Who doesn’t love a choux bun or éclair? Crisp pastry, creamy filling and a sticky topping…..such a treat! And they are so simple to make, yet look deceptively difficult.
This time, however, I have made a batch with a crunchy biscuit topping, a craquelin: I have eaten choux buns with a craquelin topping on several occasions recently at Afternoon Tea venues, and while I normally crave a sticky topping, the crispy biscuit topping was quite a revelation – so it was about time I made a batch!
The filling here is a blackcurrant and white chocolate cream filling, which is a cross between a mousse and whipped cream, but you can simply go for cream – perhaps with a touch of icing sugar or vanilla extract if you don’t want to use the chocolate.
The crunch on top is essentially a biscuit dough that gets rolled out and place on top of the choux pastry prior to baking.
As the pastry bakes and expands, the biscuit dough gently spreads over the top of the pastry, breaking up naturally, resulting in an extra crunch in each mouthful. It really is quite delightful.
My first attempt at craquelin was with a shortbread biscuit topping, but it didn’t give the effect I wanted, so I played around to give a dough that melts and fragments somewhat over the top of the choux:
The craquelin dough can be made in advance and chilled until needed. If you have any dough left over, simply wrap it up and freeze it for use at a later time.
I have flavoured the dough with blackcurrant powder (avalable from specialist food shops or online), but you can omit this completed, and just use food colouring. Alternatively, you can use other fruit powders, vanilla extract, ground ginger, lemon zest or orange zest for different flavours.
Recipe: choux buns with blackcurrant craquelin – makes about 25 small choux
- 40g slightly softened unsalted butter
- 50g caster sugar if going for a coloured craquelin-otherwise use soft brown sugar
- 50g plain flour
- 3 teaspoons blackcurrant powder
- food colouring of choice: I use 1/4 teaspoon powdered red colouring
Blackcurrant cream filling:
- 300ml double cream
- 100g white chocolate, melted and cooled
- 2-3 teaspoons blackcurrant powder (or use 2-3 tablespoons puréed blackcurrants – tinned, fresh or frozen)
- 125ml water
- 50g butter, unsalted, cut into cubes
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon caster sugar
- 75g strong plain flour (strong flour gives a crisper finish to the pastry)
- 2 large eggs, beaten, at room temperature
- a few teaspoons of blackcurrant powder, optional
Make the craquelin
(1) Mix the craquelin dough ingredients together in a small bowl to form a soft dough. Chill for about 30 minutes or until needed.
Make the choux pastry
(2) Preheat the oven to 190C (fan) and line a couple of baking sheets with baking oarchment or silicon mats.
(3) Heat the water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan gently until the butter has melted. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Once the water has come to the boil, add the flour and mix well until the mixture pulls away from the sides into a smooth ball. Turn down the heat and keep beating for another minute or two. Remove from heat and let it cool for a couple of minutes.
(4) Add the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition. You can use a wooden spoon or a hand-mixer. The paste will look unsightly to begin with (slippery and it might seem as if it will not come together) but it will become smooth and glossy.
(5) Spoon or pipe the pastry onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silicon sheet, ensuring they are spaced apart: a dessertspoon of the mixture will give large choux, whereas a teaspoon will give smaller, bite-sized choux. A wet finger can be dabbed over the tops to smoothen them off if you prefer.
(6) Roll out the craquelin dough to a few millimetres thick: this is easiest done by placing the dough between two sheets of baking parchment. Cut out small discs of dough and place on top of the choux pastry.
NB: if you don’t want to bother rolling out the dough, you can simply take small balls of the dough, even without it having been chilled, flatten it in the palm of your hand and place on top of the pastry. You wull still get a very nice random cracked effect.
(6) Bake for about 20-25 minutes for larger choux or 12-15 minutes for smaller choux – they should be well risen and the craquelin should have broken randomly on the surface, giving a nice appearance. NB: if making larger choux, you can cover the choux with foil for about 15 minutes to prevent the craquelin becoming too dark.
(7) Transfer to a cooling rack and insert a sharp knife into the sides to allow steam to escape.
Make the filling
(8) Whisk the cream until it starts to thicken and slowly pour the cooled white chocolate into it, whisking all the time. Add the blackcurrant powder or purée and continue to whisk until you get a thick cream that holds its shape.
(9) Chill until needed: as the chocolate sets you will get a firmer, but pipeable cream.
(10) Split each cooled choux bun in half with a sharp knife and spoon or pipe the cream mixture onto the bottom halves. Replace the tops and dust lightly with blackcurrant powder, if using.
Some of my other favourite choux pastry recipes:
These three choux recipes, whether made as éclairs or choux buns, never fail to make me happy when I eat them: