I ate whipped cream. You can use pudding (for eclairs), ice cream (technically they’d be considered profiteroles), or whip up a pastry cream if you happen to have purchased those ingredients and you know how to make it. Side note, please teach me how to make the pastry cream.
You don’t need fancy kitchen utensils to make these. I used a pot, wooden spoon, gallon ziplock bag, and scissors. Technically you can use a pastry bag, but I’m not fancy enough to own one.
Making Pâte à Choux
Pate a choux is a dough you make on the stovetop that has a high concentration of the liquid. It seems intimidating, but I was shocked by how easy it was to make. I gave it a quick search on Wikipedia to find out that it is a dough thought to originate in 1540, at one point it was used to make cakes shaped like women’s breasts and then later the name was changed because these puffs looked more like cabbages. It’s been pretty boring here, so yeah, I did a lot of research on pate a choux for no reason whatsoever.
For the first step, you are going to bring your water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn the heat down low and dump all the flour in. All of it. Mix it all up, and strangely it’ll start looking like dough.
The key is to mix until the dough starts pulling away from the pot. It’ll form a very soft ball. What’s going on in the process is that the flour is cooking while sucking up all the moisture you just put in there. The dough will be relaxed, but still firm-ish. Next, you have to let the dough cool. Give it a few minutes–it’s very important.
The reason why you need cool dough is because you are going to add eggs and yogurt. If you add eggs to hot dough, you are going to ruin everything and make scrambled eggs in your dough. It will be gross and disappointing. It may be your breaking point if you are doing this mid-quarantine.
I mixed the Greek Yogurt in first, then added the eggs. I whisked the eggs first and added half to the mix. Mixing the eggs into the dough does take about a minute of stirring, but it will eventually get smooth. You’d think the second batch of eggs would be easier to incorporate, but you would be wrong.
When the dough is ready, it will be soft, but sturdy enough that if you swipe a finger in the dough, it will keep trench you made. The dough will be a little sticky, and definitely a little messy to scoop, but surprisingly workable. Scoop all the dough into a gallon ziplock bag and make yourself a quarantine pastry bag. Work the dough into the corner of the bag and cut the corner (roughly 1/4 inch from the tip). You now have a piping bag!
Piping the cream puffs
I used my Amazon Silicone Baking Mat you can find on my Amazon store to bake these. I tested a batch on a cookie sheet with cooking spray too, and they came out nicely but a little harder on the bottom than the ones on the baking mat. When you pipe these, you are looking for a 1.5 inch diameter little pile about 1 inch high and about 1-1.5 inches apart. I was able to fit 20 on a large baking sheet.
Pipe all the light cream puffs out and marvel at your baking skills. Once you are done praising yourself and posting on your Instagram stories, wet your finger and press lightly on the little tips of each mound to flatten the
curve tip of the light cream puff. Bake these little cream puffs at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes.
Fill the light cream puffs
The light cream puffs will be golden brown and stiff on the outside once they are done. If you were to cut into one, you’ll see that they are light, airy, and filled with bubbles. The dough is a little buttery, but relatively bland on its own–these are meant to be filled. You can fill these however you please based on whatever ingredients you have on hand during quarantine–I used whipped cream.
Whipped cream was actually perfect for these little light cream puffs. The sweetness of the whipped cream worked perfectly with the light and flaky dough, and they were a satisfying little dessert. My kids devoured them.
I started filling them by slitting a little X at the bottom and spraying the whipped cream directly into the light cream puff, but then I realized the dough is delicate enough that you don’t need the X. For literally two light cream puffs, I cut them in half, put whipped cream in the middle, then topped with my remaining raspberries for a fancy little treat. I don’t have powdered sugar, but believe me I would have topped with powdered sugar if I had the chance.
You can make the pate a choux dough up to three days in advance. You can make the light cream puffs and refrigerate or even freeze. I do not recommend filling the light cream puffs until you are ready to eat. Whipped cream does deflate (I just ate ANOTHER after filling earlier today for scientific purposes). Pudding could make the dough soggy as it sits. The shorter the window filling and eating the light cream puffs, the better.
Looking for other baking projects while quarantined?Print
These light cream puffs are perfect for entertaining, and the filling is totally customizable. This recipe yields 36 pastry puffs that can be filled with whipped cream, pudding, pastry cream, or even ice cream! 1 sp on each plan.
- 200 g of all purpose flour (1.5 cups)
- 1.5 cup water
- 6 eggs
- 1 tsp sugar
- 4 tbsp salted butter
- 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
- whipped cream, pastry cream, pudding, ice cream, fruit
- Combine butter, water, and sugar into a pot and bring to a boil.
- Once the water mixture boils, reduce heat and add all the flour.
- Stir to combine into a smooth, dough. Dough will pull from sides into a ball.
- Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Add Greek yogurt to dough and mix well with a wooden spoon.
- Mix eggs and add half eggs to the dough. Mix well until smooth.
- Add remaining eggs and mix until smooth.
- Place dough into a gallon Ziplock bag (or pastry bag) and snip a 1/2 inch hole from the corner to pipe.
- On a silicone baking mat lined baking sheet (or a baking sheet sprayed well with cooking spray), pipe 36 1.5 inch wide puffs.
- Wet your finger, and flatten the tips of the mounds to smooth the tops.
- Bake at 375 for 35-45 minutes.
- Remove when golden brown and let cool.
- Let the cream puffs cool and fill with whipped cream, pudding, or pastry cream.
Dough can be made up to 3 days in advance. If baking but serving later, wait to fill the cream puffs until you are ready to eat, so you can keep the dough from getting soggy.