The first time I ever tried baking this delicate French pastry was back in 2015. I had just eaten them in one of the cafés in New York (want to know the best place for Cream Puffs in NYC? Ask Me 🙂 ) and oh, I found them to be so addictive. Then one fine day, I suddenly thought of baking them, thinking – “Hey how hard could it be?” So, I simply searched on the internet, picked up the first recipe I could find and started with the steps. I basically did no research about how delicate and yet crispy this pastry is and how precise you need to be with every step.
And to my surprise, I was able to get decent looking choux pastries, which did not deflate, were decently crispy on the outside and airy on the inside; I was happy. You see, at that time, I didn’t have this obsession to bake everything just simply perfectly, which I do now and I know it’s a problem, but hey, it pushes me to create these foolproof recipes for you, so it’s actually good, right? Anyway, so I thought that I had mastered the art of making Choux Pastry – “Well, that was simple!” But little did I know.
Fast forward to 2020, we were all in quarantine mode and I was craving some delicious cream puffs. So I found the recipe I used in 2015 and started making them. I was so confident about this being a success! Yes, I was about to eat something delicious, I was happy! But to my surprise (rather shock), it was an absolute failure. They tasted like an omelette (omelette!) and no airiness on the inside. I thought, how could that be possible, it was a tried and tested recipe – But, I guess it was just beginner’s luck. And wasn’t actually a foolproof recipe.
And now I was in beast mode! I had to develop a foolproof recipe that anyone could follow and make these little delicious notorious pastries perfectly (Haha)! So I researched every possible thing on the internet, found out what these pastries were all about, tried over 15 recipes, tweaked them based on my understanding and finally got what I needed – The perfect Choux Au Craquelin!
So let’s get started!
What does Choux Au Craquelin mean?
Choux is a light pastry which is twice cooked and is made only with butter, flour, eggs, and water. Yes, it doesn’t use any raising agent like baking powder. Instead, the high moisture content helps to create steam during the cooking process, which puffs up these pastries.
Craquelin – Well, the literal meaning of craquelin is cracker, but when referring to french pastry, Craquelin is a sweet and crunchy cookie topping that is added on top of choux pastries to give it a distinct sweet and crunchy texture.
Important Tips to Make Choux Pastry Successfully
1. Make sure your butter and eggs are at room temperature
Like all the other French pastries, this is also one temperamental pastry! This means that following the recipe to a T is important. It is important to have your eggs at room temperature because if they’re cold, they will not incorporate well in the dough mixture, thus creating an omelette like texture. It’s also extremely important to have your butter at room temperature, why? Let’s see in the next tip.
2. Don’t over boil your water/butter mixture
Remember we want all that water for steam so don’t let the water boil for too long else it will evaporate, hence leading to flat choux pastry, which isn’t very appetizing. The trick to save as much water as possible is always using butter at room temperature, so that it dissolves very quickly in water, thus causing no evaporation!
3. Dump all the flour at once
When it’s time to dump flour in the hot water-butter mixture, do it quickly – all at once. The reason for this is that we want the flour to cook as evenly as possible.
4. Stir the flour vigorously
Once the flour is in the saucepan, make sure you keep stirring it vigorously until all the flour is completely incorporated and the mixture starts to leave some butter on the pan. Another way to check the doneness of your mixture is when you start seeing a film form on the surface of your saucepan, this means your mixture is ready!
5. Cool down flour mixture before adding eggs
Remember this as a rule of thumb for baking – whenever you’re adding eggs to something, make sure that your “something” mixture is always at room temperature. If the mixture is too hot, the eggs will curdle, thus creating scrambled eggs and not the pastry you were working for, in this case – choux pastry.
6. Add eggs little by little
The intention here is that we want a very homogenous mixture for a proper bake, so incorporating one egg completely into the mixture before adding the next one is very important! What you’re looking for in the end is a dough that is glossy but still thick enough, holds its shape and is pipeable.
