Vanilla Cream Puffs

Looking for a simple cream puffs recipe? Our vanilla cream puff recipe is here to guide you through making these heavenly delights with ease and joy!

Vanilla cream puffs served

Recipe At a Glance

Making vanilla cream puffs is one of the simplest ways to enjoy this dessert. Just bake some cream puffs, whip up vanilla pastry cream, and fill them up.

I chose to top these puffs with a basic ganache (just chocolate and heavy cream), but you can easily skip that and just sprinkle them with powdered sugar instead.

You can also use this approach for eclairs, filling them with the same creamy goodness.

If you’re just starting out with choux pastry or baking cream puffs, I highly recommend you check out my guide to choux pastry and my cream puffs recipe. Both are packed with useful tips to get you started on your pate a choux adventure.

As always, if this is your first time making vanilla cream puffs, make sure to read the ingredient notes, step-by-step instructions, and tips. If you know what you’re doing, feel free to skip ahead to the recipe card.

Vanilla cream puffs anatomy
Vanilla cream puff anatomy

Ingredients Notes and Substitutes

Choux Pastry

Modern choux pastry ingredients for cream puffs
  • Milk and water. For these puffs, I like the milk and water combo, but you might as skip the milk and go with only water. The puffs will rise higher, but they won’t be as tasty.
  • All-Purpose Flour.
  • Unsalted butter.
  • Eggs.
  • Salt and sugar. These turn regular choux pastry (that’s typically pretty tasteless) into something that’s quite good on its own.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

Vanilla pastry cream ingredients
  • Milk: Whole fat works best, but skim should be okay too. Milk alternatives also work well, though the final flavor will be slightly different. When using a vegan milk alternative, check whether it’s the regular or sweet variety. If the latter, reduce the amount of sugar so it’s not overly sweet. Using a vanilla-flavored plant milk could also be an interesting option.
  • Cornstarch: You can use potato starch (half the amount) in a pinch, but cornstarch is the better option due to thickening temperature. Read my starch 101 article for more.
  • Sugar: Regular white sugar works well, but feel free to use any sweetener you like.
  • Vanilla Extract: Vanilla extract gives this pastry cream its flavor. If you want to use vanilla beans instead, check out my article on vanilla pastry cream which covers both options.
  • Unsalted Butter: Plain unsalted butter is all you need.
  • Egg Yolks.

Chocolate Ganache

  • Chocolate. Dark chocolate is the option I go with here because both the puffs and the pastry cream are quite sweet. But you could use a bit of milk chocolate, say up to half the amount without making it too sweet.
  • Heavy cream.

How to Make Vanilla Cream Puffs

Step 1: Make Vanilla Pastry Cream

(Check out my vanilla pastry cream article for a deep dive on this pastry cream.)

  1. Boil Milk: Measure the milk into a pot and stir in the vanilla extract and half the sugar. Bring the mixture close to a boil.
  2. Prep Yolks: While the milk is heating, whisk the yolks in a large bowl, then stir in the cornstarch and the remaining sugar. Set aside.
  3. Temper Eggs: When the milk is close to boiling, remove it from the heat. Gradually pour a couple of tablespoons of the hot milk into the yolk mixture, constantly whisking to prevent the yolks from curdling. Repeat this process 3 to 4 times until you’ve incorporated all the milk. Keep stirring throughout.
  1. Cook Until Thick and Bubbly: Return the combined mixture to the pot you used for the milk. Cook it over low or medium heat, stirring constantly, until it noticeably thickens and starts to bubble. This typically takes 2 to 4 minutes, depending on the pot and heat intensity. Avoid rushing the process to prevent the yolks from curdling.
  1. Take Off the Heat and Whisk: Once the mixture is thick, remove the pot from the heat and continue whisking for about a minute, bringing the mixture past the point of maximum thickness.
  2. Stir in Butter: Add the butter to the pot and stir until it melts and integrates into the cream.
  1. Taste Test: Sample the cream (be cautious, it’s hot) and add more sugar or vanilla extract if necessary.
  2. Cover: Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a crust from forming and leave the cream to cool at room temperature. Refrigerate after 30 minutes to an hour if you’re not making the puffs right away.

Step 2: Make Cream Puffs

(Read my articles on choux pastry and cream puffs for a more detailed step-by-step and various tips on working with choux pastry!)

