1.) POSITION rack in lower third of oven; heat oven to 425°F. HEAT water and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat to a rolling boil. REMOVE from heat and immediately, ADD flour and salt all at once; beat vigorously until thoroughly blended. RETURN to medium heat. COOK, stirring vigorously, until mixture pulls away from sides of pan and forms a ball, 1 to 2 minutes.
2.) REMOVE from heat. LET STAND to cool slightly, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.
3.) ADD eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition by hand or with mixer on medium speed, until smooth. CONTINUE BEATING, if necessary, until glossy and a small quantity of dough scooped on the end of a spoon stands erect.
4.) For cream puffs: DROP dough by scant 1/4 cupfuls, about 2 inches apart, onto ungreased baking sheet.
5.) BAKE in lower third of 425°F oven until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven setting to 375°F. Continue baking until firm and golden brown, about 20 minutes longer. Immediately after baking, PIERCE side of each puff with tip of sharp knife. COOL on wire rack.
6.) Just before serving, CUT OFF 1/2 inch from top of each puff; pull out and discard any filaments of soft dough from inside. SPOON scant 1/3 cup pastry cream into each puff; replace tops. SPRINKLE tops with powdered sugar. REFRIGERATE leftovers promptly.
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