Cream puffs are a delightful treat that – now that I think about it – I don’t have nearly often enough. They start with choux paste, which is baked into hollow pastry pillows that can be filled with a wide variety of things, from whipped cream to ice cream. I tend to think of them as a “fancy” dessert option because they involve several different components, but they’re actually quite straightforward to make. These Double Chocolate Cream Puffs have a chocolate pastry cream filling and are topped with a chocolate glaze. They’re bite size (big bites) and just as good for a weekend snack as they are for entertaining with.
While the choux paste is what gives the cream puffs structure, you really need to start by making the chocolate pastry cream for this recipe. The pastry cream is essentially a thick chocolate pudding that is piped into the center of the puffs. It needs to be made first because it requires several hours to cool (though an ice bath can be used to speed things along, if you need to). I prefer to make my pastry cream the night before or the morning before I intend to serve the cream puffs, so it has plenty of time to cool and thicken.
The pastry cream has a nice chocolate flavor that it gets from melted dark chocolate, and just the right amount of sweetness. It’s not overly rich, which means that you will be able to eat an extra puff without feeling too full. I used a good quality dark chocolate (about 70% cacao) for my pastry cream and recommend that you do the same to get the best flavor, but the recipe will even work if you’re just using semisweet chocolate chips.
The choux only takes a few minutes to put together, so I usually preheat the oven while I prepare it. I pipe my choux into 1-inch balls (about the size I might use for chocolate chip cookies), which bakes into 2-bite cream puffs. You can make your puffs larger or smaller, but bear in mind that you’ll need to adjust the baking time if you do.
Once they’ve cooled completely, prepare the glaze so it is ready to use as soon as your cream puffs have been filled. You can pipe the pastry cream in using a pastry bag or cut the cream puff in half and dollop in the cream that way. I do suggest that you whisk the pastry cream before filling your cream puffs, as it will thicken up considerably as it chills. The cream puffs are best if they are eaten right away, though I do have it on good authority that they are also tasty once they have been frozen (I have family members who prefer them that way). If you’re not going to eat them all in one night, don’t fill them all up. The leftover choux puffs can be stored in a plastic bag and freshened up in the oven (then cooled again) before filling if you want to make a second batch the next day.
Double Chocolate Cream Puffs
Chocolate Pastry Cream
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
2 1/2 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp butter, cut into 2-3 pieces
In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a simmer.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly stream in the milk once it reaches a boil, whisking the egg mixture continuously. Once all the milk has been incorporated. Pour the mixture through a strainer and back into the saucepan.
Bring to a simmer and allow the cream to thicken for 30 seconds or so, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla extract and butter.
Transfer to a clean, dish and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cold (or chill using a water bath), at least 4 hours.
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
3 1/2 tbsp butter (1.75 ounces), melted
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup flour
2 large eggs
Combine milk, water, butter, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously until dough comes together in a ball. Continue to cook and stir for one additional minute.
Transfer dough to mixer or clean bowl and let mix at a low speed for 2 minutes until slightly cooled. Add eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated to add the next one. Increase mixer speed to make batter smooth.
Transfer choux to a pastry bag fitted with a round tip (or simply cut off the corner of one) and pipe choux into 1-inch balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until well browned and dry.
Set aside to cool completely.
2 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup water, divided
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
In a small, microwave-safe bowl, melt dark chocolate and 2 tbsp water, stirring until smooth.
In a large bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar, cocoa and remaining water, along with the melted chocolate mixture. Mix until icing is very smooth. If icing is extremely thick, add in a few additional teaspoons of water. It should have a thick, syrupy consistency.
Dip unfilled cream puffs in the icing to coat them. Icing may thicken as it cools, but it can be reheated in the microwave for a few seconds to loosen it up. Allow puffs to set for about 10-15 minutes, or chill to speed up the process.
Scrape pastry cream into a piping bag fitted with a tip (round or star) and pipe chocolate cream into the puffs until they are full. Serve immediately.
Makes about 16 cream puffs.