When I was a little girl, I loved visiting my grandparents. I loved seeing them, but because they spoke very little English, and I was very little, I’m ashamed to say that the reasons I really liked visiting them is because my uncles would take us to Chuck-E-Cheese, and cream puffs were always in the house by the crateload. This would be one of the few exceptions that my mom would make for our non-dairy/no-sugar diet, and boy it was heavenly. Those perfect pink boxes containing the rising clouds of flaky goodness, and the custard that oozed out because it just couldn’t be contained… good times.
4 to 5 large eggs
Place racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and the mixture is brought to a simmer, lower heat slightly, and add flour all at once. Stir immediately using a stiff heat-proof spatula or a wooden spoon. Stir until the mixture thickens, pulls away from the side of the pan, forms a mass, and the bottom of the pan is clean. The mixture will be glossy and damp.
Cook the dough over a low flame. This will allow moisture to evaporate from the dough, allowing it to absorb more fat when the eggs are added. Stir for about 5 minutes. A thing gluten coat will form along the bottom and sides of the pan. When enough moisture has evaporated, the dough will steam and the cooking flour will smell slightly nutty.
Immediately transfer the dough to the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, releasing some of the heat from the cooked dough. Add four eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is thoroughly incorporated. Stop the mixer between each egg addition and scrape down the bowl. After beating in the last egg the mixture should be glossy and thick… but still juuuust pourable. When scooped into a spoon, the dough should slowly pour off the spoon. If it doesn’t fall, or it fall in one giant clump… beat in the 5th egg.
Spoon the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch pastry tip (I used a gallon zip lock bag with the corner snipped off. Worked okay in a bind…not ideal though). On the prepared sheets, pipe out dough into circles so that they are about 1 1/2-inches across, about about 3/4-inch tall. Space them about 1 1/2-inches apart on the sheet pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans from bottom shelf to top. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F, and bake for 15 minutes more.
Remove a cream puff from the oven and slice in half. If the inside is not gooey, but still just moist, they’re done! If they’re gooey, bake for another 3 minutes.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on the pan. -Joy the Baker
Poke a hole just big enough for a small pastry tip, and with a pastry bag filled with your favorite filling (pudding, custard, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, you name it), gently squeeze till you feel the puff “fill up.” It kinda looks like a balloon, and if you put too much in, it’ll pop. Guaranteed.