Whether you’re looking for a Valentine’s treat or something sweet to chase away the winter blues, these strawberry mango cream puffs are the perfect baking project! They are so, so fun to make and incredibly fresh and delicious. Thanks to a couple magical ingredients, these sweet little pastries boast an intense fruity flavor that will transport you to a tropical location (or at least bring to mind memories of warmer days!).
Pâte à choux
Pâte à choux, or choux pastry, is really a magical thing. Mastering choux opens up a whole world of cream puffs, eclairs, crullers, gougeres and other delicious pastries; so it’s really worth spending time to get comfortable making it. (I’ve even got a whole chapter of choux recipes in my cookbook!) Honestly, making choux is not hard; as long as your recipe is solid you just need to make it a few times to get a sense of the visual cues and dough consistency, and to work out the best practices for your oven. If you’re new to choux, I recommend reading this tutorial at IronWhisk and this article on Serious Eats for a plethora of useful tips. Then just practice! Once you’ve got it, you’ve got it.
If you’ve ever wondered how professional bakeries get perfectly round cream puffs with that pretty crackly top, the answer is craquelin! Craquelin is basically a simple cookie dough. You roll it out thinly, then punch out little round cookies the same size as your piped choux dough. These cookies are placed on top of the choux right before baking; as the pastries bake, the craquelin bakes onto the puff, crisping and cracking along the way. Craquelin adds a hint of sweetness and texture (plus extra wow factor!) to your cream puffs, but feel free to omit it.
To make these strawberry mango cream puffs as written, you’ll need a couple of special ingredients. The first is strawberry couverture chocolate — I used Valrhona Strawberry Inspiration. This type of chocolate is made with freeze dried fruit for an intense and natural fruit flavor. It is truly delicious — I have to hide mine to keep my kids from snacking on it! I bought mine from a local baking supply store, but Strawberry Inspiration is readily available online. If you can’t source this ingredient, you can substitute regular good-quality white chocolate and make a whipped white chocolate ganache instead.
The second specialty ingredient is freeze-dried mango. I got freeze-dried mango at Trader Joe’s, but again it’s fairly easy to find online or at specialty food shops. You cannot substitute regular dried fruit or puree in this recipe as the water content and flavor intensity is not the same. However, you can substitute another freeze-dried fruit or just omit the freeze-dried fruit if you prefer; the filling will still be delicious.
- While there are a lot of components in this recipe, none of the steps are very hard and you can spread out the work over a couple of days. I like making the strawberry ganache and craquelin a day ahead, then the rest of the components the day of serving. I’ve also included make-ahead notes in the recipe for additional options.
- If you’re short on time, you can make just one of the fillings! If you do just the strawberry ganache, I would cut off the top third of each puff with a serrated knife, then pipe the filling inside. Replace the tops after adding the filling. Alternatively, fill the puffs with lightly sweetened whipped cream, pastry cream, or ice cream.
- I have large baking sheets and can bake off this entire batch at once. Depending on the size of your baking sheets, you may need to bake on two sheets. I prefer to bake one sheet at a time for best results. The second sheet of piped choux can be kept at room temperature while the first bakes (wait until right before baking to put the craquelin on). Raise the oven temperature back up to 425F before baking the second sheet. Alternatively, bake both sheets at the same time on racks in the upper and lower thirds. Bake the puffs for at least 25 minutes before rotating the sheets.
Strawberry Mango Cream Puffs
Makes about 18 medium cream puffs
For the whipped strawberry ganache:
- 175g strawberry inspiration chocolate
- 350g heavy cream
For the craquelin topping:
- 42g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 50g light brown sugar
- 50g all-purpose flour
For the choux pastry:
- 75g water
- 75g milk
- 70g unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 100g all-purpose flour, sifted
- 150g eggs (about 3 large), at room temperature and lightly beaten to combine
For the mango cream:
- 50g freeze dried mango
- 50g granulated sugar
- 78g cream cheese, cold and cubed
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 300g heavy cream, cold
- Sprinkles, freeze-dried fruit bits, fresh fruit slices (optional)
- Make the strawberry ganache: Finely chop the strawberry inspiration chocolate and place in a heatsafe bowl. In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream until steaming. Remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, then gently whisk until combined. Cool to room temperature, then press a sheet of plastic wrap against the surface and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 5 days.
