{Introduction to Pastry} – Choux au Craquelin

 

choux pastry

What a fancy name – choux au craquelin! But what does it mean you may ask. Let’s put it this way – imagine a choux pastry (cream puff), topped with a crunchy topping, greatly named craquelin. It does sound good, isn’t it?!

But let’s start with the very basic, shall we?! And that’s CHOUX PASTRY (also known as choux paste).

Mastering the art of making choux pastry is not as difficult as it may sound. Eclairs, cream puffs, beignets, chouquettes, croquembouche, St. Honore or churros are just some of the dessert that are made using this dough as a base. For years, I was afraid of this type of dough and just kept avoiding making it. But then my son claimed eclairs and cream puffs to be his favorite dessert, so I had no choice but to give it a try. It took me a few tries to find the perfect recipe, one that rises beautifully into puffs that are hollow inside, just ready to take in as much filling as possible, but I finally managed to get it right. I’m still on the search though, perfection can’t possibly be reached this easily when it comes to desserts!

Unlike other types of dough, choux pastry doesn’t have any levening agents. Instead, it relies on the power of steam to puff up. Now that’s interesting – flour, water, milk, fat, salt, a touch of sugar and eggs are the main ingredients of this dough, but they work like a charm!

When it comes to choux pastry recipes, the blogoshpere (and cookbooks for that matter) is flooded with all sorts of recipes and proportions, every one of them having a different milk or water proportion, using either butter or oil, adding salt and sugar or skipping them altogether. My recipe uses both milk and water since both are very important to the final baked product – milk and its proteins help the choux pastry support its shape and water helps keep a crispy outer shell. In terms of fat, I prefer butter for the same reasons mentiones above. I did bake recipes that use oil in the past and even though those are cheaper and maybe easier to make, the final result is not as good as the ones made with butter – the choux rise unevenly, they don’t turn as crispy and absorb moisture from the environment once baked. Made with butter on the other hand, they have a better crust, the taste is far superior, the inside is hollow and they remain crispy on the outside once baked. And that’s what we are after at a choux pastry!

One ingredient that is often looked at without much importance in the pastry world is salt. Adding salt to choux prevents the cracks in the choux once baked. Some pastry chefs prefer adding a touch of sugar as well – it helps with the browning of the shells (by touch I mean just a few grams per recipe – the choux pastry is not supposed to be a sweet dough; its taste is rather neutral).

choux au craquelin

If I were to name another element of great importance in choux pastry making, that would be the flour you use. Generally, a bread flour that has a higher protein content yields a more consistent result than cake flour or all-purpose flour. The higher the protein content of the flour, the better will the choux pastry rise and hold their shape, making hollow choux or eclairs instead of flat ones. A high protein content also yields a better, crispier shell as well.

The craquelin is the paste that goes over each choux or eclair just before baking and it’s usually made of butter, brown sugar and flour, although I have to admit I made it using powdered sugar as well and it was just as good. The great part about this dough is that it can be dyed any way you like, it can be flavored and generally, it’s a fun way to dress up your choux or eclairs. But beyond design, craquelin also helps keep the cream puffs even during baking and it’s becoming a technique that’s gaining more and more terrain for exactly that reason. It looks good, it tastes great and it helps with the shape of the final choux – what’s not to like about that?!

The baked cream puffs can be filled with pretty much anything, from the classic pastry cream to various other fillings, such as mousse, cremeux or ganache. In terms of flavors, the sky is the limit – vanilla and chocolate are some of the most common choices, but lemon, mango, earl grey, coffee, berries, amaretto, pumpkin or almonds are just a few of the flavors great chefs use for their choux cream puffs.

