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I Made Choux au Craquelin and They're WAY Better Than Basic Cream Puffs

Taste of Home logo Taste of Home 9/25/2021 Molly Allen
© Molly Allen for Taste of Home

A slice of chocolate cake makes for a fine dessert, but sometimes you really want to impress. Whether you're baking sweets for a special occasion or looking for an elevated treat to share with friends, choux au craquelin are the perfect fit.

Choux au craquelin (pronounced shoo-o-krat-ker-lan) is a striking dessert made from choux pastry with a crunchy sweet topping and a vanilla pastry cream filling. These remarkable cream-filled buns require a few steps to make, creating three different elements that will all be combined to form the final choux au craquelin, but it's absolutely worth it. There are no special tools or ingredients required, so you just need a bit of patience. You can certainly pull these off at home! And trust us, once you take that first bite, you'll want to make them on repeat.

What Is Choux Pastry?

Choux pastry, or pâte à choux, is a cross between a batter and a dough. It's made with plenty of eggs and relies on those eggs as the leavening agent to puff it up while baking. Choux pastry is most often used as the base for cream puffs and eclairs, resulting in a sturdy yet delicate pastry to fill with whipped cream, pastry cream or even ice cream.

What Is Craquelin?

The craquelin is the crunchy topping on the choux pastry. It adds additional texture and flavor and helps choux pastry bake evenly to form hollow rounds. It's made up of a mixture of flour, brown sugar and butter, which forms a dough similar to a streusel. The difference here is that the craquelin dough is rolled out, chilled and then cut into small circles to place on top of the piped choux pastry. While baking, it turns into a slightly crunchy, sweet layer to make a cream puff look (and taste!) that much more impressive.

Choux au Craquelin vs. Cream Puffs

Cream puffs are definitely the more common dessert. Made with choux as the base, they're piped into tall mounds and, when baked, become a hollow pastry. Most often, cream puffs are sliced in half horizontally and filled with a whipped cream center, like in this recipe for State Fair Cream Puffs.

Choux au craquelin relies on the craquelin to help maintain a more circular shape while baking. It results in a hollow round with a crunchy topping that's the perfect vessel for filling with pastry cream.

The Best Choux au Craquelin Recipe

Because choux au craquelin comes together with three components, it's important to make them in a particular order. By tackling the pastry cream first, you'll give it plenty of time to chill and set. Prep your craquelin topping and leave it in the freezer until your choux pastry is ready for baking.

Ingredients

For the pastry cream:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the craquelin:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 cup flour

For the choux pastry:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 eggs

Tools You'll Need

Directions

Step 1: Make the pastry cream

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Prepare an ice bath by adding ice and a bit of water to a large bowl. Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl, add the sugar, flour, cornstarch and egg yolks. Whisk well until the mixture is pale yellow, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a saucepan on low heat, add the milk, vanilla extract and egg mixture. Whisk continuously until bubbles begin to form. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken into a thin custard.

Step 2: Cool the pastry cream

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Once the pastry cream begins to slightly thicken, use a spatula to scrape it into a clean bowl. Immediately place the bowl in the water bath and let it sit for 5 minutes. Once slightly cooled, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to set and fully cool in the fridge, about one hour.

Step 3: Make the craquelin topping

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In a mixing bowl, add the brown sugar, flour and softened butter. Use a hand mixer, a pastry blender or your hands to combine the mixture. Incorporate the butter with the dry mixture until a soft dough forms. Use your hands to form it into a ball.

Place one piece of parchment paper on the counter. Use your hands to flatten the dough on the parchment paper, then add another piece of parchment paper on top. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until thin.

Transfer the pieces of parchment paper with the dough in the middle to a baking sheet and put in the freezer to chill.

Step 4: Prepare the choux pastry base

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Preheat the oven to 375° F.

In a saucepan on medium heat, add the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar. Bring to a boil to allow the butter to fully melt. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat down to low and add in all of the flour at once, stirring vigorously until it's fully incorporated. Continue to stir and cook the moisture out of the dough as it pulls away from the sides of the pot. Cook for 1 minute.

Step 5: Add the eggs

Transfer the choux to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Allow it to beat on low to release heat before adding in the eggs to prevent them from cooking. Once the choux has cooled, add the first egg and allow it to fully incorporate. Repeat until three eggs have been added. The amount of eggs required depends on the moisture of the choux and your kitchen's environment. If it seems too thick, add the fourth egg. If the choux is ready after three eggs, skip the fourth. To be ready for piping, the choux should be a cross between a dough and a batter.

Step 6: Pipe the choux pastry

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Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Use a spatula to scoop the choux pastry into a piping bag. Cut the tip off the piping bag and pipe 2-inch mounds onto the baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. Move the piping bag in a circular motion to add about one inch of height.

Editor's Tip: If you don't have piping bags, use a zip-close bag instead. Fill it with the choux and cut off the tip of the bottom corner to act as a piping bag.

Step 7: Top with craquelin

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Once the choux pastry has been piped, remove the craquelin topping from the freezer. Let it sit out for 1 minute, then use a circular cutter to cut circles out of the dough. The round side of an icer tip works great for this step, or you can use a round cookie cutter or biscuit cutter that's about the size of the piped choux. Gently place a circular piece of cold craquelin on top of each round of choux pastry.

Step 8: Bake the choux au craquelin

© Molly Allen for Taste of Home

Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The tops will be a deep golden brown. Be sure not to open the oven during this step! Allow the choux au craquelin to bake fully before removing from the oven.

Once baked, remove from the oven and use a toothpick to poke holes into the sides. This will allow excess steam to escape and prevent the choux from collapsing. Set aside to fully cool.

Step 9: Pipe the filling

Remove the pastry cream from the fridge and allow it to warm up slightly at room temperature to become pipeable. Use a spatula to scoop it into a piping bag.

Use a small knife to gently create a hole in the side or bottom of each choux bun. Insert the piping bag into the hole and squeeze the bag to fill. Be sure not to overfill to avoid pastry cream seeping from the hole.

Step 10: Garnish

Once the choux au craquelin are filled, it's time to dig in! Dust the tops with confectioners' sugar for added decoration, if desired.

How to Store Choux au Craquelin

Choux au craquelin are best served day-of when they're fresh, which helps maintain the texture of the topping. However, if you don't manage to eat all of these treats (or share with a friend!), you can save them in the fridge for the next day. Leave them on a plate gently wrapped in plastic wrap.

To avoid having your choux au craquelin go soggy, consider filling them as needed. Choux buns that have not been filled can be kept at room temperature in an airtight container for two to three days. If you need to crisp up the topping again before filling, put them in the oven for 375° for 5 minutes.

The post How to Make Choux au Craquelin (Vanilla Cream Puffs) at Home appeared first on Taste of Home.

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