My mom has been making cream puffs using a recipe from a Gold Medal flour holiday recipe booklet for years. It was just a small tiny booklet that was full of recipes designed for the holidays; it didn't have anything fancy, and it wasn't special at all really, but that was where my mom got her recipe for cream puffs, and that's the recipe we've always used.
Until I lost that little booklet...oops.
I didn't mean to actually lose it...it's not like it was done on purpose. In fact, maybe I wasn't the person that actually lost the book. It's entirely possible that my mom or my sister may have misplaced it. I just happened to be the person that realized it wasn't where it always was, hence, "I lost it." Sigh.
I was not about to let this tiny detour stop me from making cream puffs. That would have been silly. After all, all cream puffs are made the same way, using pretty much the same recipe. You see, cream puffs are made with a basic choux pastry (also referred to as pâte à choux), which is used to make all kinds of different pastries, such as cream puffs, profiteroles, éclairs, and French crullers, among other things. All choux pastry contains the same basic ingredients, and is prepared in the same manner. The process is a bit strange, because you actually have to cook choux pastry twice: first, the pastry gets prepared on the stove top in a saucepan, and second, it gets put into a piping bag and is piped onto baking sheets and baked in the oven. Kinda strange, but also pretty awesome I think.
The recipe I've given below uses the ingredients off a recipe I took from Epicurious, because I couldn't remember the exact quantities of water and butter that I needed. The steps to make the choux pastry are different though. I chose to stick to the method I had always used to make them, which is in reality, hardly different at all from the method given in the Epicurious recipe. I just like to let my choux pastry rest for a bit before I begin to add the eggs, that's all.
I chose to keep these cream puffs on the simple side, filling them only with a little plain whipped cream and topping them with powdered sugar. In the past, I've gone all out and drizzled them with chocolate ganache and caramel, and they're delicious like that, but this time, I just wanted something simple...or maybe it was just that I ran out of heavy cream before I could make a ganache and was too lazy to go out and buy more...but let's not say that. I was totally going for the simple look from the beginning.
adapted from Epicurious
1 cup water
5 1/3 tablespoons butter (about 3 oz)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with Silpat liners or parchment paper.
In a saucepan, combine the water, butter, sugar, and salt, and bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Once the butter has melted completely, reduce the heat to medium, and add all the flour at once. Quickly begin to stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon until the dough begins to pull away completely from the sides of the saucepan and comes together into one ball. Remove the dough from the heat, set aside, and allow to stand for five minutes.
After five minutes, mix in the eggs, one at a time (an electric mixer is helpful with this part; I like to simply use a regular hand mixer and mix everything directly inside the saucepan). Scrape down the sides of the saucepan, and make sure to fully incorporate each egg before adding another one.
Once the eggs have been added, place the dough into a large pastry bag that has been fitted with a large round tip (I forget which exact tip I used, but it is an Ateco tip). Begin to pipe small mounds of dough on the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about an inch apart (there should be enough dough to make about 4 dozen cream puffs in total, and since they don't spread out very much, they should all fit on the two baking sheets).
Bake the cream puffs at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake another 15 minutes. You'll know the puffs are ready if you break one open and the inside is hollow. Allow the puffs to cool completely.
Once the puffs have cooled completely, slice them in half using a serrated knife. Keep the tops with the bottoms, or don't slice through completely, so that the cream puffs look uniform. Fill the cream puffs with a small amount of whipped cream (I used about 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream to make enough whipped cream for all four dozen puffs). Arrange the cream puffs on your serving dish, and dust with powdered sugar.