Strawberry Mango Cream Puffs

strawberry mango cream puffs

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.

Craquelin

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.

Specialty Ingredients

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.

Baker’s Notes

  • 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

Ingredients:

For the whipped strawberry ganache:
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
To finish:
  • Sprinkles, freeze-dried fruit bits, fresh fruit slices (optional)

Method:

  • 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.

Zeppole

zeppole

A couple years ago, my husband came home from work one day and asked, “Have you had a zeppole? They’re so good!” I had, in fact, never had a zeppole nor heard of them. So over the next couple of weeks, we went on a bit of an Italian bakery run trying to find zeppole for me to try.

Turns out zeppole are basically Italian doughnuts, and they come in many different forms: baked, fried, filled, and unfilled. After sampling a variety of zeppole, we realized our favorite were the Zeppole di San Giuseppe variety, which are basically doughnut-shaped cream puffs. Traditionally these are eaten to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day (a Catholic holiday in March), which is pretty much the only time you can find them in actual Italian bakeries in our area. But they’re too delicious to not be eaten the rest of year; and since they’re made from good ol’ choux, they’re easy enough to pull off at home!

A few notes:

  • Traditionally, this style of zeppole are garnished with canned sour cherries. This is delicious, but if you don’t have any you can just use some fresh fruit or a thick jam.
  • If you like a lighter/softer filling, you can whip up some heavy cream (I’d probably do 1/2 cup or so) and fold it into the pastry cream before filling the zeppole.
  • Zeppole are best consumed within 4 hours of assembling, but all the components can be prepared ahead of time: the pastry cream can be refrigerated up to 3 days and the choux rings can be baked and stored at room temperature for a couple of days (or frozen for longer storage). If the pastry softens during storage, recrisp by baking uncovered at 300°F for 5-8 minutes. Cool completely before filling.
choux pastry rings
baked zeppole

Zeppole

Makes about 10 zeppole

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe choux pastry (prepared through step 4)
  • 1 batch vanilla pastry cream (recipe below)
  • Thick fruit jam or preserves (I used strawberry)
  • Fresh fruit, canned sour cherries, or additional thick jam, to finish
  • Powdered sugar, to finish (optional)
For the vanilla pastry cream:
  • 1 1/2 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 100g granulated sugar, divided
  • 40g custard powder (or cornstarch)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 28g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Method:

  1. Make the vanilla pastry cream: Place a sieve over a heatproof container. Combine the whole milk and heavy cream in a medium saucepan along with 80g of the sugar. Whisk to combine.
  2. In a medium bowl, place the remaining 20g granulated sugar and sift in the custard powder or cornstarch. Pour in a splash of the milk-cream mixture and whisk to combine (this helps prevent lumpy custard). Add a bit more of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks.
  3. Bring the remaining milk-cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Once it has reached a simmer, remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium to medium high heat, whisking continuously.
  4. As soon as the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear, turn the heat to low and continue whisking on the heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into the prepared container. Whisk in the butter, followed by the vanilla extract.
  5. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled (at least three hours, or up to 3 days).
  6. Bake the zeppole: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle. On a large piece of parchment using a cookie cutter or other round object, trace about ten 2 1/2 inch circles. Space the circles at least 2 inches apart. Place the parchment on a large baking sheet (with the tracing on the underside so you don’t get pen/pencil onto your zeppole). Transfer the choux dough to a large piping bag fitted with an open star/French piping tip. Pipe rings of choux using the tracings as a guide. After you’ve piped all the bases, go back and pipe another, smaller ring on the top inside edge of the bottom ring. (If you have any dough left, you can pipe little cream puffs to use it up.) Dust the rings with icing sugar.
  7. Bake the pastry for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and continue baking until the rings are puffed and a deep golden brown — about another 20-30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet after about 30 minutes total baking time — avoid opening the oven door any sooner, or your pastry may collapse. After the rings are finished but still hot, pierce the bottoms with a skewer or paring knife and return to the turned-off oven for 10 minutes to allow the steam to escape and the insides to dry out (prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon). Transfer rings to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before filling.
  8. Assemble the zeppole: Whisk the chilled pastry cream to loosen and transfer to a piping bag fitted with an open star tip.
  9. Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the top third of the choux rings and set aside. Remove any soft bits from inside the shells.
  10. Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom of the rings. Pipe the cream on top. Place the tops back on and pipe a dollop of cream in the centers. Garnish with a sour cherry, fresh fruit, or a dab of jam. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (The pastry will eventually start to soften, so it’s best to fill the zeppole shortly before eating.)
baked zeppole with garnish

Maple Eclairs

maple eclairs

I’m relatively new to choux. I never had much interest in cream puffs and eclairs, because most of the ones I’d eaten before were just doughy puffs filled with whipped cream and unceremoniously dusted with icing sugar. I’d much prefer a slice of pie or cake, and being lactose-intolerant I’d rather suffer for eating ice cream over whipped cream.

But earlier this year I made choux pastry for the first time and I realized, this is really fun. Maybe I’m a little weird (ok, not maybe), but I find making choux very relaxing. I enjoy watching the dough transform from a curdled mess into a smooth paste and trying to pipe uniform shells. And it’s super satisfying seeing those doughy lines transform into light, airy shells ready to be filled with whatever your heart desires (though my 2-year-old will gladly gobble them up plain).

choux pastry

When the Maple Guild sent me a bottle of their organic bourbon barrel aged maple syrup to try, I thought an eclair would be a fun way to highlight the pure deliciousness of maple. Maple is definitely the star of this dessert, so please use the best quality syrup you can find!

