Cute Animal Cream Puffs
Coming back from a 5-week family vacation in Vietnam, I wanted to make something visually appealing if I was going to rehydrate my dry Instagram feed after not posting anything for more than a month. These cream puffs are inspired by @sweet_essence_ panda cream puffs that I found browsing Pinterest at 3 AM in the morning. Goodbye waking up at 7 AM to get breakfast; old habits die hard.
These cream puffs are made from a classic pate a choux batter, filled with pastry cream and whipped cream, and decorated with chocolate to make animal faces. Making the chocolate animal faces was surprisingly the most frustrating step. The chocolate kept melting while I was trying to place the facial shapes on the whipped cream. Tempered chocolate would be the best bet for this but, to be honest, that’s just way too extra for me and I’m already being extra by making these in the first place.
But y’all. Make these cream puffs. The combo of pastry cream and whipped cream is ev-er-y-thing. Make. these. Skip the faces if you need to. Hell, make a whole bowl of pastry cream and eat that. I won’t judge.
This recipe isn’t too complicated to make but can be temperamental in the result; make sure to follow these instructions carefully. For visual video reference, watch my cream puff Instagram highlight: @pokethedough if I haven’t figured out how to have my Instagram feed on here. I’m new to this y’all.
Makes 14-16 Cream Puffs
For the pastry cream:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2 cups whole milk
4 egg yolks
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tsp vanilla
For the choux batter:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup), cut into 8 pieces
1 teaspoon and 2 tablespoons sugar separated
1/2 teaspoon table salt or 1 tsp kosher
1 cup all-purpose flour
3-5 large eggs
1 egg for the egg wash
2 tablespoon dark/semi-sweet chocolate chips/chunks
Starting with the pastry cream: whisk together 1/2 cup sugar with 1/4 cup cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan.
In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together 2 cups of milk with 4 egg yolks.
Pour the milk mixture into the cornstarch mixture while whisking together well.
Add in 2 tablespoons of butter; place on medium heat, whisking periodically.
When it comes to a boil, whisk thoroughly for another minute and take off the heat; add in a splash of vanilla.
Pour and press the custard through a sieve to get rid of any eggy bits.
Plastic wrap so that it touches the pastry cream and completely covers the surface. Cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
Next is the choux batter: Preheat your oven to 450F.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup water, 1 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 stick of butter cut into 8 pieces.
When it comes to a boil, immediately add in 1 cup of flour and turn down the heat to low. Stir vigorously to combine.
When the dough is smooth and balls up and there is a thin film at the bottom, remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl to cool for 5 min, stirring to help cool it down.
With one egg at a time, add the egg in and stir vigorously to combine. The mixture will look separated, but keep mixing until the batter is smooth and matte again. Repeat with another egg, until the dough forms a V when you lift your mixing tool up. Usually, it will be around 4-5 eggs, but my kitchen was warm and humid, so I ended up using only 3 eggs. Be sure to start checking after the third egg.
Pour into a large piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and pipe a bit of batter in each corner to help it stay.
Pipe 1.5-2 inch mounds of batter an inch or two apart from each other. Using a wet finger, pat down the peaks, if you have any, to prevent burning on top.
Whisk together 1 egg and 2 tsp of water. Gently brush and pat the dough with the egg wash.
Turn off the 450F preheated oven, and place on the middle rack. Bake for 10 min with the oven off.
Turn the oven on to 350F and bake for 20 more min, making sure not to open the oven door. Place the puffs on cooling racks when they are done baking.
While waiting for those to bake and cool, make the whipped cream: whisk together 1 cup heavy cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 tsp vanilla. Whip to stiff peaks and chill in the fridge.
Make the chocolate shapes: melt dark chocolate in the microwave in 10-second bursts, being careful not to burn. Pour into a small piping bag fitted with the smallest tip you can find or a small Ziploc with a tiny corner cut off.
Pipe out facial features of your choice onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the fridge to set, about 5-10 min.
Assemble: Take out the chilled pastry cream and whisk it to soften and smooth it out again. Slice off the tops of the puffs and fill the cream puff “bowls” halfway with pastry cream.
With a large round tip-fitted piping bag, pipe the whipped cream on top of the pastry cream, trying the best you can to make a neat and smooth mound; this will be the animal head.
Take out your chocolate shapes, and using a butter knife and toothpick, pick the shapes off the parchment paper and decorate the puffs to your liking. If the chocolate starts melting, put it back in the fridge to set.
Serve now or chill in the fridge for up to a day.