This week in class we made cream puffs. I have a few tips to share with you if you're interested in trying this at home. Some recipes require a little more adult guidance than others and this is definitely one of those recipes. Some of the stove top cooking will need to be done by an adult and a good amount of muscle is needed when stirring the pate a choux (cream puff dough). Still, it's fun and totally manageable with kids.
I would recommend making your filling (we used pastry cream) a day ahead so that it has plenty of time to cool. The recipe for pastry cream is pretty quick to make. The stove-top whisking might require an adult to take over, as the heat sometimes can get too intense for kids. I find that having smaller children stand on a sturdy step stool makes stove top cooking a little easier for them. It's hard to stir a pot when you're too short! Adults should remain very close by to supervise this stage, even if their kids are able to do the stirring on their own.
Cream puffs are best the day they are made. While they can be made in advance and stored, unfilled, in the freezer, they lose their crispness quickly and will never be quite as delicious if they aren't eaten same day. Here's a breakdown of the time needed: 20-25 minutes to make and cool the dough, 10-15 minutes to shape the dough (your mileage may vary here depending on how much your kids like this part!) 60 minutes to cook and cool your cream puffs, 15-20 minutes to fill your cream puffs. So essentially you need just over 2 hours to make these.
Shaping the cream puffs can be very simple- either using a small scoop (a cookie dough scoop or small ice cream scoop) or even a spoon, form a small ball about 1 inch in diameter. Space them out about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet to leave room for expansion. Another method is filling a piping bag with the dough and, cutting a fairly large opening in the tip, piping little mounds onto the cookie tray. No matter what gets piped out, you will probably end up with something that can be filled with some pastry cream, but if you want a more reliable puff, I recommend using the little scoop.
If you want to fill your cream puffs without cutting them open you will need a special piping tip. I bought a bismark piping tip from Amazon. This requires a little more patience and skill from your little baker. The cream likes to come shooting out of the wrong end of the piping bag, and it's hard to know how much cream is in the puff until it comes exploding out! A simplified, but also acceptable way, is to cut your cream puffs open and spoon or pipe (no tip required) the cream in the middle, then place the top back on your cream puff and eat them!