Vanilla Cream Puffs (Choux Au Craquelin)

By: takestwoeggsPosted: 02/09/2021 Updated: 28/11/2023
Prep 1 hour
Cook 45 minutes
Total 2 hours 45 minutes
It is love at first sight with these angelic cloud-like vanilla cream puffs that came straight down from French pastry heaven. This buttery, vanilla, custard-filled choux pastry will level up your baking skills from 0-100. BONUS! They are an instant fan favorite.
Vanilla Cream Puffs (Choux Au Craquelin)

It is love at first sight with these angelic cloud-like vanilla cream puffs that came straight down from French pastry heaven. This buttery vanilla custard-filled choux pastry will level up your baking skills from 0-100. BONUS! They are an instant fan favorite.

Close up of a creme puff garnished with a viola flower

These vanilla cream puffs are my mom’s go-to recipe for our family events. They have a crispy outer shell that encases a smooth buttery vanilla custard. I grew up eating these at least once a month. While other moms were making cookies and brownies, mine was making these vanilla cream puffs and puff pastries. My mom was enamored by French baking and as a result of my upbringing so am I. There is something about the delicate nature of French pastries and the intricate textures and flavors that make them absolutely perfect. If you make these vanilla cream puffs for your next event or gathering, everyone will 100% be impressed by your baking skills. If you like this recipe, you may also love my Strawberry Matcha Cream Puffs.

A sliced open creme puff sitting on a plate in front of more creme puffs

Pâte à Choux or Choux Pastry

A cream puff or choux pastry or choux au craquelin was originally called pâte à choux because it originated in France in the 1540s. It is called choux because in French that means cabbage. The choux pastry gets its name simply because the little cream puffs resemble little cabbages.

This pastry is a delicate pastry dough that only contains butter, water, flour, and eggs. Instead of a traditional rising agent like baking soda or baking flour, the high moisture and steam from cooking the butter and water are what create the rise in the puff pastry.

Looking up close of a sliced open creme puff

Kitchen Equipment

  • Kitchen Scale: a kitchen scale will ensure exact measurements to this recipe for a full-proof cream puff. My pink kitchen scale from Amazon has been extremely reliable in all my bakes.
  • Rolling pin: a rolling pin is necessary to roll out the craquelin cookie. I prefer using a French rolling pin rather than a standard rolling pin because I feel like I have more control but you can use whichever rolling pin you feel more comfortable with.
  • 2-inch cookie round cutters: you will need the cookie to be larger than the puff so that the cookie can encapsulate the entire puff and the puff will not outgrow the cookie to be all wonky. 2-inch cookie round cutters were the safe option for me. I bought the nesting cookie cutters of various sizes so that I was not limited to one size.
  • Disposable piping bag and tips: piping bags are necessary for an even cream puff and make piping the whipped cream and cream filling so much less messy.
  • Parchment paper or slipmats: I swear by non-stick slipmat baking sheets as the best baking invention ever created. Nothing ever sticks to them and the choux puffs will roll off without a hitch. You can also use parchment paper as well.
  • Aluminum Half Sheet Baking Tray: my Nordicware Aluminum Baking sheets have lasted me over 100 bakes and will last me for probably a 100 more.
  • Electric mixer (stand or hand mixer): For the whipped cream, I recommend using an electric stand mixer or hand mixer. This will save you a lot of time and energy in trying to fluff up the cream.
  • Nesting Glass Bowls: nesting glass bowls are a kitchen staple when it comes to baking. They are helpful in creating a clean and organized work station where you can measure all the ingredients precisely without having too many items on the counter.
Someone dusting a row of creme puffs

Ingredients

  • Salted butter: this wouldn’t be a French pastry without butter!
  • All-Purpose Flour: plain and simple flour is used in the craquelin and the choux pastry.
  • Granulated Sugar: creates that beautiful texture on the craquelin.
  • Large Eggs: the eggs are necessary for the rise of the choux pastry and the custard texture in the cream.
  • Strawberry Sauce: You can find a more detailed recipe on how to make homemade strawberry sauce here.
  • Milk: the milk gives the custard that smooth creamy flavor.
  • Cornstarch: the cornstarch is used to thicken up the cream puff filling to create that smooth custard texture.
  • Vanilla extract: the vanilla adds the sweetness in the custard.
  • Heavy whipping cream: the heavy whipping cream is used to create that airy light diplomat cream.

