Gourmet Cream Puff Swans Recipe

It turns out you don't have to go to culinary school to make cream-filled puff pastries — you know, like cream puffs and eclairs (which are, more or less elongated glazed cream puffs). In fact "pâte à choux" — the technical name for the delicate, steam-leavened pastry used to make cream puffs and eclairs — was the very first recipe that recipe developer Eric Ngo learned in culinary school. "It's a good example of what French pastry is because of how technical it can be," he says.

Although this recipe for cream puff swans has multiple steps that Ngo says "must be respected" in order to achieve the unmistakably gourmet finished product, those steps are easy to follow. And when you've done them once, you can bring what you've learned to bear in many other gourmet dessert recipes. 

"This recipe will give you a taste of what professional baking is like," Ngo explains. But where you might think professional baking involves a laundry list of ingredients, this one requires just six (plus water). And most of those ingredients are probably already somewhere in your kitchen right now. So, go ahead and try this recipe. You might be amazed at your own culinary prowess.

Gather your ingredients for gourmet cream puff swans

For these gourmet cream puff swans, you'll need 4 room temperature eggs, flour, butter, sugar, and salt. That takes care of the pâte à choux portion of the recipe — well, with the exception of the fact that you'll need a kitchen scale. That's because the flour and butter for this recipe are measured by weight, not volume. The reason for this extra bit of kitchen equipment is that it makes your measurements much more accurate, which matters a lot when you're making pastry. 

The only other thing you'll need (besides water) is whipped cream, which Ngo recommends you purchase in a spray can. Just make sure it's real whipped cream.

Get started with some melted butter

Start by placing the water, butter, sugar, and salt into a medium pan and heating on low until the butter has melted. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up to high and allow the mixture to reach a rolling boil. 

At this point, you'll add the flour all at once and mix it in with a stiff spatula until the mixture has the consistency of mashed potatoes. Then turn the heat down to medium and cook for one minute — literally one minute, that is, as in 60 seconds. Once you've achieved that, set the mixture — now called a panade — aside and allow it to cool to room temperature.

Add eggs to the panade

While the panade is cooling, crack the eggs into a bowl and stir with a fork to incorporate the yolks (but not to scramble them). Ngo recommends using room temperature eggs "to reduce the risk of temperature shock" when mixing them into the room temperature panade. Moreover, the panade really does need to be at room temperature. This is to prevent the eggs from turning into scrambled eggs as you mix them in.

Transfer the room temperature panade to a kitchen stand mixer bowl. Using the paddle attachment, add the eggs in three parts while mixing at medium speed. If you don't have a stand mixer, or you would prefer to get a bit of an arm workout in, you can do this manually with a stiff spatula. Once you're done, congratulate yourself — you've just made pâte à choux!

Get out the piping bag

"Proper piping bags can be bought online or in specialty baking stores," Ngo says. "If that's not an option, you could also use a thick plastic sandwich bag." To prepare the sandwich bag, cut just the tip off one corner. This will help ensure the piping tip fits properly into the bag, which will then avoid a mess once you start piping. And, of course, remember to place the tip onto the bottom of the bag before filling.

To fill the piping bag, place it into a tall glass and unfold the top of the bag over the edge of the glass. Use a soft rubber or silicone spatula to transfer the pâte à choux into the bag. Scrape off the spatula on the edge of the glass for a "mess-free kitchen," Ngo advises. Then lift the filled piping bag off of the glass and close your hand around the top of the bag.

Pipe your swans using two simple steps

Squeezing gently from the top (the way you've probably heard you're supposed to squeeze a toothpaste tube) pipe 16 tear-drop shapes, each about 2 inches long, onto a non-stick pan or a pan lined with a silicone mat. These will become the cream puff swan bodies. 

On a separate pan, pipe 16 S-shaped squiggles, which will become the heads and necks of your cream puff swans. Piping the swan bodies can be more challenging than piping the heads and necks, but if you mess up, simply scrape up what you've done, put it back into the piping bag, and try again. If you like the shape but find that the surface doesn't appear smooth, you can dab your finger in water and use it to gently smooth the dough.  