  1. Preheat Oven: Start by preheating your oven to 390°F (200°C).
  2. Melt and Boil: In a pot, combine butter, milk, water, salt, and sugar, then bring the mixture to a boil, ensuring the butter is fully melted.
  1. Add Flour: Take the pot off the heat, add all the flour to the mixture at once and give it a quick stir until it roughly combines. Bring the pot back to the stove and continue stirring with a spoon or silicone spatula over low heat. The dough will thicken and clump quickly, but you should continue stirring the mixture for 2-3 minutes, making sure all the flour is incorporated and there are no white floury spots inside. While stirring, scrape the dough from the sides and bottom to prevent sticking. After 2-3 minutes, the dough should be glossy and easy to detach from the pot, and a thin layer, or film, should form on the bottom of the pot.
  1. Transfer: Move the dough to a mixing bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Spreading it across the bowl can speed up cooling.
Spread choux pastry in bowl to cool
Spread choux pastry in bowl to cool
  1. Whisk Eggs: Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and whisk them.
Whisk the eggs
Whisk the eggs
  1. Make Dough: Once the dough has cooled slightly, start mixing it with a hand mixer at medium speed. After 20-30 seconds of mixing, add half the eggs to the dough and mix until incorporated. Repeat by adding half of the leftover egg mixture. Now it’s time to get the dough to the right consistency: you want it thick enough to hold its shape, but still pipeable. The best way to check for that is the V-Shape test: Dip your mixer whisks or spatula into the dough and lift it. The dough should slowly fall off, eventually leaving a piece of dough hanging that forms a characteristic ‘V’ shape or a triangle at the end of the whisk or spatula. If the dough is too thick and doesn’t drop from the whisks or drops in clumps without leaving that characteristic v-shape, continue adding the eggs bit by bit and checking the consistency.
  1. Prepare Tray: Line a baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone mat (perforated is best). Optionally, draw 2-inch circles on the underside of the parchment as guides, spaced about 1 1/5 inches apart, for uniformly sized cream puffs.
  2. Piping Setup: Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (half an inch or slightly more works great). Alternatively, use a plastic food bag with a corner cut off.
  3. Pipe Dough: Pipe 12 to 16 puffs. Hold the piping bag with a round tip vertically, with the nozzle a bit above the baking sheet. Begin to pipe by applying steady pressure to the bag, allowing the pastry to form a mound. As the pastry starts to form a base, slowly lift the piping bag upwards while maintaining pressure, allowing the pastry to build up on itself. I keep the tip partially immersed in the top portion of the mound. This ensures the pastry expands both upwards and outwards in a controlled manner. Aim for the pastry to grow upwards to about 3/4 inch and widen to approximately 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Once you’ve reached the desired size, stop applying pressure and swiftly but gently pull the nozzle upwards and away to finish. This usually leaves a small peak that you can pat down using a damp finger.
Cream puffs graphic
Cream puff pastry size
  1. Bake: Place the baking tray in the preheated oven, then immediately reduce the temperature to 356°F (180°C). Bake for 40 minutes, avoiding opening the oven door during the first 30 minutes to ensure proper rising. Leave the oven door slightly open for the last 5 minutes. To do so, carefully place an oven mitt or a folded kitchen towel between the door and the oven frame. This should create a small gap, allowing steam to escape from the oven.
  2. Cool: After baking, remove the baking tray from the oven, let the pastries cool for about 10 to 15 minutes, then carefully detach them from the parchment or baking mat and let cool on a wire rack for another 15 minutes.

Step 3: Make Chocolate Ganache

  1. Chop Chocolate: Finely chop the chocolate so that it melts easily. Set aside in a heatproof bowl.
  2. Heat Cream: Pour the heavy cream into a small pot and cook it over medium heat until it begins to show small bubbles forming around the edges of the pot.
  3. Melt Chocolate: Pour the hot heavy cream over the chocolate and let it sit for about a minute. That minute allows the chocolate to warm up so that it combines nicely with the cream. After that minute, stir the mixture until the chocolate melts and combines with the cream. A silicone spatula works best, as it allows you to scrape the sides of the bowl easily. Set aside.

Step 4: Combine

  1. Whisk Pastry Cream: Give the pastry cream a good whisk, especially if you cooked it the day before and it’s already been refrigerated for a while.
  1. Prep Ganache: Make sure your ganache is thick enough so it sticks when you submerge the puffs in it or pour it over the puffs. Warm it up or cool it down in a water bath it need be.
  2. Fill Puffs: Fill the puffs with the pastry cream using a bismark piping tip, or cut the puffs in half and pipe the cream onto the bottom half before replacing the top. If going with the second option, you can add much more filling than the puff itself can fit. Double the pastry cream recipe if you choose this route.
  1. Top with Ganache: Dip each puff in ganache or spoon it over.
  1. Serve: Enjoy the cream puffs immediately for the best taste and texture.
Vanilla cream puffs finished with chocolate ganache

Tips

Here are a couple of tips you should find helpful:

  • Make Pastry Cream in Advance: You can prepare the pastry cream up to 3-4 days ahead and store it in the fridge. It’s convenient to make it a day before.
  • Prepare Ganache During Baking: Make the ganache while the choux pastry bakes. This allows it to cool and thicken to the right consistency for dipping the cream puffs.
  • Warm Up Ganache for Melting: If any chocolate pieces remain unmelted in the ganache, return it to the pot, warm it over low heat, and stir until smooth. Use an immersion blender if need be.
  • Double the Pastry Cream: The given quantity of pastry cream is enough for 12 to 16 medium-sized cream puffs. However, if you plan to cut them and add a generous amount of filling or if you use a streusel topping (which can make the puffs wider), you may need more. Doubling the recipe is a good idea, and you can enjoy any extra as a dessert or use it to top your puffs.
Vanilla cream puffs dipped in ganache
Vanilla cream puffs dipped in ganache

