I was first taught this concept by one of my very favorite pastry teachers, Chef Dieter Schorner. He rolled out a thin circle of cookie dough and placed in on top of piped pâte à choux—after baking, the dough turned into a wonderfully craggy sugar "crust" and the cream puff was even crispier than a classic one. I've been making them, eating them, and loving them ever since. —Erin Jeanne McDowell
Test Kitchen Notes
Bake It Up a Notch is a column by Resident Baking BFF Erin Jeanne McDowell. Each month, she'll help take our baking game to the next level, teaching us all the need-to-know tips and techniques and showing us all the mistakes we might make along the way. Today, a lesson in all things pâte à choux—the fancy-sounding French pastry that's actually a cinch. —The Editors
- Makes about 16 cream puffs
- For the cookie dough
(113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
(106 g) light brown sugar
(120 g) all-purpose flour
For a chocolate variation, use 3/4 cup (90 g) all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup (21 g) dark cocoa powder)
(For a strawberry variation, use 3/4 cup (90 g) all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup (14 g) strawberry powder, available online or made from processing freeze dried strawberries in the food processor)
- Pate a Choux (and finishing the puffs)
(115 g) water
(115 g) whole milk
(56 g) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups
plus 2 tablespoons (170 g) bread flour
large (227 g) eggs (have 1-2 extra eggs on hand)
prepared pastry cream (my favorite recipe is here: https://food52.com/recipes...)
(235 g) softly whipped cream
Sliced strawberries, as needed
- Make the cookie dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Add the flour (and/or cocoa/strawberry powder, if using) and mix to combine. Form the dough into a disc 1-inch thick and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Chill for at least 1 hour, and up to overnight.
- Make the pâte à choux: In a medium pot, heat the water, milk, butter, and salt over medium low heat. Bring to a full boil.
- Add the flour all at once, and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, over low heat. Cook until a slightly sticky paste forms—stir until the paste forms a ball around the spoon and there’s a film of starch on the bottom of the pot.
- Transfer the paste to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to 1 minute to help cool the paste.
- Whisk the eggs together in a liquid measuring cup. With the mixer running, add the eggs in a stream. Mix until fully incorporated, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Test the consistency of the batter. Remove the bowl and paddle from the mixer base. Dip the paddle into the dough and lift it up. The dough should form a V shape, eventually breaking away from the batter in the base of the bowl. If the dough is too stiff or pulls away too quickly, whisk together another egg and add gradually. Do the test again (see the article for more info)!
- Transfer the pâte à choux to a disposable pastry bag. You can either fit the bag with a large circle tip or just cut a 1/2- to 3/4-inch opening from the end of the bag.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. If you’d like to, trace guides using a circle cookie cutter (2 to 2 1/2 inches) with a marker onto the parchment. Turn the parchment over so the ink won’t come in contact with the pastry. Use some of the pâte à choux to adhere the paper to the pan at the corners
- Hold the pastry bag straight up and down, perpendicular to the baking sheet. Begin applying even pressure to the pastry bag, letting the pâte à choux flow down onto the parchment. Continue applying pressure without moving the bag—the choux will flow out onto itself, creating a rounded mound. When you’ve reached the desired size, stop applying pressure to the bag gradually, then use a quick twist of your wrist will help you come away cleanly.
- When you’re finished piping, if there’s a noticeable ridge, tail, or spiky point on your choux, dip your finger in warm water and use it to gently smooth the dough.
- Roll out the chilled cookie dough between two sheets of parchment paper. As you roll, occasionally peel the top parchment away from the dough, then flip the dough over and peel away what was the bottom parchment as well. This keeps the dough from fully adhering to the parchment during rolling, and also makes it less likely that crinkles in the paper will leave lines on your dough. Roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thick.
- Use a round cookie cutter to cut it out. (Note: If you used a cookie cutter to trace guides on the parchment for your pâte à choux, you can use the same cutter to cut the rounds of dough.) Gently transfer each round to a piece of pâte à choux—no need to press it down or anything, just lay it gently on top.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the cream puffs until the choux is golden brown and the cookie topping is crackly and crisp, 35 to 40 minutes.
- (Optional Extra Step: Remove the cream puffs from the oven and cut a small vent into the side or base of each puff using a paring knife. Turn the oven off and return the puffs to the oven for 5 minutes to help any steam trapped inside to escape, making a crispier puff). Cool the puffs completely.
- Fill the cream puffs: In a medium bowl, fold together the pastry cream and whipped cream. Boom: You made diplomat cream.
- Cut the cream puffs in half and spoon cream into the center. Add a few sliced berries, if using, and place the top of the puff back on. Serve immediately.