Bake the cream puff swan bodies and heads separately

Ngo says that, although in most cases, he would preheat the oven before starting with the prep, it's a bit different here. For these gourmet cream puff swans, he recommends pre-heating the oven when you're done piping. The reason isn't technical, however. It's actually because you likely won't know how long it takes you to get the piping done until you've completed it at least once. If you spend a bit more time piping than anticipated, you can save a bit on electricity or gas by waiting to preheat the oven. And it won't hurt the piped pâte à choux if it sits out for a few extra minutes.

Once your oven has heated fully, bake the swan bodies for 30 to 40 minutes. Then bake the swan heads for 15 to 20 minutes, which will take less time to bake because of their size. Be sure not to open the oven, a move which can change the temperature and humidity inside and can definitely mess up the cream puffs. If you're very tempted to take a peek, consider making a cup of tea or coffee instead. 

Build a beautiful cream puff swan

By the time your swan heads and necks have finished baking, your swan bodies should have already cooled to room temperature. At that point, it's time to begin cutting the pastry to prepare for assembling the swans. 

For this step, it's best to use a serrated knife (such as a bread knife). Just make sure that it's small enough so that you can comfortably work with it on these miniature pastries. Kitchen shears will also work. Slice the top quarter off of each swan body — this lower section is where you will fill your cream puff swans. Then cut that quarter in half vertically to make your cream puff swan wings. 

Fill and assemble the gourmet cream puff swans

Using your spray can of whipped cream, gently fill the swan bodies in a fluffy spiral pattern. Place a wing piece on each side of the whipped cream and then insert the swan head and neck into the cream. And that's it! You're ready to serve and enjoy. 

Your gourmet cream puff swans can be eaten right away or stored in the fridge for an hour or so before serving. But do be sure to eat them within a day for the best results. That's because the moisture in the filling will eventually cause the cream puff shell to become soggy. That said, you can safely store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days. 

Gourmet Cream Puff Swans Recipe
No Ratings
Although this recipe for cream puff swans has multiple steps, it's easy to follow along with, and you'll feel like a pro pastry chef in no time.
Prep Time
Cook Time
One beautiful gourmet cream puff swan
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • 9 ounces water
  • 3.53 ounces butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large room-temperature eggs
  • 5.29 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 1 can of whipped cream (6.5 ounces)
  1. Heat water, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan on low until butter has melted.
  2. Turn the heat to high, and allow the mixture to reach a rolling boil.
  3. Add the flour and stir with a stiff spatula until the mixture has the consistency of mashed potatoes.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium for one minute. Take off heat and set this panade aside to cool to room temperature.
  5. Crack the eggs into a bowl and stir with a fork.
  6. Transfer the room temperature panade to a kitchen stand mixer bowl.
  7. Using the paddle attachment, add the eggs in three parts at medium speed.
  8. Fill piping bags with the cream mixture. Pipe into 16 2-inch tear-drops (swan bodies) and 16 S-shaped squiggles (swan heads and necks).
  9. Preheat oven to 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. Bake the swan bodies for 30 to 40 minutes.
  11. Bake the swan heads and necks for 15 to 20 minutes.
  12. Using a serrated knife or kitchen shears, slice off the top quarter of each swan body, and then slice each quarter into vertical halves.
  13. Fill the body with whipped cream.
  14. Add the vertically sliced halves to the sides as wings.
  15. Top with the head and neck piece.
  16. Serve immediately. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Calories per Serving 123
Total Fat 8.3 g
Saturated Fat 4.8 g
Trans Fat 0.2 g
Cholesterol 62.7 mg
Total Carbohydrates 9.5 g
Dietary Fiber 0.3 g
Total Sugars 1.5 g
Sodium 124.4 mg
Protein 2.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Rate this recipe