5.0 from 4 reviews
{Introduction to Pastry} - Choux au Craquelin
 
Author:
Serves:: 20-30 cream puffs
Ingredients:
Craquelin:
  • 85g butter, softened
  • 95g light brown sugar
  • 95g all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
Choux pastry:
  • 150ml water
  • 100ml whole milk
  • 100g butter
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 150g bread flour
  • 4-5 eggs
Directions:
Craquelin:
  1. Mix the butter and sugar in a bowl for a few minutes until creamy and pale.
  2. Add the flour and salt and mix well.
  3. Transfer the dough on a sheet of baking paper and cover it with another sheet of baking paper. Roll the dough into a very thin sheet, about 2-3mm thickness. Place the dough in the freezer until needed.
Choux pastry:
  1. Combine the water, milk, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan and place over low heat until the butter is melted.
  2. Once the butter is melted completely, turn the heat on high and bring to a boil.
  3. The moment it comes to a boil, remove off heat and immediately add the flour, all at once. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula until the flour is well absorbed. Place the saucepan back over medium flame and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes, mixing all the time, until a layer of dough remains on the bottom of the pan - keep the flame on medium to avoid burning and mix all the time with the spatula or spoon to cook out the liquid.
  4. Remove from heat and allow the dough to cool down for 10 minutes.
  5. Start incorporating the eggs, one by one, mixing well after each addition. Add the last egg bit by bit to make sure you're not adding too much egg. The number of eggs used depends on the humidity of the dough, even on weather and the size of the eggs.
  6. The dough is ready when it falls off the spoon and leaves a streak that doesn't collapse on itself if you run your finger through it.
  7. Spoon the dough into a pastry bag fitter with a round nozzle then pipe small dollops of dough on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat (baking paper yields wrinkled choux or eclairs).
  8. Remove the craquelin from the freezer and cut small rounds of dough using a cookie cutter that is just as large as your piped dollops of dough. Carefully arrange the craquelin discs over each choux.
  9. Bake in the preheated oven at 180C - 350F for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 160C - 320F for another 15 minutes.
  10. When done, the choux needs to be crispy, dried, well risen, golden brown and hollow inside, they shouldn't flatten when cooled and they should remain crisp and dry.

choux au craquelinROMANIAN

Choux au craquelin e un nume destul de posh cum ar spune englezii… si totusi e un nume pe care nu reusesc sa-l traduc in limba romana, motiv pentru care ii voi spune fix asa, choux cu pasta craquelin. Banuiesc ca recunoasteti aceste choux-uri cu topping crocant deasupra, care au invadat lumea patiseriei moderne in ultimii ani. Acea pasta de deasupra choux-urilor se numeste craquelin. Insa inainte de a intra in detalii despre cum se face, as vrea sa parcurgem cateva idei de baza despre aluatul de choux sau ecler – aluatul oparit.

Personal, m-am temut cativa ani de acest aluat. Aveam impresia ca se face greu, ca nu iese cum trebuie.. si chiar asa era, dar nu aveam atunci cunostintele de acum si nici macar nu aveam dorinta de a intelege ce este aluatul in sine, ce se intampla cu el la copt, ce ii influenteaza crestere si cum obtii o crusta aurie, crocanta. Greseam la fiecare capitol, de la primii pasii pana la copt, astfel incat mai mereu obtineam eclere fara crusta, insuficient coapte si greu de umplut. Nu suna prea apetisant, nu-i asa?!

Aluatul oparit este unul dintre aluaturile de baza ale cofetariei, cel din care se obtin eclere, choux-uri, beignets, croquembouche, tort St. Honore ori renumitii churros. Spre deosebire de alte aluaturi insa, acesta nu contine niciun agent de crestere. Ba daca te uiti la lista de ingrediente vei observa ceva bizar – toate sunt ingrediente simple, de baza, precum faina, apa, lapte si grasime, plus oua pentru a lega totul. La o prima vedere nimic nu-ti spune ca din ingredientele astea poti obtine ceva nemaivazut, nemaintalnit.

