Light and airy puffs have a touch of lemon flavor and are filled with bright lemon cream!
Who loves cream puffs? I’m tempted to shout “Me, me, me!”, but actually what I hope is that you are shouting that! Hopefully that is how you found your way to my Lemon Cream Puffs.
The pastry behind the puffs is a choux pastry, like the one I use for savory and cheesy Gougères. Choux pastry is made by bringing water and butter to a boil on the stovetop, whisking in flour, and then cooking the mixture for a few minutes in the pan.
It thickens as the moisture cooks away and begins to look almost like Play-Doh. (But tastes better. I assume… I’ve never actually eaten Play-Doh, but based on the smell I think my assumption is safe!)
Eggs are beaten into the cooked mixture and then it’s scooped onto a baking sheet to be transformed into little puffs.
If you haven’t tried making your own choux pastry you really should.
It’s easy to do and a lot of fun to watch puff up in the oven!
The choux pastry for these puffs has a touch of fresh lemon zest and juice that gives the baked shells a light, lemony taste. Then comes the good stuff: pastry cream!
This is also cooked on the stovetop and consists of eggs yolks, butter, half & half and sugar – plus lemon, in this case!
It’s cooked and thickened into a sweet custard.
Since this needs to chill thoroughly before filling the puffs it’s great to make ahead of time and have waiting.
These little puffs are served chilled: they’re cool, creamy and full of bright flavor! They’re easy to make and elegant, too. I think of these as a perfect spring and summer dessert, but you should definitely keep the recipe on hand year-round!
The recipe for the Lemon Cream Puffs is below, and here are a few more lemony desserts for you!
Lemon Cream Puffs
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, unbleached and divided
- 2 cups half & half
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Zest from 2 lemons, divided
- 1/2 cup butter, unsalted
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Make the pastry cream:
- In a large saucepan whisk together the egg yolks, the granulated sugar and the 3 tablespoons of flour. It should be a smooth mixture. Hold this aside.
- In a separate small saucepan heat the half & half over medium heat, stirring it frequently just until it comes to a simmer.
- Slowly (so as not to cook the egg) pour half of the hot half & half over the egg mixture, whisking as you do. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Slowly pour in the rest of the half & half and whisk it in. Place the large saucepan with this mixture over medium heat and whisk it constantly: as the mixture heats up it will thicken. This can take 3-6 minutes depending on your burner. Once it has thickened whisk and cook it 2 minutes longer and then remove the pan from the heat.
- Stir 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice, the vanilla extract and the zest of 1 lemon into this cream until it is smooth. Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature. Press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface of the cream and refrigerate it until it’s cold – about 1 hour.
Make the puff shells
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Have ready a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Heat the butter, water and salt In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat until the water comes to a boil and the butter is melted. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the remaining 1-1/4 cups of flour until no dry flour remains. Return the pan to the burner over medium heat.
- Stir the flour mixture constantly: it will quickly pull away from the sides and form a sticky lump of dough. Keep stirring the dough over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes – as the moisture leaves the dough the bottom of the pan will get covered by a film. Don’t worry about this or try to scrape it up.
- Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix the dough on low for 3-4 minutes to help it cool down. The dough needs to be cool enough that you can touch it.
- Beat in one egg at a time, mixing thoroughly and scraping the sides of the bowl before adding the next. Once all of the eggs are in, mix in the remaining tablespoon of lemon juice and the remaining zest.
- Use a medium 2-tablespoon sized cookie scoop to scoop balls of dough onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Place the sheet in the oven and bake the puff shells for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (without opening the door.) Bake the puffs for another 15-20 minutes: they should be lightly browned on top and the tops should feel sturdy. (Taking them out too early will cause the shells to collapse.)
- Move the sheet of puff shells to a cooling rack and let them sit for 5 minutes – they should be cool enough to handle at this point. When they are, use a sharp knife to slice the puffs in half to create tops and bottoms. Allow the tops and bottoms to cool completely.
Assemble the puffs:
- When the pastry cream is chilled, use a spoon or a pastry bag fitted with tip that has a large opening to fill each puff bottom with about a tablespoon of cream. Place the tops on all the puffs and then dust them with the confectioner’s sugar. Serve the puffs immediately or store them covered in the fridge until you need them. Leftover puffs can be kept covered and refrigerated for about 2 days.
- Makes about 23 cream puffs.