Serves a Crowd

State Fair Cream Puffs

June  9, 2011
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes about 8 puffs & enough filling for 6 so serve the prettiest 6 puffs
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

What You'll Need
  • 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)
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Reneesworld
  • Alexandros Zattas
    Alexandros Zattas
  • SKK
  • Meatballs&Milkshakes
  • LocalSavour
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.

119 Reviews

plevee September 6, 2020
I have failed at cream puffs and eclairs four times now. These came out perfectly and were so easy - no trying to estimate the exact amount of egg and trying to decide if the drip on the mixer paddle was V shaped! I thing the secret is the baking instructions. I suspect that my previous attempts were underbaked. Thank you.
Julia C. May 22, 2016
Thank you for this wonderful recipe and the memories of the Wisconsin State Fair it brought to mind! It wouldn't have been a true summer without a trip to the Fair (and cream puffs) and weekly visits to Madison's Capitol Farmers Market (fresh cheese curds and the Pickle Man). The cream puffs are dessert for tomorrow's dinner with many thanks to you and the Dairy State. Eat Cheese or Die...
Reneesworld January 29, 2014
I made these for the first time ever using your recipe and they were wonderful (part of a food challenge using French pastry). My only comment or question is that the egg wash was runny because of the 2 Tablespoons of water recommended to blend with the egg yoke. It had to drip onto the bottom regardless of how careful I was. Did you mean 2 teaspoons, perhaps?
The results were gorgeous regardless. I am thrilled. I read 8 recipes (including LaRouse Gastronique, Alma Lach's Hows and Whys of French cooking and online resources), I am thrilled that I chose yours. Brilliant using the food processor, if a bit tricky to get the dough out. Thanks for this recipe.
Alexandros Z. July 16, 2013
I was kinda troubled about the baking time, 30 minutes overall seemed too much. I also checked out a similar recipe by Gordon Ramsay, he baked them for 18-20 minutes on 200 C degrees, so did I, and they turned out perfect. Also you could just let the dough cool in a plate for 5 minutes and the whisk into a paste adding an egg at a time. Easy recipe, tasty results!
hardlikearmour July 17, 2013
Glad you liked it! I find if they don't bake long enough they like to deflate.
Muse June 5, 2013
These look FABULOUS...will have to try making them. Congratulations on your win HLA...Bravo!
Tk3 April 26, 2013
I made these tonight with my gluten free flour. (I use Jules gluten free) I didn't know what to expect, but they turned just like your photo and they were amazing! Thank you! I will be making them again for parties to come!
hardlikearmour April 26, 2013
Yay! I'm glad they worked out well with GF flour -- I have a friend who's husband has celiac, and it's nice to have another dessert in the arsenal.
Ghost H. October 29, 2011
Yay! These are wonderful. I made them for my friend's art opening and was a big hit.

Is it really a state fair food though? only in WI perhaps?
hardlikearmour October 29, 2011
Hooray! I'm glad you enjoyed them. They really truly are state fair food in Wisconsin - though the traditional ones have a vanilla whipped cream filling.
SKK August 31, 2011
OMG - these are amazing! And congrats on the win - well-deserved as always.
hardlikearmour August 31, 2011
Thanks, SKK!
Meatballs&Milkshakes August 31, 2011
Like everyone else, looking at these pictures makes my mouth water! Plus, we're big fans of bourbon around the apartment, so I think I have to try them soon.
hardlikearmour August 31, 2011
Thank you, CRS! I made your asparagus salad while my mom was visiting. It was delicious, and she liked it so much she went home and made it for my sister!
LocalSavour August 26, 2011
They look lovely, delicious and I can't wait to try ~ Congratulations on the win!
hardlikearmour August 26, 2011
thanks, LS. I hope you get a chance to try them!
creamtea August 26, 2011
Congratulations hla! THESE LOOK SOOO GOOD!
hardlikearmour August 26, 2011
Thanks, creamtea! William Brinson's photo of them is incredible.
em-i-lis August 25, 2011
Go, HLA!!! these look fabulous!!!
hardlikearmour August 25, 2011
Thank you, em-i-lis!
pierino August 24, 2011
I have to say that my mouth is watering. I'm a savory cook and pastry is off on the next planet. But I love it when when we bump into each other.
hardlikearmour August 24, 2011
Thanks, pierino! I like doing both savory and pastry. I unfortunately have a devilish sweet tooth.
Sagegreen August 24, 2011
Congrats on the win. These are perfect fair food!
hardlikearmour August 24, 2011
Thank you, SG! Elephant ears are great fair food, too!
TheWimpyVegetarian August 24, 2011
Yah!!!!!! I'm so happy to see you in the winner's circle HLA!!!!!! If I can't make it to a State Fair, I can certainly make these and pretend I'm there!
hardlikearmour August 24, 2011
Thanks, CS! I am thankful and happy to be in the winner's circle.
AntoniaJames August 24, 2011
Hooray!! By the way, have you ever tried making cream puffs with bread flour? It sounds crazy, but a few years ago, I went to make cream puffs and had used all my A-P flour, and didn't have time to run out to the store. (One of those Saturday-afternoon before a Saturday-dinner-party situations, having put in about 60 hours that week on client work . . . ) So I tried it and it worked really well. In fact, they were not only surprisingly good (I suppose I was expecting a disaster), but several guests asked me what my "secret" was. Well, I just got Corriher's two books from the library the other day, and noticed that she actually recommends bread flour in cream puffs! Anyway, just thought I'd pass that along. ;o)
hardlikearmour August 24, 2011
Thanks, AJ! I have never done them with bread flour, but will do so with the next batch.
lapadia August 25, 2011
Bread flour? Note to self, try that next time! :)
lapadia August 24, 2011
A Wonderful Win and a Wonderful recipe addition to Food52's Book2; congratulations HLA!!
hardlikearmour August 24, 2011
Thank you, lapadia! I'm still in disbelief I'll be in a cook book (an amazing one to boot!)
Bevi August 24, 2011
Congrats! Wonderful Win!
hardlikearmour August 24, 2011
Thanks, Bevi! I feel lucky to have won.
wssmom August 24, 2011
Well done, well-deserved!! Congrats!
hardlikearmour August 24, 2011
Thank you, wssmom! I'm just tickled pink.
fiveandspice August 24, 2011
Way to go HLA! I am not even remotely surprised by this - well deserved - win! :)
hardlikearmour August 24, 2011
Thanks, 5&S! I am elated.