I’ve made cream puffs on this blog before, but while they’ve been light and puffy and filled with delectable cream, they’ve never been what I would call “pretty.” I’ve come to the conclusion that my standard choux recipe is just a tad too thick– not eggy enough– and that’s making the piped choux blobs slightly irregular in shape, which translates to unevenly-puffed cream puffs. I’ve decided to adapt my recipe to add a bit more egg, and to add an extra layer of protection– a craquelin.
A craquelin topping is a circle of sugar-butter dough that you put onto the unbaked choux. As the choux bakes, the craquelin cooks over the top, expanding with the choux and creating an uneven, crunchy, sugary top that adds texture to the puff as a whole. Also, I figured that having something on top of the choux would help even out the rise in the oven.
The results were fantastic– the craquelin dough came together really easily and melted and cracked perfectly over the choux. It also helped the choux to rise evenly to make perfect little round buns– exactly what I’d been going for. The recipe did make a bit more craquelin that I needed, but that may also have been because I rolled it out thinner than expected. In any case, they turned out to be incredibly delicious, especially when filled with my favorite combination of fillings– red bean paste and whipped cream!
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 tbs. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
5 3/4 oz. flour (about 1 1/4 cup)
4 eggs, plus enough egg whites to make 1 1/4 cups
1. Bring water, milk, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil in a pot.
2. Remove from heat, and dump in all of the flour at once. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a dough.
3. Return to heat, and continue to work the dough with your spoon until you see a film of cooked dough on the sides and bottom of the pot. You’re trying to cook out some of the water to make more room for eggs.
4. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and let it cool for 2-3 minutes (you could also do this by hand).
5. Add the eggs, one egg (or one blob’s worth) at a time, mixing on the lowest speed until each egg is incorporated before adding the next. Once the mixture forms a smooth, shiny, loose dough, stop– even if you have some egg left over. It should not be runny– when you pull your beater out of the mix, it should make a long, thin, triangle-shaped point, rather than breaking off in a ragged edge. If your dough is too sticky after you’ve used all your egg, crack open another egg and add it a little at a time. The eggs are really the most important ingredient to get right.
6. Transfer dough to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (I used a medium-sized round tip) and pipe blobs about 1″ in diameter, 2″ apart on a foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a wet fingertip to press down any points left from your piping.
Craquelin (from David Lebovitz)
- 3 ounces (85g) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
- 3/4 cup (100g) all-purpose flour
1. In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar, then add the flour and continue to mix the dough until it’s smooth. The original recipe said to use a wooden spoon, but the dough starts off looking like breadcrumbs and takes so long to come together that doing it by hand would take forever. Use a mixer.
2. Put the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll until it’s about 1/8″ thick. Slide the dough (on the parchment) onto a baking sheet and freeze.
To Assemble and Bake:
Once your choux puffs are piped onto a baking sheet, remove the craquelin dough from the freezer. Using a round cookie cutter about the same diameter as the puffs, cut out circles of the dough and set them on top of the puffs. Press down lightly to make sure they’re level.
Bake at 400 degrees F for about 12 minutes (15 for larger puffs), then crack the oven and keep the door open with a wooden spoon as you bake for another 8-10 minutes, until the puffs are nicely golden and firm to the touch.
Remove from the oven and immediately pierce the side of each puff with the tip of a knife to let moisture escape. Cool on a rack until ready to fill.
I filled these with a smear of red bean paste and a dollop of stabilized whipped cream, just like these from a previous post. The crackly sugar top was absolutely perfect combined with the earthily sweet red bean and rich whipped cream– I have officially perfected my recipe! Bite-sized puffs are definitely the way to go– there’s nothing quite like popping one of these into your mouth and getting a luxuriously giant bite that combines all of the different flavors and textures. Try them yourself!