Serves: Makes a tree with about 40 puffs
Cream Puffs
  • 1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter
  • 1 cup water
  • Big pinch salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs and 4 large egg whites
Light and Creamy Vanilla Custard
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Caramel Glue
  • 2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • Jordan Almonds (optional garnish)
  1. Adjust racks to lower- and upper-middle positions; heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Bring butter, water, and salt to simmer in a medium saucepan. When butter has melted, remove from heat. Add flour all at once; beat with a wooden spoon over low heat to form thick dough. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then whites, 2 at a time, making sure each is incorporated before adding the next.
  3. Spoon dough in even 1-tablespoon portions onto two silpat-lined or vegetable spray-coated baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. (You should have 36 to 40 puffs.) Bake until crisp and golden, switching baking sheets after 30 minutes, about 40 minutes total (or 30 minutes on convection—no need to switch sheets.)
  4. Meanwhile, microwave milk in a 1-quart Pyrex measuring cup until steamy hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Just before adding milk, whisk in egg yolks, and then turn heat to medium and vigorously whisk in milk. Continue to whisk until mixture thickens to pudding consistency, just a couple of minutes. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a sheet of plastic wrap directly over the surface to keep a skin from forming. (Can be refrigerated up to 3 days).
  5. When ready to assemble, make first batch of caramel by bringing 1 cup of sugar and ¼ cup water to boil over medium-high heat in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisking pretty constantly to get sugar to dissolve. When mixture starts to boil, turn heat to medium-low and stop whisking. Continue to simmer until mixture turns golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes.
  6. While first batch of sugar caramelizes use a pastry bag fitted with a small tip to fill puffs with custard.  Arrange 8 puffs in a circle on a platter, ready to glue. When sugar is ready, and working one at a time, carefully dip puff bottoms and sides in caramel; stick to platter. (If someone can be there to hold puffs in place while you move on to the next one, so much the better). Continue gluing puffs together, creating a cone shape tree.
  7. When you run out of caramel, start a second batch in a new saucepan (Fill caramel-coated saucepan with water and bring to boil to melt hard caramel.) Finishing construction, gluing Jordon almonds (if you like) in spaces between cream puffs and using a fork to spin sugar over tree. 
Serve within a few hours.
Recipe by Three Many Cooks at