Cand vine vorba despre acest tip de aluat, blogosfera (si chiar cartile de bucate) este inundata cu tot felul de retete care promit cele mai bune eclere ori choux-uri, fiecare reteta in parte avand caracteristicile ei, fie ca foloseste doar unt, fie ca foloseste doar apa sau ulei, fie ca adauga sare si zahar sau nu. Reteta pe care am tot testat-o eu zilele acestea foloseste atat lapte cat si apa, ambele avand un rol important: laptele si continutul sau proteic ajuta aluatul sa-si mentina forma in timpul coptului, in timp ce apa ajuta la obtinerea unei cruste crocante. In materie de grasime, exista doua variante viabile: unt si ulei vegetal (cu gust neutru). Personal, am testat ambele variante si trebuie sa recunosc ca din aluatul facut cu unt obtii rezultate superioare celui facut cu ulei. Untul nu are doar un gust mai bun, dar fiind bogat in proteine, ajuta aluatul sa-si sustina forma atat in timpul coptului, cat si dupa aceea. Aluatul cu ulei pe de alta parte e adesea uleios, nu are o crusta prea apetisanta si nici crocanta si nu de putine ori mi s-a intamplat ca eclerele facute cu acest aluat sa fie imposibil de umplut pentru ca pur si simplu nu erau goale pe dinauntru.

Pe langa lichide si grasimi, orice reteta de aluat oparit contine inca un element obligatoriu – sarea. Se pare ca sarea este cea care previne aparitia crapaturilor in timpul coptului, lucru de importanta mare la eclere. Un ecler care are crapaturi este greu de umplut, greu de glazurat, pe cand unul fara crapaturi iti ofera o multime de optiuni in ceea ce priveste decorul. Unii cofetari adauga si putin zahar in aluat pentru a-l ajuta sa se caramelizeze uniform in timpul coptului, insa ca regula generala aluatul oparit nu contine mai mult de cateva grame de zahar – nu este un aluat dulce, ci unul neutru si poate fi umplut chiar si cu umpluturi sarate.

Nici faina nu este ceva de neglijat pentru ca nu orice tip de faina este ideal pentru aluatul oparit. Recomandat este o faina cu un continut de proteine mai mare, proteine care ajuta aluatul sa-si mentina forma si greutatea in timpul coptului, astfel incat sa obtineti eclere goale pe dinauntru si care au o crusta aurie, crocanta. Va recomand ca atunci cand cumparati faina pentru eclere, sa cititi eticheta si sa o alegeti pe cea care are cel mai mare continut de proteine. In general, acest tip de faina este catalogat ca fiind pentru paine.

Cat despre temperatura la care aluatul oparit trebuie copt, parerile sunt impartite. Eu una am experimentat cu mai multe temperaturi si am descoperit ca pentru mine 20 minute la 180C si inca 15 minute la 160C sunt suficiente, dar voi va cunoasteti cuptorul mai bine. In orice caz, aluatul oparit necesita un timp de coacere mai indelungat pentru ca aburii sa se evapore si sa obtineti eclere sau choux-uri uscate si care nu se lasa dupa copt.

Craquelin este o pasta care se pune peste fiecare choux (si chiar ecler) si care “imbraca” choux-urile in timpul coptului cu un strat crocant. E un fel de aluat extrem de simplu, facut doar din unt, zahar brun si faina, cu toate ca eu l-am facut si cu zahar pudra si a iesit la fel de bine. Partea interesanta cu acest aluat e ca poate fi colorat dupa dorinta ori aromatizat cu o multitudine de condimente. E o baza extraordinara pentru o imaginatie bogata! Si totusi, craquelin nu are doar rol decorativ, ci ajuta eclerele sau choux-urile sa creasca uniform in cuptor, motiv pentru care a devenit o tehnica tot mai intalnita in marile patiserii ale lumii.

Ingrediente:

Craquelin:

  • 85g unt la temperatura camerei
  • 95g zahar brun
  • 95g faina alba

Aluat oparit:

  • 150ml apa
  • 100ml lapte
  • 100g unt
  • 1/4 lingurita sare
  • 1/2 lingurita zahar
  • 150g faina alba
  • 4-5 oua

Mod de preparare:

Craquelin:

  1. Mixati untul cu zaharul pana obtineti un amestec cremos.
  2. Adaugati faina si amestecati bine. Veti obtine un aluat asemanator cu o pasta groasa.
  3. Transferati aluatul pe o foaie de hartie de copt si acoperiti cu o a doua foaie de copt.
  4. Intindeti aluatul intr-un strat foarte subtire, aproximativ 2-3mm grosime apoi puneti in congelator pentru cel putin 20 minute ori pana cand aveti nevoie de el.

