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The Cream Puff

A light and fluffy cream puff ready to eat. Photo by flickr user jeffreyw.

Pâte à choux sounds like the name of a pretentious French restaurant where everyone wears tiny hats and exaggerates her vowels. Like the kind of place that would refuse to take reservations and consistently employ waiters who act like they’re doing you a favor by serving you.  But really, pâte à choux is very humble and simple:  It is the dough used to make éclairs, profiteroles, and cream puffs, and it requires little more than water, butter, eggs and flour. Such a versatile little dough can end up being so many different treats, it seems a shame to focus on just one, but in this post I’m going to tell you about the pinnacle of fluffy French pastries: the cream puff.

Oh, the cream puff: so light and innocent, with a name that practically makes fun of itself. You have to love the unassuming gentleness of a cream puff, but even if you can’t appreciate the simple joy of a silly little puff, you must agree that it tastes damn good.  But don’t let the light as air pillows of happiness fool you—these wily little pastries require the utmost attention and care.  Allow me to provide you with my do’s and don’ts of creampuffery:

DO read the recipe like, four times before you actually start cooking.  There are multiple little steps that you must complete, and they all have to be done while the dough is still warm enough to be malleable.

DON’T eat the batter before it’s cooked. First of all, there are five raw eggs in it, but secondly it tastes gross.

DO watch the oven temperature. You have to lower the temperature after fifteen minutes of cooking to ensure the right shade of golden brown.

DON’T fill the puffs until they’re cooled enough. No one likes melted nonsense inside her puff.

This is the recipe I used, and if you’re feeling super ambitious you can take all those little puffs, stack them into a pyramid and make a croquembouche! Happy Puffin’!