Mini cream puffs and mini eclairs are a fun dessert for giving or entertaining. They are very simple and, better yet, you can make them ahead! If you have some basic ingredients and a piping bag, you’re set to make a classic pâte à choux. The shells can be frozen by themselves or filled, and you can pull them out to thaw when you're ready to serve. We used to make a very "easy" Bavarian cream in the bakery which was simply vanilla pudding and heavy whipping cream. Not authentic, it makes a delicious rich cream to fill the éclairs.
Ingredients for the Dough:
1 stick of butter
1 cup of water
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of sugar
1 cup of flour
4 whole eggs
For the Cream Puff Filling
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
a. pinch of salt
Easy "Bavarian Cream" For the Éclair filling:
Instant Vanilla Pudding
1/2 cup of whipped heavy whipping cream (the same used for the cream puffs)
In a sauce pan, melt the butter and water together and bring to a rolling boil. Add the salt and sugar and 1 cup of flour to the boiling mixture and turn off the heat. With a wooden spoon, mix in the flour to combine. The dough will form a ball. Turn the burner back on and continue to stir the dough vigorously over medium heat for approximately 3-4 minutes to cook out the raw flour. If you notice the sides of the sauce pain begin to scorch turn off the heat. Add the dough to a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Turn the mixer on to medium speed. Since the dough is very hot, you will notice steam releasing from the dough while the mixer is going and this is normal. Add eggs one at a time until all are combined. Continue to mix the dough on medium speed until it becomes a thick and soft dough, this will take approximately 1-2 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment. Fill a large piping bag with a round or star tip with the choux. . Fill the piping bag with the dough and squeeze out a small amount to push out air any air bubbles. Hold the tip of the bag straight down at a 90 degree angle and pipe out small circles. Stop squeezing and flick the tip clockwise to avoid forming tiny peaks.. If you get small peaks on each piped circle, wet your finger with water and push them down. The reason we don't want the tiny peaks on pastry is because they will brown the fastest and burn in the oven. No one wants little burnt peaks on your cute cream puffs!
For piping eclairs, pipe a straight line onto the parchment, spacing them approximately 1" apart. You can play with the shapes and do swirls. To make an eclair with ridges, you'll need a large open piping tip that I've linked here, as well as filling tips if you'd like to fill larger pastry.
Be sure to let the shells bake for the full 15 minutes, or longer depending on size and thickness. Do not disturb the oven. Pull out the shells when they are a deeper golden brown rather than lighter.. Slightly over-baked is far better in this case than under. If the cream puff shells are underbaked, they will collapse and deflate as soon as they cool down. We want a nice, light, crispy shell. Let the shells cool completely before filling.
To make the filling:
For the cream puff filling: Whip cold heavy cream on high speed using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks.
To fill the cream puffs and éclairs:
Prepare the instant vanilla pudding according to the package instructions. Fold in whip cream and set aside.
Fill a pastry bag with a fine round tip with the cream filling. Use the tip to poke a small hole in the side of the shell and fill with cream. Do this carefully as to not burst the shell. Dip the top of the eclairs in melted chocolate and sprinkle with sprinkles or embellishments before it sets.
Top the cream puffs with powdered sugar. Enjoy!!