Baking Chocolate Cream Puffs

These magical little puffs are light, crisp and rich all at the same time. The dough is made on the stovetop, then piped into smooth mounds and baked into airy balloons. In French the dough is called pâte à choux, which translates as “cabbage pastry.”  This name must have been a funny attempt to describe the round shape; otherwise it is not at all descriptive of this tasty pastry. I have filled the cream puffs with raspberry preserves and topped with rich chocolate ganache, but they are also lovely sliced in half and stuffed with vanilla ice cream.

Makes: about 36 cream puffs
Prep Time: 1 hour
Baking Time: 25 minutes
Level: multiple steps, but all of them are easy
Cream puffs:

1 cup 2% milk (you can also use skim or whole milk, but it will effect the flavor and crispness of your cream puff.)

8 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1-tablespoon pieces
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
4 extra large eggs, whisked together in a small bowl
Ganache for filling and glaze:
2 cups heavy cream
16 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 cup raspberry preserves
To make the ganache:

In a saucepan heat the cream over medium heat. Once it comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and add the chocolate. Swirl the pan to make sure all the chocolate is covered, let sit for 3 minutes. Gently whisk together the cream and chocolate until it is smooth, add the corn syrup and stir just until combined. Pour into a shallow bowl and cover with plastic wrap, allow to cool to room temperature.

To make the cream puffs:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a saucepan combine the milk, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a low boil over medium heat. Once the milk mixture comes to a boil, dump all of the flour in and stir with a wooden spoon. Turn the heat to low and continue to stir until the mixture becomes thick, it will look like mashed potatoes. Cook over low heat for about one minute.

Transfer the dough to a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for about 30 seconds. On medium speed, add the eggs, about 2 tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition.

 The dough should still be soft, but will still hold its shape when piped. Put the dough into an 18-inch pastry bag, fitted with a large (1/2-inch) round tip.

Holding the pastry bag straight up and down, hovering about ¼-inch off the parchment, pipe out about 36 balls of dough, each one ¾ inch wide and ½ inch tall. Try to get them the same size and about 1-inch apart.

If there are any points on the top of your dough balls, gently rub them flat with a wet finger.

Bake the cream puffs for about 25 minutes. Remove one of the puffs and break it open, if it is still wet inside they need more time in the oven. You will want to switch the top tray with the bottom tray at this point. Don’t switch them before now, or they may collapse. When they are done, the inside will be hollow and the outside crisp and golden brown.

Once the cream puffs are cooled completely, poke a small hole in the bottom with a paring knife. Fit a 12-inch pastry bag with a small  (¼ inch wide) round tip. Fill, about 1/3 full, with some of the raspberry preserves and squeeze a small amount into each of the puff pasties through the small hole in the bottom.

In another 12-inch pastry bag with a small (¼ inch wide) round tip. Fill this one with the room temperature ganache, which should be the consistency of icing when it is fully set up.

Melt the remaining ganache gently over a double boiler, just until it is soft enough to dip the cream puffs and get a shiny glaze. Remove from heat and repeat with the rest of the cream puffs. Set the dipped puffs back on the cookie sheet and place them in the refrigerator until the ganache on top is set.  See the full how-to here.

Serve with tea, coffee or a tall glass of milk.

Here's everything you need to make these yourself:

Zoë François, author of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day  and Artisan Pizza and Flatbreads in Five Minutes a Day , studied at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She now calls Minneapolis her home, where she has worked with some of the top talent in the culinary world — Steven Brown, Andrew Zimmern and many chefs at the D’Amico company. In addition to writing, Zoë teaches baking classes and consults at restaurants, and she maintains her baking blog, zoebakes.com .

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