7. Check if the dough is ready
Once you’re done incorporating all the eggs, keep checking if your dough is ready. I like to do what I call a “triangle spatula test” – Lift some dough using your spatula and hold it upside down, if a triangle forms, then voila! Another way to check is by passing a spoon through the dough, if the sides do not fall too quickly, this also means that your dough is ready.
8. Oven temperature and cook time are the most important
I have seen recipes that use a higher oven temperature and cook these pastries only for 20-30 minutes. No! Using a higher over temperature will cause your choux pastry to rise very fast and the moment you take them out of the oven, they will deflate. Having a moderate oven temperature and cooking them for longer ensures that your pastries rise slowly and evenly and will not deflate when you take them out.
9. Leave them to cool in the oven
This is another crucial step that most of you might think of skipping. Let me tell you – Don’t! Just as rapid rise isn’t good for these pastries, rapid cooling also isn’t good. If you just take them out of the oven after the bake time is over, chances are your choux pastry will still deflate. So to avoid that, after the cook time is finished, let your pastries sit in the oven for additional 25-30 minutes, leaving the oven door slightly ajar. This ensures that the pastries cool slowly and maintain their structure.
Choux Pastry Troubleshooting
I feel that I have faced almost all possible problems when trying to perfect this recipe. So let me tell you one by one –
1. Why are my pastry shells flat, soft, and soggy?
There are multiple reasons for that, so let’s understand them:
- Your bake time was too less – Removing choux pastry from the oven too early is one of the main reasons for them to deflate. Because they deflate, this means that there was still too much moisture left in your choux and hence it will be soft and soggy too.
- Your pastry batter was too runny – If your ratios are not right, what you’ll end up with is a runny batter that has too much moisture. This will also result in a flat choux.
2. Why does my choux pastry have too many cracks?
- One of the reasons for this is that all the ingredients in your dough weren’t properly mixed. You might have skipped sifting the flour, and as a result might have some bigger flour particles in your dough that weren’t thoroughly mixed. Sifting the flour and then mixing all the ingredients thoroughly is key.
- Another thing to check is your oven temperature. If your oven temperature is too high, it will cause a rapid rise and hence resulting in cracked choux pastry. Try to place an oven thermometer inside while baking to make sure your oven temperature is actually what it says it is.
3. Why does my pastry taste so eggy?
You added too much flour or eggs in the dough. Make sure your measurements are correct. Having incorrect ratios can make your choux pastry dense and eggy.
1. Can I make choux pastry dough in advance?
Yes! Uncooked pastry dough can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
2. Can I freeze baked choux pastry shells?
Yes, absolutely! Baked pastry shells without any filling can be freezed by placing them in a freezer ziplock bag in the freezer. When ready to use, thaw them first in the fridge and then bake at 300 F for 8-10 minutes before filling them.
3. Can I use bread flour or pastry flour instead of all purpose flour?
Bread flour has more protein than all purpose flour, so this will result in a choux pastry that will rise less but will be sturdier in structure and will hold its shape.
Pastry flour has less protein and gluten than all purpose flour, so this will result in a more delicate pastry shell that will rise more. My personal preference is to use all purpose flour for making choux pastry.
Watch Step by Step How to Make Classic Cream Puffs
Sometimes simply reading through the recipe is not enough. You need to visualize the recipe, you need those exact hand movements and ways to achieve the proper end results. Therefore, I’ve created a recipe video as well to help you.
You can follow along my recipe video and try making some crispy cream puffs for yourself too!
If you follow this recipe precisely then I’m sure you will be successful in making Choux Au Craquelin in the first time itself.
Classic Choux Pastry with Craqueline Recipe
Pastry Cream Filling
Pastry Cream Filling
Serving: 1 Cream Puff; 70 calories; 5 g fat; 5 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein;50 mg cholesterol; 40 mg sodium; 5 g sugar.
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