Choux au Craquelin Recipe
Choux au craquelin is a sweet dish prepared with choux pastry and topped with a craquelin, a thin cookie disc. Like pie or short-crust pastry, craquelin is created using a combination of butter, sugar, and flour. As opposed to traditional choux pastry buns, craquelin gives the cream puff a coating of sweetness and makes it deliciously crispy.
A delicious, crunchy, crackly crust forms on top of the cookie disc (craquelin) as it bakes, encasing the cream puff’s top as the choux pastry bakes and expands.
Making Choux au Craquelin is not difficult, challenging or time-consuming. But, one common question I often get is “What kind of sugar works best for craquelin?” Well, I evaluated three types of sugar—granulated, light brown and dark brown for making craquelin.
I discovered that the granulated sugar gave the craquelin a gritty consistency with little taste depth, whilst heavy brown sugar’s robust molasses flavours overpowered the delicate choux. We discovered that light brown sugar was the finest option since it gave the baked choux a beautiful copper colour and a delicious caramel flavour.
How to make the Craquelin
The craquelin itself is simple to make; simply combine melted butter, light brown sugar, and flour in a bowl until smooth. Add salt and continue beating until a dough forms (this can also be done in a stand mixer). The dough is then chilled before being rolled out between sheets of parchment paper and cut into circles. The dough is forgiving, so you can immediately put the craquelin back in the freezer for a few minutes to allow it to firm up if it gets too soft to manage while you’re stamping out rounds. Even the remaining pieces can be collected, re-rolled, and cut into fresh rounds to be saved for a later batch.
How to make the Choux dough and filling
I prefer using water for the choux dough base; no milk or sugar is needed because the craquelin gives the choux all the colour development, crispness, and sweetness it needs. Aim for a two-inch broad foundation while pipping the choux (you can draw circles on your parchment if that helps; see instructions for that in the note below). Gently top each choux with a circle of craquelin once they have all been piped.
When the choux au craquelin are baked and cooled, you may eat them plain (they make a nice afternoon snack) or fill them with rich pastry cream, airy whipped cream, or velvety crème légère to make a fantastic dessert.
Choux au craquelin can be filled in two different ways: “piped-in” and “sandwich.” The piping method entails forming a little hole in the bottom of each choux, filling it with pastry cream or crème légère, and then sealing the hole. For the sandwiched version, use a serrated knife to cut each choux in half, pipe the filling onto the bottom half, and then top off the “sandwich” with the top half. You have a choice, and both are great ones (we’ve included steps below for whatever you choose).
For the Craquelin crust
- 1/4 cup (60g) light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and softened to about 68°F (20°C)
- 6 tablespoons of all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1 pinch salt
For the Choux dough
- ½ cup cold water
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 pinch salt
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- To make the craquelin: Combine the brown sugar and butter in a medium bowl using a flexible spatula. Stir for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
- After adding the salt and flour, thoroughly combine the ingredients for approximately two minutes, or until there is no dry flour left and a moist, crumbly meal has formed.
- Form a ball out of the dough using your hands (it will be a bit sticky but do not add extra flour). The dough should be placed on top of a sheet of parchment paper on a work surface. Create a flat rectangle out of the dough that is approximately 6 by 8 inches long.
- Put the second piece of parchment paper on top. Roll out the dough with a rolling pin into an about 12-by-14-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch-thick; adjust both parchment paper sheets as necessary to prevent creasing. Place the dough on a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper on top, and freeze for about five minutes until it is completely solid (or refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes). In the meantime, affix parchment paper to a second baking sheet.
- The top parchment sheet should be removed. 18 pieces of craquelin should be cut using a 2-inch circular cutter. Work quickly to transfer the craquelin rounds to the lined baking sheet, arrange them in a single layer, and then place the baking sheet back in the freezer. You might need to use an offset spatula to pry the cutouts away from the parchment paper. The leftover dough for craquelins can be rerolled, refrigerated, and cut into fresh rounds if preferred.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375°F (191°C) and place the oven racks so that one is in the upper-middle position and the other is in the lower-middle position. Two metal baking sheets should be lined with parchment paper. Under each corner of the parchment paper, pipe a thin layer of choux paste (the dough acts as a glue and keeps the paper in place as you pipe).
- Apply consistent downward pressure while holding the pastry bag at a 90° angle to pipe a choux that is 2 inches wide (see note). Apply no more pressure and spin the pastry tip away to end the piping. A total of 9 choux should be piped, spaced about 3 inches apart. the second tray, and so forth. To guarantee that the craquelin cut-out clings to the highest point of the piped choux, top each choux with one, positioning it parallel to the bottom of the baking sheets and pressing down just a little. The choux au craquelin should be puffy, deeply golden brown, and hollow when lifted, which will take around 30 minutes in total. After 20 minutes, swap the racks and rotate the front of the tray to the back. Go to the next step if you want Choux au craquelin in a sandwich form. Or proceed to step 9
- Choux au Craquelin in the Sandwich Style: Turn Off Oven. For 30 minutes, let the trays sit in the oven with the door slightly ajar. After removing it from the oven, give it 15 minutes to cool fully. Slice each puff in half lengthwise to form a top and bottom “bun”; place your preferred filling in a pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch star tip; working with one at a time, start piping with steadily increasing pressure to generously fill the bottom half of each choux; top with the other half of each choux; repeat until all choux au craquelin are filled; serve right away.
- To Fill Piped-In Choux au Craquelin: Working quickly, carefully push the tip of a paring knife into the bottom of each choux and rotate in a circular motion to make a small hole approximately 1/4 inch in size, then return to the tray. Set both trays in the oven, which has been turned off but is still warm, with the door half open for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool fully for about 15 minutes.
- Working one at a time, slip the tip of a pastry cream-filled bag into each choux hole and continue piping with steady pressure until filled (you can tell because the choux will feel heavy and pastry cream will start to overflow the hole). Remove any extra pastry cream. Repeat until all of the choux au craquelin has been filled. Serve right away.