A few notes:

  • The ingredient list and instructions may look long, but you can easily break the work up over a few days. I suggest making the pastry cream and praline first, as those can both be held in the fridge for a few days. Make the choux the day you plan to serve these eclairs.
  • If you’re new to choux pastry, I highly recommend reading this tutorial for choux tips! This is the recipe I’ve had best success using, though I’ve made a couple of changes (salt content and baking temperatures).
  • I typically make pastry cream with whole milk, but because we’re using a liquid sweetener (maple syrup), I’ve used part heavy cream for a thicker final texture. If you use all milk the final product may be a little looser and you’ll need to spoon the cream into the shells rather than pipe it.
  • I really like adding a crunchy element to eclairs (in this case, the praline) to add texture. If you’re pressed for time, I think a sprinkling of crushed pretzels would work well — something with a bit of salt to balance out the sweetness of the maple. If you go the pretzel route, add it right before serving or it’ll get soggy.

filled eclairs

Maple Eclairs

Makes 12 4-inch eclairs

Ingredients

For the Choux Pastry:

  • 75g water
  • 75g milk
  • 75g butter
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g bread flour, sifted
  • 150g eggs (about 3 large), room temperature and lightly beaten
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

For the Maple Pastry Cream:

  • 1 c heavy cream
  • 1 c whole milk
  • 1/3 c maple syrup
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 25g custard powder (or cornstarch)
  • 25g flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp maple extract (optional)
  • 28g unsalted butter, softened

For the Almond Praline:

  • 150g toasted almonds, chopped
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • Flaky sea salt

For the Maple Cream Cheese Glaze:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 4 Tbsp maple syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp cream, plus more if needed

Method:


For the choux pastry:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a ruler to draw twelve 4-inch lines, spaced by about 2 inches, to serve as a piping guide. Flip the parchment over so you don’t get pen/marker on your pastry.
  2. 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.
  3. Return the pot to low heat and continue stirring until the mixture forms a ball and a thin film forms on the bottom of the pot, 1-2 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should read 170F. Immediately transfer dough to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  4. Mix the dough on low speed for a couple of 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 half of the eggs. Mix until the egg has been completely absorbed, then add more egg about a tablespoon at a time, mixing completely before adding more. When you’ve added most of the egg, 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.)
  5. Transfer the dough to a piping bag fitted with an open star tip. Pipe the eclairs onto the prepared sheet. Once all the eclairs are piped, dust them with icing sugar.
  6. Bake the eclairs for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and continue baking until the shells are puffed and a deep golden brown — about another 20-30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet after about 30 minutes total baking time — avoid opening the oven door any sooner, or your shells may collapse. After the shells are finished but still hot, pierce the bottoms with a skewer or paring knife and return to the turned-off oven for 10 minutes to allow the steam to escape and the insides to dry out (prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon). Transfer shells to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before glazing and filling.

For the maple pastry cream:

  1. Combine the milk, cream, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan.
  2. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in a ladleful of the milk mixture.
  3. Bring the milk mixture just to the boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, sift the custard powder and flour over the yolk mixture, and whisk until smooth.
  4. When the milk is just at boiling, remove from the heat. Add a ladleful of the hot milk mixture to the yolks, whisking continuously. Pour the remaining milk mixture into the yolks in a slow, steady stream, continuing to whisk constantly. Once all the milk has been added, transfer the entire mixture back to the saucepan over low heat. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble. Continue cooking over low heat for one minute after the mixture starts bubbling, then strain into a clean container. Whisk in the extracts and butter. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard and cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold before using.

For the almond praline:

  1. Line a sheet pan with parchment or a Silpat. Have a silicon spatula, your chopped almonds, and flaky sea salt ready to go.
  2. Put the sugar in a heavy saucepan and turn the heat to medium. Cook without stirring (occasionally swirling the pan is fine), until the sugar melts and eventually turns a deep amber color. Once the sugar is caramelized, remove the pan from the heat and immediately stir in the almonds to coat. Quickly pour the mixture onto the prepared sheet pan and spread it as thinly as possible with your spatula (don’t touch, trust me — it’ll hurt). Immediately sprinkle with a generous amount of flaky sea salt. Allow to cool completely before breaking into pieces, either with a mallet or food processor. Store leftovers in the fridge or freezer; or you can grind the remainder into praline paste.

For the maple cream cheese glaze:

  • Combine the cream cheese, maple syrup, and salt in a food processor and process until smooth. Add cream a teaspoon at a time until the glaze is thick and spreadable.

To assemble the maple eclairs:

  1. Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and whisk to loosen. Transfer the cream to a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip (alternatively, you can just spoon the cream in).
  2. Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the top third of the eclair shells and set aside. Remove any soft bits from inside the shells. Pipe the cream into the bottom of the shells.
  3. Spread roughly a tablespoon of glaze onto the top of each shell. Place the tops back on the filled shells and garnish with almond praline. Refrigerate until serving — these really are best within a few hours of filling, though if you have to hold them longer wait until the last minute to add the praline.

maple eclairs on plate