How to Make Vanilla Cream Puffs

For these cream puffs with vanilla choux cream filling, you will need to create four different parts 1) the craquelin, 2) choux pastry, 3) vanilla choux cream, and 4) vanilla whipped cream (optional).

For the simplest choux au craquelin recipe, you can simply make the choux pastry and the vanilla choux cream. This is the original cream puff recipe that my mom has been using my entire life and it has always been an instant crowd-pleaser. The whipped cream is an extra touch to give the cream puff that extra wow factor.

  1. Beat butter and sugar. In a mixing bowl or using your stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  1. Mix in the flour. Scrape down the bowl. Pour in the flour and continue mixing until no dry flour remains and a damp, crumbly meal has formed.
  1. Shape the dough. Use your hands and bring the dough together to form a ball. Place dough on parchment paper and roll the dough into a 6×8 rectangle. Cover the dough with a second sheet of parchment paper and roll out the dough into 1/8 inch thick rectangle about 12×14 inch. Transfer dough to a baking sheet and freeze four 1 hour until solid.

Choux Pastry

  1. Boil butter and water. In a medium saucepan, on medium heat melt the butter and water. Bring to a boil/simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat to low and quickly stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir until a dough forms about 2-4 minutes. The dough should look similar to mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and transfer contents to a large mixing bowl to cool about 5 min.
  1. Incorporate in the eggs one at a time. Add each egg one at a time and stir vigorously to entirely incorporate each egg before adding the next egg. The dough will curdle and separate but continue mixing until it comes together before adding the next egg. The dough will be the right consistency if it is thick, shiny, smooth and pipe-able.
  1. Pipe onto a baking tray and add craquelin. On a silicone baking mat, either use an ice cream scoop or pipe the pastry at a 90° angle into 2-inch rounds. The dough should hold its shape when piped. Take the frozen craquelin sheet out and use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut out the discs. Place the craquelin discs on top of each choux.
  1. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until puffed and golden browned. For best results, bake one baking sheet at a time. Do NOT open the oven door until the shells are golden brown if you open the door too early this may risk deflating the shells.

Vanilla Cream Filling

  1. Whisk ingredients together. In a mixing bowl, whisk the milk, cornstarch, sugar, and egg yolk together until combined.
  2. Simmer the milk and mix with the egg mixture. In a medium saucepan, pour in the mixture and cook on medium-low heat whisking constantly until it thickens up and simmers.
  3. Add in butter and vanilla. Once the cream has thickened, turn down the heat to low and add the butter and vanilla extract. Stir and melt the butter. Once the butter melted, stop stirring and strain through a fine mesh sieve.
  4. Cover and chill. Cover with plastic wrap by pressing the plastic onto the surface of the custard to prevent skin from forming and place in the refrigerator to cool. Then transfer into a piping bag with a 1/2 inch round tip.
Custard filling for cream puffs in a pot
Thickened choux cream ready to be strained through a fine-mesh sieve.

Vanilla Whipped Cream

  1. If using gelatin, add the water to a small heat-proof bowl. Then sprinkle the gelatin across the top and let the gelatin bloom for 5 minutes. Then microwave the gelatin for 5-8 seconds or until dissolved. Add 1 tsp of heavy cream to chill the gelatin.
  2. Whip heavy cream, sugar and vanilla. In a chilled mixing bowl, using an electric mixer beat the heavy cream until frothy. Then add the sifted powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. If using gelatin, slowly pour the cooled gelatin in when the cream is at soft peaks and mix until combined and until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over whip where the cream is thick and chunky.
  3. Transfer to a piping bag with a star tip. Set aside.

Assembly

  1. Once the cream puffs have cooled, slice the tops off of the cream puffs. Pipe vanilla cream puff custard into the cream puffs until full. Then take the vanilla whipped cream piping bag and pipe a design. Place the cut lid of the cream puff back on top.

Alternative Filling Methods

There are so many different ways to fill a cream puff. You can slice the top open and pipe/or scoop the cream in, you can slice the cream puffs in half and scoop the cream in, you can poke a hole down underneath and pipe in the cream from the bottom. The choice is yours on how you would like to fill the choux pastry.

No matter your choice in filling the cream puffs, serve the cream puffs immediately after they are filled for best results.

Tips for The Craquelin Top

  • Make sure to freeze the cookie layer until it hardens for the easiest application. Also, make sure that the cookie is 1/8 inch thick and have a diameter that is wider than the choux diameter. Any thinner the cream puff may break through the cookie and you will lose that perfect mound.

