How to make perfect profiteroles (aka, cream puffs)
Profiteroles (cream puffs) are buttery little balls of choux pastry (pâte à choux) baked until light, tender, and puffed up to form a hollow center. They are the perfect vessel for pastry cream, ice cream, whipped cream, all varieties of savory ingredients, or anything your imagination and taste buds, can dream up.
What are profiteroles and why would you want to make them?
Profiteroles are buttery little pastries that are a blank slate for a remarkable variety of fillings and toppings. Fill them with any kind of pastry cream, ice cream, or simple whipped cream. Top them off with a simple dusting of powdered sugar or whatever dessert sauce strikes your fancy.
Profiteroles are essentially the same thing as Eclairs – Piped Choux Pastry (“choux” is pronounce like shoe). Both are meant to be filled with something sweet (or savory) and creamy and topped with a dessert sauce, frosting, or glaze. The only difference between eclairs and profiteroles is the shape. Eclairs are oblong, shaped kind of like a hot dog bun. Profiteroles are smaller and round, making the perfect little two or three-bite treat.
I can’t imagine that asking the question, “Why would you want to eat profiteroles?” is valid under any circumstance. Might as well ask why you want to breath. But, why would you ever want to make them?
I’ll give you 4 great reasons:
- Prep time is minimal. Choux pastry takes about 15 minutes to make. After that, it’s just a matter of letting them bake.
- They give off the impression of being fussy and difficult to make, but aren’t. Did you ever see that commercial with the mom reading a novel in the kitchen while her family waited patiently for her to make a batch of “super difficult” and time consuming rice crispy cookies? Making profiteroles is kind of similar. They look like something you need mad baking skills and loads of spare time to make. In reality, they are one of the most simple, fast, and easy pastries to have ever been invented.
- They can be filled with practically anything under the sun – sweet or savory. Here’s an example: I made the very profiteroles that you see in these photos for a dinner party, filling them with ice cream and topping them with a wine reduction dessert sauce. I had about 8 leftover (unfilled). So, I used some leftover chicken to make a quick chicken salad and my husband and I feasted on adorable little chicken sandwiches for lunch the next day.
- Knowing how to make profiteroles is a culinary secret weapon. If you know how to make profiteroles and have some ice cream in your freezer or whipped cream in your refrigerator, you can whip up a delicious, impressive dessert in less time than it would take most of us to head to the grocery store or bakery and buy something pre-made. Likewise, fill them with any variety of seafood, meats, cheeses, eggs, spreads, dips, or salads for a super impressive appetizer that you can whip up with whatever ingredients are in your refrigerator or pantry.
I want to pause for a moment to emphasize that last point – profiteroles are an ingenious blank slate. A vessel for anything.
Depending on what you fill them with, they can be finger food or something to be eaten with a plate and fork. Filled with savory ingredients, they are a perfect appetizer or light meal. Filled with something sweet, they become a simple afternoon snack or an elegant dessert.
The magic of Choux Pastry and how to get it right every time.
Choux Pastry is one of those incredible inventions that I can’t imagine how it ever came to be. It originated in France a few hundred years ago… but how??? This question fascinates me. Because somehow, what starts out as a thick, pasty, somewhat dense and heavy dough, puffs up into hollow little clouds of tender pastry as it bakes. It’s magical.
As I can’t seem to stop emphasizing, making Choux pastry is easy. Alright already. BUT (there’s always a but) – there are a few things little tricks to getting it to puff up right every time. Read through this once, start to finish, before you get started making a batch, and you’ll be golden.
Add some milk, water, unsalted butter, salt and sugar to a saucepan and bring it to a full, rapid boil. “Traditional” choux pastry recipes don’t include sugar and generally call for only a tiny pinch of salt. I like to add a tablespoon of sugar and a full teaspoon of salt for a very simple reason: I like flavor.
Without a bit of sugar, and especially without salt, choux pastry is incredibly bland. While you want it to play a supporting role to whatever you’re filling and topping your profiteroles with, I fail to understand why anyone would want their pastry to be bland.
Even if you’re planning on making a savory filling, add the sugar. 1 tablespoon isn’t enough to make the pastry taste sweet – it just adds a bit of flavor and a nice chewiness to what might otherwise be slightly tasteless and tough. Likewise, if you’re making a sweet filling, do not leave out (or reduce) the salt. Salt does more than make food “salty”. It brings out the flavor in foods, emphasizing flavor and making food taste more like itself.
Add the flour. Pour it in all at once and stir until it forms a dough. Cook the dough for about a minute longer, smushing it against the side of the pan as you do. This will cook the flour so that the baked profiteroles don’t taste floury. Cooking the dough for a bit also builds the structure profiteroles need to not collapse while baking.
Dump the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer and let it cool down for a few minutes before adding the eggs.
Add the eggs. For this choux paste recipe, you’ll need approximately 4 eggs. It’s super important to not add more liquid to the dough than it can handle. How much you need depends on a lot of different factors including climate, humidity, the brand of flour you used, if the flour was too tightly packed, how large each of the eggs are…. etc. It might even vary from batch to batch.
Rather than worry about all that, crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them together. Then, with your mixer running, add the eggs slowly, bit-by-bit, paying attention to the dough and incorporating only enough to create dough that’s shiny and thick enough to hold its shape when piped.
For me, this almost always means leaving a tablespoon or so of egg in the bowl, which can be saved to brush over the dough right before baking to give them a lovely shiny surface.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent the profiteroles from sticking to the baking sheet while they cook. Then, sprinkle the parchment with a bit of water. This creates a more humid environment for the profiteroles as they bake, helping them rise as much as possible and not dry out.
