Serves a Crowd

State Fair Cream Puffs

June  9, 2011
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

Every year when I was growing up my family would go to the Wisconsin state fair. One of the things we did every time was get a cream puff. There was always a long line for them with good reason. The crispy outside and slightly custardy inside of the puff, the billowy fresh whipped cream, and a generous dusting of confectioner's sugar combined into an almost magical dessert. These were enormous cream puffs you could eat out of hand, slurping and licking the whipped cream as it oozed out of the shell. Ahhh, memories.

The first summer I was living in Oregon I asked a co-worker who was going to the state fair if they had cream puffs. She looked at me like I had sprouted an extra head, and said “No. They have elephant ears.” It was hard for me to accept. How could the state fair not have cream puffs?? Lucky for me the Wisconsin Baker's Association has published the recipe.

My version is based on the official version. I've tweaked the dough ingredients and the technique to make it easier with a consistently good outcome. (Using some tips from Shirley Corriher and Rose Levy Beranbaum – the food processor was a revelation for the pâte à choux!) I've gone way off the reservation with the filling, so if you are a purist feel free to fill with lightly sweetened vanilla-flavored whipped cream. - hardlikearmour —hardlikearmour

Test Kitchen Notes

Hardlikearmour has accomplished something truly admirable with this recipe; she's made cream puffs approachable. She cleverly presses the food processor into service to cool down the dough and then incorporate the eggs; purists will insist on stirring by hand, but this technique proves the elbow grease method simply isn't necessary. She also uses an extra egg white for her puffs, reserving the yolk for glazing the tops. (Shirley Corriher explains that extra white makes for bigger puffs that don't get too gooey inside, and these certainly fit the bill). The dense cream filling is decidedly more boozy than chocolately, but that was fine with us! Who wouldn't want one of these sugar-dusted puffs to help sustain them while waiting in line for yet another go on the ferris wheel? - A&M —The Editors

  • Makes about 8 puffs & enough filling for 6 so serve the prettiest 6 puffs
  • Cream Puffs (adapted from the Wisconsin Baker's Association)
  • ¾ cup water, plus 2 tablespoons (divided)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • slightly heaping ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup flour (5 oz)
  • 4 eggs, 1 separated and yolk reserved
  • 2 cups bourbon chocolate whipped cream (recipe below)
  • Confectioner's sugar
  • Bourbon Chocolate Whipped Cream (adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum)
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons Dutched cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon (I used Knob Creek)
In This Recipe
  1. Cream Puffs (adapted from the Wisconsin Baker's Association)
  2. Heat oven to 425º F with a rack in the lower middle position. Spray a sheet pan with cooking spray, then cover with parchment paper. (Alternately use a Silpat)
  3. Combine ¾ cup water, milk, butter and salt in a 2 quart heavy saucepan. Heat on medium-low, and bring the mixture to a boil. (The butter should melt before it boils.)
  4. Meanwhile whisk the flour for about 30 seconds to aerate and break up any clumps. In a 2 cup liquid measure combine the 3 eggs and 1 egg white and mix to combine. In a small bowl whisk together yolk and 2 tablespoons water (eggwash.)
  5. Once the water has just started to boil, remove it from the heat and dump all of the flour in at once. Stir the mixture with a heat proof spatula until the flour is mostly incorporated. Return to the heat, and use the spatula to smear the mixture across the bottom of the pan continuously for 3 to 4 minutes. A thin film of flour will have build up on the bottom of the pan.
  6. Transfer the dough to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process for 15 seconds to cool slightly. With the processor running add the eggs through the feed tube in a stream over about 15 seconds. Stop the processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Process an additional 30 to 40 seconds until a smooth paste has formed.
  7. Transfer the paste to a gallon plastic bag, cut a ½- to ¾-inch diameter opening in one corner. Pipe the dough into a 2 ½- to 2 ¾-inch circles about 1-inch high, making sure to leave about 2 inches between puffs. Brush the puffs with the eggwash using the pastry brush to smooth the tops of the puffs in addition to coating the puffs. Take care not to get the eggwash onto the baking sheet as it will burn.
  8. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375º F and bake an additional 17 to 20 minutes. The puffs should be a deep golden brown. Turn oven off. Use a paring knife to cut a slit in the side of each puff (where you plan on cutting them in half.) Place the tray of puffs back in the oven, and use a wooden spoon to crack the door open. Allow the puffs to dry in the oven for 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on rack before splitting. Can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for a day or two - recrisp for 3 minutes in a 350º oven before serving.
  9. To serve cut puffs in half, fill with about 1/3rd cup of the whipped cream filling, and dust with confectioner's sugar.
  1. Bourbon Chocolate Whipped Cream (adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum)
  2. Combine cream, cocoa, and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour to allow the cocoa to dissolve. Whisk by hand or beat with a hand-mixer until stiff peaks form. Whisk in the bourbon. Use to fill cream puffs.
  3. Cook's note: if you don't want to use bourbon, whisk in a teaspoon of vanilla extract instead to round out the chocolate flavor.

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I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.