French pastry has always been a personal challenge for me, because more often than not, a certain level of skill and a fastidious approach is required when tackling the more technically-demanding recipes. Take the humble-looking macaron for example. It took me a good three tries and many batches of discarded ingredients before a presentable enough result was achieved. Having had a play with choux most recently for a wasabi cream puff, I decided to take it another level up by decorating it with a crunchy cookie topping. Sweet, creamy, crunchy… Definitely sounds like something right up my alley. This was also the perfect dish to take along to a Japanese-themed dinner party that I would be attending the following evening, my sencha-infused pastry cream being the “Japanese” to the french confectionary.
The recipe I used yielded 20-30 puffs. Not needing quite so many, I piped them rather large. Stupid move on my part, because they took forever to bake and eventually sunk as they remained raw inside although the outside was cooked. Praying to the pastry Gods, I whipped up a second batch with half the ingredient quantities required which eventually turned out just as they should.
The verdict from the panel that night was a unanimous approval of the puffs. The crunchy cookie contrasted nicely with the light pastry cream. The sencha infusion gave a fragrant aroma, and also offered a different kind of green tea taste that most of us are used to tasting in our desserts.
Even without the cookie or the pastry cream, this choux dough recipe is worth keeping, just because the versatility of the dough allows us to make other sweet treats like eclairs and perhaps a croquembouche for the more ambitious.
Below is a short video I’ve put together of the process of preparation.
Yields 20-30 puffs
85g butter, softened
95g light brown sugar
95g all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and well-incorporated
Add the flour and salt and mix well.
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. Freeze until needed
100ml whole milk
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
150g bread flour
Heat the water, milk, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan until they come to a boil.
Once boiling, remove off heat and immediately add the flour and mix until the flour is well absorbed. Place the saucepan back over medium flame and continue mixing, until a layer of dough remains on the bottom of the pan. Keep mixin the dough to cook out the liquid.
Remove from the heat and cool down the dough for 10 minutes.
Add an egg to the dough and mix well. It will start off seeming as if it will not combine, but keep mixing. Add the rest of the eggs one at a time, doing the same for each. The number of eggs used depends on the moisture in the dough.
The dough is ready when it falls off the spoon in a ribbon but maintains its shape when piped.
Transfer the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a round nozzle then pipe small balls of dough on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.
Remove the craquelin from the freezer and cut small circles with a cookie-cutter the same size as the piped dough.Place the craqueline atop each choux.
Bake in the preheated oven at 180C for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 160C for another 15 minutes.
Allow the choux to cool in the oven with the door left slightly ajar. They should be dry, crisp and hollow when done, ready to be filled with pastry cream.