Aluat oparit:

  1. Combinati apa, laptele, untul, zarea si zaharul intr-un vas si puneti pe foc mic la inceput, pana cand untul se topeste complet. Dati focul mai tare si dati amestecul in clocot.
  2. In momentul in care incepe sa fiarba, luati de pe foc si adaugati faina, toata o data, apoi amestecati energic cu o lingura de lemn ori spatula, pana obtineti un aluat gros, omogen.
  3. Puneti vasul inapoi pe foc mediu si gatiti aluatul 2-3 minute, amestecand continuu pana cand se formeaza o crusta de aluat pe fundul vasului. Aveti insa grija cand amestecati sa nu incorporati bucati din crusta in aluat. Acest pas e foarte important pentru ca reduce umiditatea aluatului.
  4. Luati vasul de pe foc si lasati 10 minute sa se racoreasca.
  5. Incepeti sa adaugati ouale, unul cate unul, pana obtineti un aluat gros dar care totusi curge de pe lingura, arata matasos si fin si luceste. De asemenea, daca treceti cu degetul pe suprafata aluatului, acesta formeaza urme care nu se acopera, isi mentine forma.
  6. Puneti aluatul intr-un pos cu dui rotund sau stea si formati mici gramajoare de aluat pe o tava tapetata cu o foaie de copt de silicon (merge si de hartie, dar talpa choux-urilor va fi usor incretita – hartia se increteste de la umiditatea aluatului).
  7. Acum e momentul sa scoateti si craquelin-ul din congelator. Folosind o forma de fursecuri rotunda cam de marimea gramajoarelor de aluat, taiati mici discuri de craquelin apoi puneti fiecare disc peste choux-uri.
  8. Coaceti in cuptorul preincalzit la 180C pentru 20 minute apoi reduceti la 160 pentru inca 10-15 minute.
  9. Cand sunt gata, choux-urile trebuie sa fie aurii, crocante, bine crescute si goale pe dinauntru.

 

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  1. Does it make a difference if you have a non fan oven? The recipe is excellent, but I think my oven is the issue..
    I have a no fan oven and currently my choux shells don’t puff up 100% and are still wet inside however already cooked..
    Hope you can help! and thank you for the recipe!

    • I never use a fan for choux pastry, so that’s not the problem. I believe you need to bake them more if they are still wet inside. Lower the heat a bit and keep baking them 10-15 more minutes.

  2. Hi i wanted to know if is it normal for the craquelin part to soften after the baking process when we leave it outside or a covered container? My choux pastry were firm and hollow but after leave it outside for quite sometimes the craquelin soften up and get soggy. Hope you could enlighten me on this part. Thanks! Love your recipes btw!

    • You probably didn’t dry them out enough. Try lowering the temperature for a bit and keep baking them for 10-15 more minutes.

  3. Can i know how to store that one? Because if i put in chiller the texture will change?

    • You can freeze before baking, just the dough once formed in the pan.
      But you can also freeze after baking, as long as you bake the choux well and they are crisp and dry.

  4. Buna Olguta,
    Ce dimensiuni ar trebui sa aiba duza posului pentru aceste mini choux si ce dimensiuni ar trebui sa aiba gramajoarele de aluat? Aceeasi intrebare si pentru eclerele cu lime si cocos.
    Am incercat reteta, au iesit foarte bune doar cu problema de dimensiune
    Multunesc mult!

    • Diana, depinde ce marime iti doresti sa fie produsele finale. Cred ca problema ta nu e marimea duzei, ci cat aluat pui in tava cu duiul respectiv. Undeva intre 10si 18cmm e ok, dar repet, e in functie de cat de mare vrei tu sa fie produsul final.