These maple cream puffs are subtly sweetened with maple syrup for a delicate, yet different flavor in a classic.
There’s something magical about a classic. They’re universal and yet intensely personal. Somehow, a good classic can convey a sense of familiarity and yet broaden our horizons all at the same time.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a fashion, a great book or movie, or a piece of art that we all recognize and relate to. A classic can speak to (almost) anyone and give us a meeting point, something to relate to each other over.
Food is, I think, one of the most universally spoken classics language. So when you’re approaching a classic to tweak or modify, it always feels like you’re treading on somewhat sacred ground. And for me, pastry is the holy grail of recipes. Master chefs have spent centuries creating and perfecting techniques, and hundreds of people (myself included) have spent countless hours trying to master those techniques to varying degrees.
So when I decided to work on a recipe for cream puffs that were a little different, I decided that I should just leave well enough alone in the pate au choux department. I mean, who needs flavors in their choux? The space for really flexing a creative muscle with cream puffs is in the filling. And what better for a creamy, cold weather flavor than some maple?
The maple flavor always makes me feel all the fall and winter vibes. Stacks of warm pancakes or bowls of piping hot oatmeal covered with the sweet, sticky drizzle—It doesn’t get much more comfort food than that. Also, memories of reading about the maple sugar gathering from Laura Ingalls Wilders’ Little House in the Big Woods when I was a little girl always makes me want to go eat snow drenched in syrup. The sprinkling of powdered sugar on these definitely channels the snow idea, right? I think it’s as close as this Georgia dweller is going to get for now. Plus it adds another layer of delicate sweetness that doesn’t take attention away from the flavor of the cream.
So tell me, what are your maple favorites? I hope these puffs become one of them.
These cream puffs are subtly sweetened with maple syrup for a delicate, yet different flavor in a classic.
- 1 cup water
- 6 Tbsp butter
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 5 eggs
For the Pastry Cream
- 2 1/4 cups milk, divided
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- 4 egg yolks
- 6 Tbsp. cornstarch
- 2 Tbsp. flour
- A pinch of salt
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp. butter
For the Puffs: Preheat your oven to 400° and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
Set out all of your ingredients before beginning and beat four of the eggs into a bowl until they are smooth.
Place the water, salt, sugar and butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to ensure the butter is melted before the water boils.
As soon as the water boils and the butter is melted, immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and add the flour all at once, mixing quickly. Return the saucepan to the stove and stir vigorously for 15-20 seconds until the mixture forms a ball around the spoon and is beginning to leave a film on the bottom of the pan. Remove from the heat.
Allow the dough to cool for 5-10 minutes so that it won’t instantly cook the eggs. Add about 1/4 of the beaten eggs to the pan and beat them in with the wooden spoon. The mixture will seem lumpy and strange at first, but as you continue to beat it will become cohesive and smooth.
Repeat this process three more times with the rest of the beaten egg. At this point, you will want to test the dough. Hold up a scoop on your spoon and turn it sideways. If the choux dough stays in a firm ball or falls off of your spoon in a ball it needs more egg. You want it to fall off in thick but smooth ribbons. To achieve this consistency, beat the 5th egg until smooth, then beat in tiny bits of the egg until the dough is ready.
While still warm, transfer the choux dough into a pastry bag fitted with a piping coupler. In one continuous squeeze, make balls of dough that are about 1.5” on the tray, leaving at least an inch between them. Place the tray in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, then remove them from the oven and pierce the side of each with a skewer or a sharp-tipped knife. Return the puffs to the oven and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until the tops are a deep golden brown.
Repeat the baking process with any remaining dough.
For the Pastry Cream: In a medium mixing bowl, beat together the egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the milk. Add in the flour, cornstarch, and salt and beat until smooth with no lumps remaining. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, warm the 2 cups of milk and maple syrup over medium heat until it is steaming and small bubbles are forming around the edge. Pour a small amounts (a few tablespoons at a time) into the egg mixture, and whisk it in until smooth. Do this with about half of the milk to bring the eggs up to a similar temperature, then whisk it all back into the pot. Lower the heat to medium low and cook the mixture while whisking briskly and constantly. Do not leave it for even a second, as the maple syrup can scorch easily and the eggs will curdle.
Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture is thick, about the consistency of yogurt. Immediately remove it from the heat, then whisk in the vanilla extract and butter until it is completely melted. Pour the mixture into a clean bowl and cover it with plastic wrap so that it is touching the cream. Set it in the refrigerator until it is completely chilled.
To fill the puffs: Fit a piping bag with a round piping tip and a coupler (something like Wilton’s round tip 8) and fill the bag with the pastry cream. If the cream has set thicker than you would like, whisk in a tablespoon of milk at a time until it has reached the desired consistency. Spoon the maple pastry cream into the bag.
Find the slits in each of the puffs, and insert the piping tip into it. Squeeze the pastry cream into each puff until it is filled. Sprinkle the tops with powdered sugar and serve. Store in the refrigerator.
You can bake the puffs ahead, and they can even be frozen. To re-crisp them, just place them on a baking sheet in an oven preheated to 350° for about 5 minutes
For the pastry cream, you will need real maple syrup. The higher the grade, the darker, thicker, and richer your cream will be, but any real syrup will do the job.
When filling the puffs, you will feel the pastry getting heavier as you fill it, and you should be able to see the cream at the opening when you remove the tip.
Keywords: Cream Puffs