Cream puffs


It seems that a new food craze in New York these days are cream puffs from a store called Beard Papa, on the Upper West Side. It's owned by a Japanese company. This makes sense to me, because cream puffs are a part of my childhood in Japan.

I am not sure why cream puffs became so popular in Japan. But I remember always anticipating the 5 for 300 yen bags available at the local grocery store. They were about palm-size, for a 10 year old. The cream filling must have been rather stable since they were sold packaged. The outside of it was crispy yet curiously tender, and the cream would burst inside the mouth when you bit into them. They were just delicious to me, and I used to beg my mother to get them quite often.

For a long time I've been unable to get cream puffs just so. Eclairs seem to be more available for some reason, but to me, an eclair is not a cream puff. I don't really want that glaze and stuff on top - the only adornment a cream puff needs is maybe a sprinkling of sugar, but really, it's good enough even without that. The choux pastry casing is just the perfect vehicle for custard cream - you can keep your cream filled donuts and horns and the like.

Cream puffs are very easy to make really, though not a quick thing. You need good custard cream to go inside, and you need the puff itself, which is made of choux pastry. The custard needs to be made well in advance and cooled, and the puff needs to be fresh out of the oven, for ultimate deliciousness. It seems that's the success formula for Beard Papa's.

You may also choose to fill your puff with whipped sweetened cream, or softened vanilla ice cream. But then, it's not a cream puff to me any more.

And yes, if you follow this blog regularly, these are what I was thinking of when I thought of puffy, cloudlike things.)

Cream puffs with custard filling

  • One batch of choux pastry
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups whole milk, or light cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped out and put into the milk
  • 1/2 cup of flour and cornstarch combined (or one or the other alone), blended and sifted
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter

Make the custard filling several hours in advance.

Heat the milk with the vanilla bean slowly. (You can also use vanilla extract instead, in which case you'd add about 1 tsp. at the very end.)

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar and salt with a whisk until the mixture is a pale lemony yellow. This indicates that the sugar has melted into the yolks. Add the flour-cornstarch mixture.

Fish out the vanilla bean from the hot milk, and add the milk in dribbles to the egg mixture, stirring constantly. Heat over a low to medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, for about 2-3 minutes until you can't detect any floury taste. Add the butter, and the vanilla extract at this point if you didn't use a vanilla bean.

Let cool for several hours, covered. You may want to adjust the vanilla before serving.

In the meantime, make the choux buns.

To fill the buns, you can be fancy, which means using a pastry bag (or a plastic bag with a nozzle attached), or simply cut them in half and fill with a spoon. It's sort of fun to just lay out the buns and let everyone fill their own. That ensures maximum crispy-to-creamy contrast.

Filed under:  dessert favorites

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Cream puffs were going to be my next guess. really! :P

It's a part of my childhood memory, too. My mom used to make them, and she would call them shu-kuriimu, which I thought sounded unappetizing back then-- shoe cream? isn't that what you use to shine leather shoes? But they were always delicious.

Yep they were called 'shu-kuriimu', which is the Japanglish (or..Japancais?) of choux-cream I guess. :)

this sounds criminally good.

I like the kind made with pastry dough myself: Cozy Corner has them sometimes.

Beard Papa is kind of a low-end place along the lines of a "crepe" shop in Japan, located mainly inside the food courts of big "supers." Their cream puffs have way too much custard, which isn't very good to begin with, but the outer crust is hot out of the oven, so I guess that accounts for the popularity in NY.

When I was a teenager, I was trained as a pastry baker at a small company in Connecticut called Yankee Pastry Co - Yankee went out of business in the 80s due to mismanagement, but that's another story. In making our eclairs and puffs, we used the same choux recipe, just a different shape. The finished choux were cooled and then filled with fresh custard and covered in chocolate. The finished eclair/puff was then cooled in refrigerated transit so that the custard was smooth, firm and dense. The proper eclair (to my jaded mind) has always been the cooled version with decadently dense custard - I have adapted the recipe to chocolate custard, (almost any flavor is possible, but be sure to experiment BEFORE you waste perfectly good pastry on bad custard). I am always disappointed with local eclairs unless the filling is REAL custard (not whipped cream or weeping pudding) and the pastry has a nice semi-crunchy exterior with a nice chewy interior. Too much custard is a bummer too. Sprinkled powdered sugar or a flavored glaze can be substituted for chocolate, but I can't bring myself to do that. I fondly remember eating a dozen at a sitting (nevermore)... do yourself a HUGE favor and spend the time to make eclairs or puffs and enjoy.

this is kind of a late post to this topic, but i just read an article in 'the economist' about the beard papa craze must be a success if it makes it into the pages of the economist, usually more concerned with dreary politics and economics (mostly). the article cites the fact that the puffs are baked, not fried, and not too sweet as the reason for its success (over, say, krispy kreme donuts - fried, sweet etc etc).

I eat shuukuriimu quite often, but I still dream of these daily:


I would like the information about how to enter for the free cream puffs at the State Fair!

Hello, i'm Mike. I am in grade 9 and i need 20 dessert recipes. or a printable cook book

Hi. I'm planning to attempt your recipe. Thanks for sharing. Question though, the ingredient list contained butter but there is no mention of what to do with it. Please advise.

Sorry about that Gin - you just stir it into the custard at the last moment. It makes it just a bit creamier. I've edited the recipe to add that.

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The custard i made came out liquidy even after staying overnight in the fridge... what did i do wrong? Oh and it's 1/4 cup of flour with 1/4 cup of cornstarch right? or is it 1/2 of each? Sorry i'm not that great at baking!

It's 1/2 cup combined, so 1/4 cup each should work. You probably didn't cook the custard long enough - in this case, it's not the chilling that makes the sauce thicker, it's the cooking. You should cook it until it's quite thick - when you stir it up with a wooden spoon, the sauce should coat the back of the spoon (so that if you draw a finger through it the line you draw stays clear for a few seconds). That being said, this recipe was one I posted about 5 years ago and I know it lacks good step by step pictures...I should really post some soonish!

HI, I tried making your recipe, but it turned out lumpy?