Scoop the batter into a pastry bag that’s been fitted with a large round pastry tip and pipe golf ball sized mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, leaving about 3-inches of space in-between each one. Dip your finger in water (to keep it from sticking to the dough) and tap down the tops of each ball of dough, smoothing out the top.
Brush the dough with a bit of egg that’s been whisked with about a teaspoon of water and bake.
Two things that are super important about baking profiteroles:
- DO NOT open the oven while the profiteroles bake because this could cause them to collapse.
- Bake until the profiteroles are a rich golden brown and appear to be completely dry. If they look even slightly wet, let them bake a bit longer. If the dough is not baked through, they will collapse when you take them out of the oven.
Now for the fun part. The many fillings and toppings for profiteroles…
My two favorite ways to eat dessert profiteroles is stuffed with either ice cream or pastry cream, but you can also simply fill them with whipped cream. They’re also marvelous with fruit curd. Or fruit curd mixed into whipped cream or pastry cream. Or with whipped cream and fresh fruit. Or, with chocolate ganache mixed into pastry cream. The sky’s the limit.
Top profiteroles with a simple dusting of powdered sugar. OR, drizzle them with…
- Hot fudge
- Salted caramel sauce
- Caramel Rum Sauce
- Butterscotch sauce
- Blueberry sauce. Or, ANY kind of fruit sauce or syrup.
So. Many. Options.
The profiteroles you see here are the very happy result of tasting the white and red wine poaching liquids after poaching pears for this Pear and Almond Tart. The tart is made by letting pears simmer in wine and sugar, and OMG. The tart is delicious, but the wine that the pears have simmered in is TO DIE FOR.
As the pears poach, all the alcohol evaporates, leaving behind a gorgeous substance that is pure liquid gold. If you keep simmering the liquid until it reduces to about a half a cup, you have the most delicious sweet wine dessert sauce that its perfect for drizzling over ice cream filled profiteroles.
How will you fill and top your profiteroles??? Leave me a comment letting me know. ❤️
Helpful tools for making profiteroles:
- Large disposable pastry bags
- Ateco 11/16″ Plain 809 Pastry Tube (Large round decorator tip)
- Medium (3 quart) saucepan
- Wooden spoon or rubber spatula
- Stand mixer
- Baking sheet
- Parchment paper
- Pastry brush or small, clean paint brush
You might also like…
- Perfect Pastry Cream
- Cannoli Filled Napoleon
- Mini Butterscotch Eclairs
- French Cruller Doughnuts (Also made with Choux paste and SO easy!)
- Chocolate Eclairs filled with Pastry Cream
- The Classic French Napoleon Dessert
- Chai Vanilla Pots de Creme
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #ofbatteranddough on Instagram.Print
Profiteroles are buttery little balls of choux pastry with a hollow center, making them the perfect vessel for ice cream, pastry cream, or whipped cream.
- 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 large eggs
- Egg wash (optional): 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water *See note
Fill with whipped cream, ice cream, pastry cream, any kind of fruit curd, or any combination of your favorite fillings.
Make the Choux Pastry:
- Add the butter, water, milk, salt, and sugar to a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Bring mixture to a full boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously until the flour is completely incorporated and the mixture forms a thick ball of dough. Cook the dough for 1 minute longer, stirring constantly and using the back of your spoon to mash the dough against the side of the pan.
- Dump the dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. (*See note) Allow to cool down for about 5 minutes before proceeding.
- Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk to combine. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, slowly add the eggs in 4 or 5 separate additions, being sure to incorporate one addition before adding the next. The dough might look a bit curdled at first; just keep beating and it will come together. Add the last bit of beaten eggs very slowly, watching the dough carefully. When the dough looks shiny and thick enough to pipe and hold its shape, stop adding the eggs. I almost always have a tablespoon of beaten egg leftover which I then use for the egg wash.
*At this point, the dough can be used immediately or kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Bake the profiteroles:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of water over the surface of the parchment paper to create a humid environment for the profiteroles to bake.
- Scoop the choux pastry dough to a pastry bag fitted with a large round pastry tip. Pipe golf ball sized mounds of dough onto the pastry sheet, leaving about 3 inches of space between each one. (If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can also use a zip top bag with one of the corners cut off.)
- Dip your finger in water and press down the pointy top of each mound of dough to create a rounded top.
- To glaze (optional, to create a shiny surface): Whisk 1 egg with 2 tsp of water. Using a pastry brush or clean paint brush, brush the glaze over the surface of each profiterole. *If you had any leftover eggs from making the batter, you can use that.
- Bake the profiteroles for 20 minutes. Keeping the oven door closed, reduce the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 13-16 minutes until they are a deep golden brown and do not look wet at all.
- Allow the profiteroles to cool completely on the baking sheet before filling.
- Use a fork or sharp knife to split the profiteroles open. Fill with whipped cream, ice cream, pastry cream, any kind of fruit curd, or any combination of your favorite fillings.
Top profiteroles with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or:
- Hot fudge
- Salted caramel sauce
- Caramel Rum Sauce
- Butterscotch sauce
- Blueberry sauce. Or, ANY kind of fruit sauce or syrup.
- Sweet wine syrup (leftover from poaching pears in wine)
Cover and store unfilled pastries at room temperature for 1 day, in the refrigerator for 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before filling and serving.
- If you don’t end up using all the eggs to make your choux pastry dough, save whatever’s left over for the egg wash and you won’t even need the extra egg.
- You can also use a handheld mixer to make choux paste if you don’t have a stand mixer.
Keywords: profiteroles, cream puffs, choux pastry, pâte à choux, ice cream filled profiteroles, pastry cream