- Make the craquelin topping: In a small bowl, beat the softened butter and brown sugar until smooth. Add the flour and mix until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto a piece of parchment paper. Place another piece of parchment paper on top and roll dough to about 1/16″ thickness . Freeze while you prepare the choux. (Craquelin can be made up to 1 month in advance; freeze, well wrapped, until ready to use — no need to defrost.)
- Make the choux pastry: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle and line a large baking sheet (see baker’s notes) with parchment paper.
- Combine the water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a strong simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally. As soon as the mixture is simmering, remove the pot from the heat and dump the flour in all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or spatula until the flour is completely incorporated.
- Return the pot to low heat. Continue stirring vigorously until the mixture clears the side of the pot and forms a ball and a thin film forms on the bottom of the pot, about 2 to 3 minutes. The dough should register 170-175F on an instant-read thermometer and be stiff enough that if you stick a small spoon in it, the spoon remains upright. Immediately transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the dough on low speed for 1 to 2 minutes to release the steam. An instant-read thermometer should read no warmer than 140F —any hotter and you’ll cook the eggs when adding them!
- When the dough has cooled sufficiently and with the mixer still on low, add about one-third of the beaten eggs in a slow, steady stream. Mix until the egg has been completely absorbed, then add more egg 1 tbsp at a time, mixing each addition in completely before adding more. When you’ve added most of the egg and the dough has taken on a glossy sheen, check the dough consistency—a finger dragged through it should leave a trough and a peak of dough should form where the finger is lifted. Once the dough passes this test, it’s ready. You may not need all the egg—I usually have 1 to 2 tbsp leftover.
- Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with a large round piping tip. Pipe mounds of dough about 1 3/4 in diameter on the prepared baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each.
- Cut the craquelin rounds: Once all the puffs have been piped, remove the craquelin dough from the freezer. Let stand at room temperature for a minute or two to soften slightly, making it easier to cut. Use a round cutter the same diameter as the puffs to cut out circles of dough, one per puff. Gather and reroll the scraps as needed. Place one craquelin round on each puff, pressing lightly to adhere.
- Bake the choux: Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375F and continue baking for another 20-25 minutes, or until the puffs are completely golden brown and feel hollow when you pick one up. About 5 minutes before the puffs are done, use a skewer or small knife to poke a small hole in each puff to help them crisp (avoid opening the oven door before this as the heat loss may cause the puffs to collapse!). Once the puffs are done, turn the oven off, prop open the door, and allow to cool in the oven for about 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. (You can freeze baked choux buns in an airtight container for up to 2 months; defrost at room temperature right before filling. You can make them a day ahead and store at room temperature for up to a day, but you’ll want to recrisp them in a 325F oven for about 10 minutes as the pastry will soften. Cool completely before filling.)
- Make the mango cream: In the bowl of a food processor, combine the freeze-dried mango and sugar. Pulse until the mango has broken down into a fine powder, about 1 minute. Add the cream cheese and salt and pulse to combine. Scrape down the sides of the food processor. Add the cold cream and process until the mixture resembles very thick yogurt, about 45-60 seconds. Be very careful not to over-process as you’ll end up with a fruit butter! Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate until needed.
- Whip the strawberry ganache: Using a handheld mixer or whisk, whip the chilled strawberry ganache until it thickens, lightens in color, and holds medium-stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a french star tip. Refrigerate until needed.
- Assemble the strawberry mango cream puffs: Use a chopstick to poke a hole into the bottom of each puff. Snip off the tip of the piping bag holding the mango cream. Insert the tip into the hole and pipe in the mango cream until the puff feels heavy. Repeat until all puffs have been filled. Pipe a swirl of whipped strawberry ganache on top. Garnish with sprinkles, chopped bits of freeze-dried fruit, or slices of fresh fruit. Enjoy immediately, or refrigerate and enjoy within 4 hours of assembly. The puffs will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, but the pastry will get progressively soggier with time.