Variations

This vanilla cream puff recipe is quite straightforward, but you can either simplify it or add a twist to elevate it. Here are some suggestions:

Simplify

  • Replace Ganache with Powdered Sugar: Skipping the ganache and dusting it with powdered sugar saves about 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll miss out on the chocolate flavor, but the puffs will still be delightful.
  • Use Whipped Cream Instead of Pastry Cream: A quicker filling option is vanilla-flavored whipped cream. This saves about half an hour. To simplify it even further, use aerosol whipped cream.
Cream puffs filled with vanilla pastry cream and topped with ganache

Elevate

  • Add a Streusel Topping: A streusel topping enhances almost any puff. It’s not too tricky to make. For detailed instructions, check out my Choux Au Craquelin recipe, where I explain how to add streusel topping to cream puffs, complete with photos.
  • Transform into Diplomat Cream: For a lighter filling, mix the vanilla pastry cream with whipped cream. After cooking the cream, mix in melted gelatin. Once it cools to room temperature, whip some heavy cream with powdered sugar and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form, then gently fold it into the pastry cream. This creates a lighter, fluffier filling, perfect for summer. In a similar vein, you can replace the pastry cream with Bavarian cream like I did in my Bavarian cream puffs recipe.
Vanilla pastry cream-filled puffs with ganache topping
Vanilla cream-filled puffs topped with ganache

Storage

Filled vanilla cream puffs stay safe for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge. That said, remember that the choux pastry becomes soggy after only a couple of hours of storage, so the puffs taste best right after filling.

Vanilla cream puffs served

Vanilla Cream Puffs

Looking for a simple cream puffs recipe? Our vanilla cream puff recipe is here to guide you through making these heavenly delights with ease and joy!
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Making Puffs: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: Baked Goods, Choux Pastry, Cream Puffs, Ganache, Pastry Cream
Servings: 14 vanilla cream puffs

Equipment

  • Stand mixer

Ingredients

Choux Pastry:

  • ¼ cup water ~60 ml
  • ¼ cup milk ~60 ml
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter ~45 g
  • oz all-purpose flour ~70 g
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • tsp sugar
  • 2 large eggs ~95g after cracking

Vanilla Pastry Cream:

  • 1 cup milk ~240 g
  • 2 medium egg yolks or large (about 30-35 g)
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch ~20 g
  • 3 1/2 tbsp sugar ~44 g
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter ~14 g

Chocolate Ganache:

  • 7 tbsp heavy cream ~100 g or 3.5 oz
  • 3.5 oz dark chocolate ~100 g or 3.5 oz

Instructions

Pastry Cream

  • Boil Milk: Mix milk, vanilla extract, and half the sugar. Heat until nearly boiling.
  • Prep Yolks: Whisk egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining sugar in a bowl.
  • Temper Eggs: Gradually mix hot milk into yolk mixture to avoid curdling.
  • Thicken Cream: Cook the mixture over low/medium heat until it thickens and bubbles (2-4 minutes).
  • Off Heat Whisk: Remove from heat; whisk for another minute.
  • Add Butter: Stir in butter until fully incorporated.
  • Taste Test: Adjust sugar or vanilla if needed.
  • Cool Down: Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a crust; cool at room temp, then refrigerate if not using right away.

Cream Puffs

  • Oven Preheat: Set oven to 390°F (200°C).
  • Boil Mixture: Boil butter, milk, water, salt, and sugar.
  • Add Flour: Off heat, add flour and stir; return to heat for 2-3 minutes constantly stirring until glossy.
  • Cool Dough: Transfer to a bowl; cool for 10 minutes.
  • Whisk Eggs: In a separate bowl, whisk eggs.
  • Mix Dough: Add eggs to dough gradually, aiming for a thick, pipeable consistency. Make sure the dough passes the V-shape test.
  • Prep Tray: Line a baking tray with parchment or silicone mat.
  • Pipe Dough: Fill a piping bag; pipe dough into 12 to 16 mounds on the tray.
  • Baking: Bake at 356°F (180°C) for 40 minutes; open oven door slightly in the last 5 minutes.
  • Cool Puffs: Let puffs cool for 10-15 minutes, then carefully detach from the parchment paper and cool on a wire rack for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Chocolate Ganache

  • Chop Chocolate: Finely chop and place in a heatproof bowl.
  • Heat Cream: Cook heavy cream until bubbles form at the edges.
  • Melt Chocolate: Pour hot cream over chocolate, wait a minute, then stir until smooth. Set aside so it cools.

Assembly

  • Whisk Cream: Whisk the pastry cream before use.
  • Prep Ganache: Wait until the ganache is thick enough to coat the puffs. Warm up if too thick or cool down if too runny.
  • Fill Puffs: Pipe pastry cream into puffs using a bismark tip or cut and fill.
  • Top with Ganache: Dip or spoon ganache over the puffs.
  • Serve: Enjoy immediately for best flavor and texture.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Like this recipe? Share it with friends!

Like the content? Please follow me on Facebook or Pinterest. It really helps.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating