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 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.
Post-publish note: Erin noted our recipes were very similar and I must say this is pure coincidence! My choux pastry recipe dates back 20+ years (with tweaks here and there) and the Craquelin recipe is a scaled up version from one I had in a pastry class, similar to the HK tiger skin on breads for pineapple buns. In the interest of full transparency, you can find her recipe on her cloudy kitchen website.
Further edited after an intense testing weekend!
Craquelin cookie top
- 100g unsalted butter, soft (room temperature) and cubed
- 120g brown sugar
- 120g plain flour
- 5g (1/2 tsp) vanilla bean paste
Choux Pastry (same for puffs or éclairs)
- 120g unsalted butter, cubed
- 125g water
- 125g full fat milk
- 5g (1/2 tsp) vanilla bean paste
- a pinch of salt
- 10g sugar
- 160g plain flour
- 240g eggs, well beaten (this equates to about 4.5 size 7 eggs which are about 55g each. I beat them in two bowls, one with 4 eggs and the other with 1 egg. You will see why in the instructions following)
- Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat all ingredients on medium until combined.
- Tip the dough onto a large piece of baking paper, and place a second sheet over it. Flatten dough and roll out to 2mm in thickness.
- 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, pinch of salt and sugar into a medium size saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a big boil, till the butter melts completely. Take pan off the heat, and immediately add, liquid to the plain flour, and mix vigorously with a spatula or wooden spoon. Mix till there are no lumps of flour visible and the dough is smooth and shiny. 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 and 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 a paddle attachment (or a bowl if using a hand held mixer).
Adding the eggs
- Beat the dough (while still hot) and add in the main lot of eggs in a stream. It is important to gradually pour the eggs into the mixture, and allow it to be incorporated before adding more.
- After you’ve added the first lot of eggs (4 eggs) stop the mixer and check the consistency. At this point, the batter should still be too stiff. The batter would not stretch down like a V shape before breaking off. Slowly add half of the 5th egg (your second bowl of whisked egg), which should be just enough to bring it to the right stretchy texture. If not, then add a bit more from what’s left of the 5th egg. The dough should have a nice sheen, thick and drops like a V shape for 5 seconds when lifted up.
Fill batter to three quarters of a piping bag with has 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.
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 the sheet of craquelin from the freezer and peel off the top piece of baking paper. Using a cookie cutter, cut 45 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.
- 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 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.