Tips For the Choux Pastry

  • Make sure the butter and water is boiling before adding the flour. This is a crucial step in order to have the cream puffs rise and create that airy center. The dough leavens with steam rather than a chemical leavening agent (baking powder or soda) so the steam is VERY important.
  • Cool the dough after the stove before adding the eggs. This will prevent the eggs from cooking directly in the dough and creating scrambled eggs.
  • Mix in each egg completely before adding the next egg. When mixing the eggs in the choux pastry, make sure to put your arm muscles to use by thoroughly mixing each egg in before adding the next one. The eggs will make the dough slimy and separate them but it will come together again if you continue mixing.
  • Pipe the dough using a wide round piping tip at a 90 degree angle using even pressure. This step is important to create uniform cream puffs.
  • Don’t open the oven while it bakes. Wait until the choux pastry has puffed up and reached its maximum height before turning off the oven and slightly opening the oven to cool and get its crispy outer shell.

Tips For Vanilla Choux Cream and Whipped Cream

  • Keep a close eye on the saucepan when you are mixing in the ingredients. You want the cream puff custard to thicken but not curdle and create scrambled eggs. Keep mixing until thickened to prevent curdling. Once the texture thickens immediately stop stirring and strain through a sieve to sift out the cooked egg bits.
  • Use cold heavy whipping cream for the whipped cream. It is best to use cold straight from the refrigerator whipping cream. This will make whipping the cream so much easier and quicker.
  • If using gelatin, make sure the heavy cream is at soft peaks before pouring in the gelatin. You will want to chill the gelatin with a tablespoon of heavy cream before pouring in the gelatin to prevent the gelatin from clumping.

Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions

Vanilla cream puffs are best the day they are baked.

You can make the craquelin and the cream puff custard a day in advance so they have time to freeze and chill overnight.

Uncooked craquelin cookie dough can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Unfilled and baked vanilla choux au craquelin must be wrapped in plastic and stored in an airtight container on the counter. They can be kept frozen for up to 1 month. To reheat, set the oven to 350°F and bake on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes.

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Up close of a vanilla cream puff

Vanilla Cream Puffs (Choux Au Craquelin)

5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 45 minutes
Chill time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 45 minutes
It is love at first sight with these angelic cloud-like vanilla cream puffs that came straight down from French pastry heaven. This buttery, vanilla, custard-filled choux pastry will level up your baking skills from 0-100. BONUS! They are an instant fan favorite.
Servings: 12 servings
Print Recipe

Ingredients

Craquelin Cookie

  • 9 tablespoon (120 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup + 1 tablespoon (120 g) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup + 1 tablespoon (120 g) granulated sugar

Choux Pastry

  • 1 cup (250 g) water
  • ½ cup (112 g) salted butter
  • 1 cup (135 g) all-purpose flour
  • 5 large eggs ~275 g, may need less depending on the volume of the eggs

Vanilla Pastry Cream

  • 2 cups (500 g) whole milk
  • 3 ½ (32 g) tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 large egg yolks ~40 g
  • ½ cup (107 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons (21 g) vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120 g) salted butter 1 stick

Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup (250 g) heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup (25 g) powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon (3 g) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (3 g) gelatin (optional)
  • 1 ½ tablespoon (22 g) water (optional for gelatin)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 g) heavy cream (optional for gelatin)

Instructions

Craquelin

  • Beat butter and sugar. In a mixing bowl or using your stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy.
  • Mix in the flour. Scrape down the bowl. Pour in the flour and continue mixing until no dry flour remains and a damp, crumbly meal has formed.
  • Shape the dough. Use your hands and bring the dough together to form a ball. Place dough on parchment paper and roll the dough into a 6x8 rectangle. Cover the dough with a second sheet of parchment paper and roll out the dough into a 1/8 inch thick rectangle about 12x14 inches. Transfer dough to a baking sheet and freeze for 1 hour until solid

