There are some things that are just straight up fun to make in the kitchen. Meringues, obviously. Swedish cinnamon buns, once you get past all the yeast-induced and “how in the world am I supposed to turn this mound of dough into those pretty twisty spirally things” panic. This 2-ingredient ice cream, because hot damn who knew that a can of evaporated milk could become so dreamy and delicious.
One of my favorite things to make is pate a choux, which is basically just a fancy French name for an eggy dough that starts with water, butter, and flour on the stove top (although this recipe uses coconut oil in place of that traditional butter), and then involves beating in a whole bunch of eggs to form a glossy, dripping batter that’s ready to be piped onto a baking sheet. It’s the dough that’s used to make everything from eclairs to gougeres, but here it’s just spooned straight as is to form the base of one of my favorite desserts, cream puffs.
If you’ve never made pate a choux before, it might seem a little weird at first. After boiling your water and oil, you dump in the flour all at once, cooking it over heat until you have a smooth mass of dough that, frankly, seems a little too thick and dense to be right. Surely this isn’t going to puff up into lighter-than-air cream puffs, right?
No… but it will after we add the eggs!
Eggs are beaten in one at a time, waiting just long enough for your dough to get just a little bit smoother and glossier before adding the next one. Eventually you’ll get a rich, slightly yellow batter that’s just spoonable enough to plop onto your baking sheet. Then into the oven, where those mounds will puff up into golden brown clouds as effortlessly as Jennifer Aniston’s hair.
Let them dry out, slice in half, then fill with an assortment of options. I love just plain, slightly sweetened whipped cream, but coconut whipped cream or a pastry cream of your choice are also wonderful. And chopped chocolate will never not be a brilliant idea. Obviously.
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Coconut Oil Cream Puffs
Makes about 25-30 cream puffs
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons water
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
To fill: whipped cream, pastry cream, or coconut whipped cream
Preheat oven to 400F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a saucepan, combine the sugar, salt, coconut oil, and water. Cook over medium heat until the coconut oil is completely melted, then bring to a bowl over medium high heat. Remove the pan from the heat, add the flour all at once, then stir with a wooden spoon until completely combined. Return to heat, and continue to stir the mixture until it forms a smooth ball and comes away from the side of the pan (about 1-2 minutes).
Using a hand mixer or an electric mixer, beat the dough on low speed to release some steam and cool it down, about 1 minute. Next, add the eggs one at a time, waiting a little bit after each egg is fully incorporated before adding the next. Continue to beat for at least two minutes after you add the last egg, until you have a smooth, glossy batter.
Using a spoon (or a pastry bag if you want to be fancy), drop mounds about 1-2 inches in diameter on your prepared baking sheet. Baker for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350F and continue to bake for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and remove the pan from the oven. Poke a holes in each of your cream puffs, then place back in the oven until the shells are dried out, about 15-20 minutes.
To serve, split each shell in half and fill with desired filling. If you want, you can dust the puffs with powdered sugar. Assemble just before serving. Leftover puffs can be stored in the fridge.