Entries in pate a choux how to (1)


Valentine's Day Dessert Recipe: Heart-Shaped Cream Puffs

Cream Puffs are so simple and so delicious. Stuff them with just about anything you like: Pastry Cream, Chantilly Cream or Marscapone Cream but blackberry preserves and flavored whipped cream are the French classic version. If I have time, I make vanilla pastry cream for the filling which takes about 40 minutes to make and chill. If I don't have that kind of time, I simply add a few delicious flavors to some whipping cream and pipe it into the little puffs.

For Valentine's Day, I piped the dough into hearts... so easy and inexpensive and yet, so impressive. Nothing says I love you like a fluffy puff of dough stuffed with delicious cream! You can drizzle the top with chocolate, sit them in chocolate sauce or simply sift powdered sugar over them. You can do this.... I promise but please take the time to read the recipe all the way through before you start.  I have a step by step guide to walk you all the way through! This recipe and the pastry cream are versions of the tons of pate a choux recipes which exist. The two are pretty fool-proof and I have made them a million times. 



Makes about 22 small puffs or about 15 heart-shaped puffs

Prep: 10 minutes    Bake: 20 minutes   Difficulty: Intermediate

Supplies: Cookie sheet, parchment paper, piping bag or ziptop bag (don't use a cheap one- it will break)

This is a classic Pate a Choux dough. I always mix mine by hand because I don't want to wash the extra bowl of the mixer but some believe (Alton Brown and Jacques Pepin do use a mixer) that you have to use a mixer to incorporate the eggs. I did a blind taste test and I cannot tell the difference in taste nor in texture or appearance.


1 cup water

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup all purpose flour

4 eggs 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Get out a large measuring cup or short glass (I find a pint mason jar works great) and put the ziptop bag into it, open the top of the bag. This will give you some stability as you spoon the dough into the bag.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Put the water, butter, salt and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until the butter is just melted. Reduce the heat to very low. Add the flour all at one time, mixing with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat until you start to see a little "film" on the bottom of the pan- only about 1 minute. The dough will come together in a ball. Remove from the heat and allow to cool just a little bit but not too much; the dough has to be warm to accept the eggs. If the dough is too hot, you cook the eggs. This is not good.

If you are using a mixer, this is the time to transfer the dough to the bowl of your mixer. I will just use the same saucepan and put it on top of a dish towel to keep it from slipping around as I beat in the eggs. It is essential to add the eggs one at a time to your dough. I usually put all 4 eggs in a small bowl and just slip them in, one at a time, beating each with a wooden spoon until it is incorporated then I add the next egg and repeat. At first, it will seem as if you've made a mistake but do not stop. In a few seconds, the dough will go from slippery to a bit sticky as the egg is accepted into the dough. Do this 4 times. Take care not to be too aggressive with the wooden spoon because I have actually tossed an egg out onto the floor... that is how slippery the dough is in the beginning.

Once you have the eggs fully incorporated, spoon the dough into the pastry bag or ziptop bag you have set up. You can use it right away or it will hold beautifully in the fridge until you are ready to use it. I have waited a day or more, in fact, but bring the dough to room temperature before you try to pipe it onto the baking sheet or you may blow out the side of the ziptop bag.

Pipe the dough into heart shaped or little puffs (see photo at the top) For the heart, draw the outside and then fill in the middle. For the puffs, I find that swirls don't cook as pretty as simply applying pressure to the bag until the puff is the size I want, then pull the bag back.

Before you put the into the oven, wet your finger with water and push down any little peaks so they don't burn.

Bake the puffs for 10-12 minutes at 425 degrees. Open the door and quickly rotate the pan and reduce the heat to 350 degrees for 10-12 more minutes. It is important not to simply switch the pan to an oven set to 350. The puffs will deflate.

I've had to trial and error this timing with my oven... and to my taste. I don't want dried out puffs but I also don't want them too eggy. Grab one out, let it cool slightly and check the inside to see if it is what you want. If so, remove them from the oven.

Take a small knife or even a toothpick and puncture the top of the puff so the steam can escape. Allow them to cool on a rack before filling.

1. Boil the butter in water with sugar and salt. 2. Add all of the flour and stir over very low heat until you begin to see a "film' on the bottom of the pan. 3.Remove from heat, add eggs, one at a time. Dough is slippery until the eggs are excepted. 4. The dough with all four eggs mixed in. 5. Put a ziptop bag over a glass or something to stablize it. 6. Put the dough into the corner of the bag and snip the end.  


This is a fast and easy filling. Below I have included the recipe for pastry cream, which I dearly love but takes a bit longer to make.

1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1/2 cup Confectioners sugar

1/2 tablespoon Vanilla extract

1 tablespoon bourbon (I like Four Roses)

In the bowl of your mixer, add the whipping cream and sift in the Confectioners sugar with the mixer on low speed. Add the vanilla and bourbon. Increase the speed to high and beat until the cream forms peaks that hold... but careful not to over beat. Spoon into a ziptop bag and pipe into the center of the puff. OR for a more dramatic appearance, slice the top of the puff off, add a large mound of the cream and put the little top on it. Dust with Confectioners sugar or drizzle with chocolate.


Pastry cream is a classic French filling and used for many purposes. It does take a while to make and chill before you can use it but it is beyond delicious! You can add bourbon or any other flavors you want.

Makes 2 1/2 cups

Prep: 5 minutes    Cook: 12 minutes      Chill: 30 minutes

Supplies: Large bowl filled 1/2 full with ice water

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup milk plus 3 ounces more (a little more than 1/2 cup)

1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise but not cut through

8 egg yolks in a medium heat-proof bowl

1/2 cup granuated sugar

6 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 stick unsalted butter 

Put 1 cup of milk, the cream and the bean in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer. (you will see the little bubbles foaming around the edges of the pot)

Remove from the heat and allow the bean to infuse the mixture for 15 minutes. While you are waiting, you can fill a large bowl 1/2 full with ice and cold water. Set aside.

Remove the bean, scrape out the seeds from inside the pod and stir them back into the milk-cream mixture. Discard the pod.

Add the sugar to the yolks and whisk for 30 seconds to help dissolve the sugar.

Put the saucepan back onto medium heat and bring it back to a simmer. Once you reach the simmer, temper the eggs by briskly whisking a small amount of the hot mixture into the eggs; keep whisking constantly; adding a little more of the hot mixture into the eggs. Continue whisking it in until you have it all incorporated and then return to the saucepan. 

Next, use a fork to whisk the cornstarch into the remaining 3 ounces of milk. I just use the measuring cup because it shows the ounces on the outside. It is just under 1/2 cup of milk.

Put the saucepan back over medium heat. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Continue whisking or stirring over medium heat. Suddenly, you will notice it beginning to thicken up. Don't think you have ruined it or curdled it. Just keep stirring until it just comes to a boil. Remove from the heat. 

Put the saucepan into the ice bath you prepared earlier; take care not to allow any water to get into the pan and continue stirring to cool the custard a bit. Add the butter and stir until it is completely melted and incorporated. Transfer to a bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap or spoon into a piping bag. Refrigerate until ready to use.

TO SERVE: Several options. Dust with powdered sugar. Dip or drizzle with chocolate. Any-all are good! To make a quick chocolate drizzle: 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped and 2 tablespoons heavy cream. Put in a microwave safe bowl and nuke for 15-20 seconds or so- just until the chocolate softens. Stir to incorporate and the chocolate is completely melted and smooth. You may need a few more drops of the heavy cream to get the consistency you like. ENJOY! You will make these for the rest of your life once you perfect them!