Cream puffs are such a nostalgic dessert for me. I remember my mom would take me to the bakery and buy a basket full of freshly baked goods including a delicious cream puff. They were always the perfect treat. It's been a while since I had this dessert, so I decided to make some at home. But instead of making regular cream puffs, I wanted to make them extra special by turning them into Neopolitan cream puffs. Yup, that's right, Neopolitan cream puffs! Close your eyes and just imagine biting into a soft puff covered with chocolate craquelin and filled with vanilla custard, roasted strawberries, and fresh strawberries. Hands down, the best cream puff I have ever had.
Neopolitan Cream Puffs
- ½ cup butter, cut into small pieces (113 grams)
- ⅓ cup brown sugar (67 grams)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour (74 grams)
- pinch of salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (15 grams)
- ¼ cup butter (57 grams)
- ½ cup water (125 ml)
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup all-purpose flour (74 grams)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 lb strawberries, halved
- 2 tablespoons honey
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups milk (500 ml)
- 1 vanilla bean
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup cornstarch (32 grams)
- ½ cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
- 2 tablespoons butter (28 grams)
- Make the chocolate craquelin. Use a food processor to pulse together ½ cup butter with ⅓ cup brown sugar just until combined. Add ½ cup flour, a pinch of salt, ½ teaspoon vanilla, and 3 tablespoons cocoa powder, and pulse until combined. Shape the dough into a disc and place it between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll it out until ⅛-inch thick and chill in the fridge for 1 hour or in the freezer for 30 minutes. Cut out 8 circles about 2 inches in diameter and keep the craquelin in the fridge until ready to use.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Make the cream puffs. Combine ¼ cup butter with ½ cup water and a pinch of salt in a heavy saucepan. Heat over high heat and bring to a rolling boil. Lower the heat to low and add ½ cup flour to the butter water mixture. Beat with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Remove from heat and add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each egg before adding the next.
- Drop dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet for a total of 8 cream puffs. Top the cream puffs with the chocolate craquelin and bake for 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until golden brown. The shells should sound hollow when done. Cool the shells completely on a wire rack.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Increase the oven temperature back to 425 degrees F. Toss 1 lb strawberries with 2 tablespoon honey and a pinch of salt. Spread on a lined baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes or until softened and jammy. Let cool.
- Make the vanilla custard. Heat 2 cups milk and the seeds of 1 vanilla pod in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until simmering.
- Whisk together 2 yolks and 1 egg with ¼ cup cornstarch, and ½ cup sugar in a large bowl. Slowly pour the hot milk in the yolk mixture in a stream, whisking constantly. Transfer mixture to saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly. Cook until thick, about 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons butter. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve and cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface. Let cool completely. Gently stir in the roasted strawberries.
- Cut tops of the shells. Top the bottom halves with fresh sliced strawberries and fill each cream puff with the strawberry vanilla custard. Top with the top buns and serve.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
I had the idea of making a Neopolitan cream puff but was unsure of how to execute the flavors. Every day I would come up with a better idea until I arrived at this beauty. We have chocolate from the chocolate craquelin, vanilla from the custard, and strawberry from the roasted strawberries and fresh berries. It all just works so perfectly.
To make these Neopolitan cream puffs, start by making the chocolate craquelin topping. The topping needs to freeze for a couple of hours and takes the longest to set so we're going to make these first. Use a food processor to combine the butter and sugar until just blended. Add the flour, salt, vanilla, and cocoa powder, and continue to pulse until you have moist crumbles. It may look dry but when you press the dough together, it will easily stick.
Lay parchment paper on your counter and transfer the craquelin mixture on top. Shape it into a disc and place another parchment paper on top. Roll out the disc until it's about ⅛-inch thick. The parchment paper will help make it much easier to roll out the dough without having to dust flour onto the surface. Freeze the craquelin for 1 hour and cut out discs about 2 inches in diameter. Keep the craquelin in the freezer until you are ready to bake the cream puffs.
Now let's make the choux pastry aka the cream puffs. Choux pastry is a light dough that only has four ingredients with no leavening agents. The high moisture content allows the dough to rise in the oven and creates puffs. To make the dough, bring the water, butter, and salt to a rolling boil over high heat. Lower the heat to low and add all of the flour at once, beating the mixture constantly until well combined. Take the dough off the heat and add the eggs one at a time, fully incorporating each one before adding the next. If you add all of the eggs at once, it will become one goopy mess.
Pipe the cream puffs on a lined baking sheet and place the craquelins on top. Ideally, the craquelin should be slightly bigger than the dough so that it will cover the tops completely. Bake the cream puffs at 425 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. The puffs should rise beautifully and sound hollow when they are done.
Cool the puffs completely before slicing them in half.
While the pastry is cooling, let's make the filling. Toss 1 lb of fresh strawberries with honey and a pinch of salt and roast them in the oven until softened and jammy, about 15 minutes at 425 degrees F. Slice the remaining strawberries and set them aside.
For the vanilla custard, we want the full impact of vanilla so we're going to use vanilla beans. Cut the pods in half and scrape out all of the seeds. Simmer the seeds with milk just until the milk starts to bubble. Slowly whisk in the milk with the eggs, cornstarch, and sugar until fully incorporated. Bring the entire mixture back to the stove and simmer to activate the cornstarch. Once the custard has thickened and can easily coat the back of a spoon, it is ready. Cool the custard completely, covering the top with plastic wrap directly touching the surface to prevent skin from forming.
Once all of the ingredients are cool, it's time to assemble these bad boys. Place a couple of fresh strawberries on the bottom half. Gently stir the roasted strawberries in the custard (with the juices!) and put a big dollop of the custard on top of the fresh strawberries. Top them off with the top bun and voila!
I'll be honest, I already knew these Neopolitan cream puffs were going to be good but I didn't know they would be THIS good! We already know the flavor combination is a winner but man oh man, every bite is just full of flavor. Nothing overpowers one over another, instead, they all work to create one cohesive dessert. I've already had two just while writing this post...I think I'll have my third now.
For more cream puff inspiration check out these key lime cream puffs!