Consider the cream puff. It's easy to write them off as the overblown pastry that has become the crown jewel of the Wisconsin State Fair. But let's take a second to examine this architectural wonder in a little more detail: a squat golf ball of batter made with little more than butter, sugar, flour, and eggs bakes up hollow and hardens just enough to hold a velvety shot of custard while still retaining a delicate and crisp outer shell. This edible hug of cream and sugar is truly a thing of beauty, and we recently paid some serious homage in their high temple, which goes by the name Beard Papa's.
If you've ever transferred from the Blue Line to the Red Line beneath Block 37 in the Loop, you may have noticed a giant bearded face smiling at you from a large glass panel. This friendly visage combined with the sweet scent of freshly baked pâte à choux may have compelled you to stop in to take a peek at the menu. But once inside, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Chocolate or strawberry filling? Is the flavor of the day anything special? Original shell or éclair? Isn't it important to try the basics first? But then again, isn't everything improved by a layer of chocolate?
Fret not. We did the arduous and demanding work required to break things down for you filling by filling and puff by puff. Click through the slideshow for our favorites in order from best to worst, and let us know if you have a favorite filling flavor that we missed.
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.