Let me just start by saying choux pastry isn’t as difficult as you perceive it to be. It’s just science – eggs, fat and water doing its thing when heated, evaporating and expanding. I love watching it through the oven glass, seeing it rise and expand (time lapse anyone?) effortlessly and with such grace. I’ve used the same choux pastry recipe for many many years, and it works every time. Even before I had my Kitchenaid. It was always a one bowl action and me beating the eggs in vigorously to incorporate it into the batter. Usually they are piped into little domes for petite treats on a dessert platter, filled with custard, whipped cream, or one time when I wanted a large dessert display but didn’t want to make macarons, a croquembouche tower.
What’s changed here is the addition of a cookie crumble layer that closely resembles the skin of Hong Kong style pineapple bun. After our second night in a row having the same dessert, we agreed that this is the best dessert of 2019 (well two months in): ice cream in choux au craquelin puff: crunchy, fluffy, sweet and creamy alllll in the one bite. So simple and yet so heavenly! I love the craquelin, creating this sweet crumble hat on top of the choux, allowing it to rise evenly (honestly have you ever seen choux that are this round in shape?)
The best thing about these puffs are that once made, you can easily store them in the freezer, and refresh them in the oven for 5 minutes before your next round. Our ice cream selection today is the Appleby Farms Ipanema Coffee, so dreamy.
Updated March 2020 after intense testing!
Craquelin cookie top
- 110g butter, unsalted, softened
- 132g brown sugar
- 132g plain flour
- 3 (1/2 tsp) vanilla paste (optional)
Choux Pastry (same for puffs, éclairs, Paris brest)
- 120g butter, unsalted, diced
- 120ml water
- 125ml full fat milk
- 3g (1/2 tsp) vanilla paste
- a pinch of salt
- 12g caster sugar
- 160g plain flour
- 300g eggs (5 size 7 eggs), well beaten (also prepare an extra beaten egg in a separate bowl, in case needed.)
- Using a stand mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat all ingredients on medium speed until combined.
- Tip half of the dough onto a large piece of baking paper, and place a second sheet over it, forming a “sandwich”. Flatten dough and roll out to a thin 2mm sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Splitting it means when time comes to add these to the piped choux, you won’t likely have softened craquelin from sitting at room temperature for too long, waiting to be used.
- Place the baking paper-sandwiched dough in the freezer for an hour, or until ready to use (this step can be done in advance of baking day).
Making the choux pastry
- Preheat a convection oven to 160 °C. Place butter, water, milk, vanilla paste, salt and sugar into a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, with the butter melted completely.
- Take pan off the heat, and immediately add flour to the butter mixture, and mix vigorously with a spatula or wooden spoon. Mix till there are no lumps of flour visible. Return dough to pan.
- Return to a low heat and cook for another minute to dry the dough slightly. The dough should pull away from the sides of the pan. Stop when it starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer with the beater attachment (or a bowl if using a hand held mixer).
Adding the eggs
- Beat the dough (while still hot) and add in the eggs slowly. It is important to gradually pour the eggs into the mixture, and allow it to be incorporated before adding more.
- After you’ve added all of the eggs (300g) stop the mixer and check the consistency. At this point, the batter may still be too stiff. Check batter that’s hanging off the beater attachment – does it stretch down like a V shape before breaking off, while counting to 5? If it doesn’t, slowly add a quarter of the 6th egg (the just-in-case egg), which should be just enough to bring it to the right stretchy texture. If not, then add a bit more. The dough should have a nice sheen, thick and drops like a V shape within 5 seconds when lifted up (got this tip thanks to a Valrhona Chocolate pastry class).
- Fill batter to three quarters of a piping bag with a large round tip fitted (or just use snip the ends off the piping bag and use without a tip).
- Pipe rounds of batter onto a lined baking sheet, well spaced apart, matching the cookie cutter size for your craquelin discs. I can fit 16 on my standard sized baking sheet. There should be enough to pipe 3 sheets. It might be easier if circles are predrawn on the baking paper and then flipped over for piping. I just use my macaron templates or just go free hand.
Note: To save time, I often prepare the pastry to this step a day in advance. Freeze the piped choux and use as below when ready.
Take one sheet of the craquelin from the freezer and peel off the top piece of baking paper (can save for other baking events). Using a small cookie cutter that matches the size of your choux domes, cut out discs. Place a craquelin disc on top of each dome just before baking.
- Bake at 160°C for 40 minutes. It should be all puffed and golden. Don’t be tempted to open the oven door before, it will prevent it from fully rising and risk collapse (if using a commercial oven, start at 170°C and reduce oven heat at 20 min mark to 160°C and bake a further 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown all around.)
- Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack. Prick each of the puffs with a sharp skewer or toothpick to release steam.
- If your oven produces beautifully even heat throughout, and the puffs aren’t too brown when you check at the 20 minute mark, you can probably keep it cooking at 160°C throughout. Otherwise drop it to 155°C.
Filling the choux
- When completely cool, cut a lid off the top of the puffs three quarters of the way, so that the lid still attaches to the bottom of the puff.
- Fill with a scoop of your favourite ice cream and serve immediately.
- Alternatively, fill with pastry creme, whipped chocolate ganache (like a creameux) and fresh whipped cream.
- You can also freeze baked puffs. Just refresh in 150C fan oven for 8 mins. It will further draw moisture out from puffs, making it super crunchy.