Choux Pastry

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or slipmat baking liners.
  • Boil butter and water. In a medium saucepan, on medium heat melt the butter and water. Bring to a boil/simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat to low and quickly stir in the flour with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir until a dough is formed about 2-4 minutes. The dough should look similar to mashed potatoes. Remove from heat and transfer contents to a large mixing bowl to cool about 5 min
  • Incorporate in the eggs one at a time. Add each egg one at a time and stir vigorously to entirely incorporate each egg before adding the next egg. The dough will curdle and separate but continue mixing until it comes together before adding the next egg. The dough will be the right consistency if it is thick, shiny, smooth, and pipe-able.
  • Pipe onto a baking tray and add craquelin cookie dough. On a silicone baking mat, either use an ice cream scoop or pipe the pastry at a 90° angle into about 1.5-inch rounds. The dough should hold its shape when piped. Leave about 1-2 inches between each choux. Take the frozen craquelin sheet out and use a 2-inch cookie cutter to cut out the discs. Place the craquelin discs on top of each choux.
  • Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes or until puffed and golden browned. For best results, bake one baking sheet at a time. Do NOT open the oven door until the shells are golden brown if you open the door too early this may risk deflating the shells. Turn off the oven, let the tray rest in the oven with the door partially open for 10-15 minutes for optimal crispiness. Remove from oven and let cool completely before filling.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

  • Whisk ingredients together. In a mixing bowl, whisk the milk, cornstarch, sugar, and egg yolk together until combined.
  • Simmer the milk and mix with egg mixture. In a medium saucepan, pour in the mixture and cook on medium-low heat whisking constantly until it thickens up and simmers.
  • Add in butter and vanilla. Once the cream has thickened, turn down the heat to low and add the butter and vanilla extract. Stir until butter is melted. Once the butter has melted, stop stirring and strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
  • Cover and chill. Cover with plastic wrap by pressing the plastic onto the surface of the custard to prevent skin from forming and place in the refrigerator to cool. Then transfer into a piping bag with a 1/2 inch round tip.

Vanilla Whipped Cream

  • If using gelatin, add the water to a small heat-proof bowl. Then sprinkle the gelatin across the top, mix and let the gelatin bloom for 5-10 minutes. Then microwave the gelatin for 5-10 seconds or until dissolved. Add 1 tsp of heavy cream to chill the gelatin.
  • Whip heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla. In a chilled mixing bowl, using an electric mixer beat the heavy cream until frothy. Then add the sifted powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. If using gelatin, slowly pour the cooled gelatin in when the cream is at soft peaks and mix until combined and until stiff peaks form. Be careful not to over whip where the cream is thick and chunky.
  • Transfer to a piping bag with a star tip. Set aside.

Assembly

  • Once the cream puffs have cooled, slice the tops off of the cream puffs. Pipe vanilla pastry cream into the cream puffs until 3/4 of the way full. Then take the vanilla whipped cream piping bag and pipe a design. Place the cut lid of the cream puff back on top.

Notes

Tips for The Craquelin Top

  • Make sure to freeze the cookie layer until it hardens for the easiest application. Also, make sure that the cookie is 1/8 inch thick and has a diameter that is wider than the choux diameter. Any thinner and the cream puff may break through the cookie and you will lose that perfect mound.

Tips For the Choux Pastry

  • Make sure the butter and water are boiling before adding the flour. This is a crucial step in order to have the cream puffs rise and create that airy center. The dough is leavened with steam rather than a chemical leavening agent (baking powder or soda) so the steam is VERY important.
  • Cool the dough after the stove before adding the eggs. This will prevent the eggs from cooking directly in the dough and creating scrambled eggs.
  • Mix in each egg completely before adding the next egg. When mixing the eggs in the choux pastry, make sure to put your arm muscles to use by thoroughly mixing each egg in before adding the next one. The eggs will make the dough slimy and separate them but it will come together again if you continue mixing.
  • Pipe the dough using a wide round piping tip at a 90-degree angle using even pressure. This step is important to create uniform cream puffs.
  • Don't open the oven while it bakes. Wait until the choux pastry has puffed up and reached its maximum height before turning off the oven and slightly opening the oven to cool and get its crispy outer shell.

Tips For the Pastry Cream and Whipped Cream

  • Keep a close eye on the saucepan when you are mixing the ingredients. You want the cream to thicken but not curdle and create scrambled eggs. Keep mixing until thickened to prevent curdling. Once the texture is thickened immediately stop stirring and strain through a sieve to sift out the cooked egg bits.
  • Use cold heavy whipping cream for the whipped cream. It is best to use cold straight from the refrigerator whipping cream. This will make whipping the cream so much easier and quicker.
  • If using gelatin, make sure the heavy cream is at soft peaks before pouring in the gelatin. You will want to chill the gelatin with a tablespoon of heavy cream before pouring in the gelatin to prevent the gelatin from clumping.

Nutrition:

Calories: 423kcal | Carbohydrates: 36g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 17g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 170mg | Sodium: 133mg | Potassium: 132mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 1001IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 82mg | Iron: 1mg

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