Plain vanilla cream puffs
We don’t always need fancy flavours, do we? These puffs are indeed ‘plain vanilla’ but I couldn’t resist the temptation of making a rose icing to go on top. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make whatever topping/filling you like. Be the master of your own puffs! In France, these little choux with a caramel topping are also known as croquembouche (literally something that crunches in your mouth) and traditionally served stuck together in a tower-like shape at weddings and christenings. But if you ask me, there’s no need to wait for a big celebration to make them. This recipe is a bit time-consuming but most of the ingredients are pretty basic.
To make 30 cream puffs, you need:
Plain vanilla cream puffs
- 125 g plain flour
- 100 ml whole milk
- 100 ml water
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 75 g butter
- 4 eggs
Vanilla pastry cream
- 1 vanilla pod and/or 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 400 ml whole milk
- 4 egg yolks
- 100 g granulated sugar
- 40 g cornflour
- 30 g butter at room temperature, cut into cubes
Rose fondant icing
- 40 g white chocolate
- 60 g fondant icing (or icing sugar)
- 1 tsp rose water
- A few drops of red colouring (optional)
To make the pastry cream
- Pour the milk into a saucepan. Add the vanilla extract and/or vanilla seeds (slice your vanilla pod in half lengthwise and scrape the interior to remove the seeds) and bring to a simmer. Once it starts simmering, remove from heat.
- In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until pale. Add the cornflour.
- Pour a little bit of the hot milk on the yolk mixture and combine. Then, add the mixture to the rest of the hot milk in the saucepan and slowly bring to the boil. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until it starts to thicken.
- Remove from the heat and pour the cream into a bowl. Let it cool for around 10 minutes before folding in the butter.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and leave it to cool completely.
To make the little puffs
- Preheat the oven to 180°C.
- In a saucepan, mix together the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt and bring to the boil.
- Remove from the heat and add all the flour. Beat thoroughly with a spatula.
- Return the saucepan to a medium-low heat and continue stirring for 1 minute or so until the mixture dries a little. Remove from the heat.
- Add the eggs one after another, beating the mixture each time until homogeneous.
- Allow to cool slightly before transferring the dough to a piping bag fitted with a 1 cm-plain nozzle. Line two baking sheets with baking paper. Pipe 3 cm-diameter puffs onto the sheets. Place the puffs in the oven and cook for about 20-25 minutes or until slightly golden.
- Remove the puffs from the oven and let them cool on a rack.
- Whisk the cold pastry cream to remove any lumps before transferring it to a piping bag fitted with either a 0.8 cm or 1 cm plain nozzle.
- Make a little hole in the bottom of each puff and fill them with the cream (don't overfill them though).
For the rose fondant
- Place a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and melt together the white chocolate, fondant icing or icing sugar, rose water and the red colouring, if using.
- When well combined, let the rose fondant cool slightly. Dip the top of each puff in the fondant and let them set in the fridge. And that's the end of our cream puff marathon!
If you want caramel rather than fondant topping to make real croquembouches (I love using this word), just melt 200 g of sugar with 4 tablespoons of water in a saucepan on a medium heat until it starts getting slightly golden. Remove from the heat and dip the top of your puffs in the caramel. Be extra careful as the caramel is extremely hot!