Choux with Cracklins

OK, maybe not “cracklins”, those are the food-of-the-gods crispy, porky bits you get when you do this. Though I suppose my choux puffs would be terrific with some of those, no? Choux Kentucky style! Actually, what I’m talking about is choux crowned with disks of a cookie-like dough, a hyper-sweet topping known as craquelin in France.

Though I can’t say for certain, I believe this is a case of West borrowing from East, since the technique is identical to the one that creates the Japanese go-to sweet bread, melon pan. It’s well known that Japanese pastry chefs have been besting the French at their own game in recent decades. The Japanese cream puff mega-corp Beard Papa has been making a mint off crunchy-crusted choux since 1999. Is this a gift Japan gave back to France as a thank you for all that classic technique? It very well could be.

But be that as it may, this technique is fast becoming the new standard for sweet choux preparations. Not only does it add flavor and texture to typical puffs, it helps keep the shape of those puffs round and consistent. What’s not to love? Make yours by combining three ounces (6 tablespoons) of soft butter with three ounces (1/2 cup) of light brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. You can also do this in a bowl with a spoon, but I’m addicted to machines.

Cream the butter and sugar together, then add 3.75 ounces (3/4 cup) of all purpose flour…

…and stir that together. Thanks to David Lebovitz for the proportions!

Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper…

…and roll it out very thin, about 1/8″ inch, nearly filling up the whole parchment sandwich. Put that in the fridge until it’s very firm, about an hour. You can keep it there for up to several days.

Meanwhile prepare a batch of choux batter and pipe your puffs whatever size you like.

Dab any little points down with a moistened finger!

Then, choosing among the cutters in your round cutter set, select the one that’s about the size of your batter blobs. Cut the cold batter to shape…

…then apply the disks to your choux and bake immediately while the dough is still cold (the crust is more even when the batter doesn’t have a chance to warm and spread).

Bake according to standard directions, 10 minutes at 475 Fahrenheit, another 20 at 375, then depending on the size up to an hour more at 250 to dry them thoroughly. And there you have it! Fill with whipped cream or pastry cream, drizzle with chocolate of you like…you know, all the usual cream puff stuff. These are best eaten the day they’re made.

22 thoughts on “Choux with Cracklins”

  1. I’ve never seen these before, but I love the look of them! I noticed that you piped the choux sideways instead of upwards. Is that significant to the outcome? Thank as always!

    1. Good eye, Jen! I did indeed pipe these with the tip touching the paper since I wanted more of a disk shape than a ball shape. You get more even coverage of the cookie dough that way, plus a consistent mushroom cap-like shape…which will come in very handy for my next project…which I shall put up tomorrow.

      – Joe

      1. Are Choux the same as the *long hoped for* structural components for croquembouche? And if so, might that be a soon-to-come project? *pleasepleasepleaseplease*

        1. Hehe…yes choux puff are that very thing. And croquembouche you say. Lordy!

          Can I think about it? I’ve made so much choux this week I’m about to turn into a puff myself!

          – Joe

          1. Thinking, acceptable. Though wouldn’t that make a glorious post, say about mid-December, to allow those of us very interested in making one for the holidays time to replicate your delectable creation? [It’s not flattery if it’s true, right?]

          2. Oooooh….you’re merciless. I’ll make a mold.

            – Joe

  2. Hi Joe,

    Thank you so much for this recipe! Now I never have to buy a “Beard Papa” cream puff again. I can hardly wait to see what you have in store for us tomorrow. You’re the best on-line baker there is.

  3. I have been known to gnaw on a dozen of them….in the corner of the room…and the little ones retreat in terror as I whisper *my precious* to them…:D

  4. If–someday–you can bear to make a croquembouche, would you please tell us how to *serve* it! Admiring it is all very well, but serving it has been left to the baker’s imagination so far.

    1. Great point, Sally! I don’t know how to do that myself. I’ll have to look into it.

      – Joe

  5. Hi Joe,

    Just wondering if you’ve heard about using brown sugar instead of white to make the craquelin, just because I’d like to have a caramelly flavour without necessarily dipping the tops in caramel. It’s for my little boy’s first birthday and the hard sugar topping, though great for adults, isn’t so good for the kids. To be filled with Pierre Herme’s lemon cream curd…

    1. Whoa, that sounds amazing!

      I have not heard of that but can’t think of a reason why it wouldn’t work. Let me know how it goes!

      – Joe

  6. hi joe,
    my craquelin kept falling off from the choux. Could you tell me what went wrong?

    1. Sorry to hear that, Giselle! Tell me: at what point did it fall off? Was the craquelin warm or cold when you applied it?

      – Joe

  7. Mr Pastry,

    These were a delicious success. I decided to fill them with a very thick dulce de leche. Everyone fell in love with them. Thank you for expanding my knowledge of pastries!

  8. My Oh My! I am a pastry chef myself but have not seen this one. Our fall class (culinary baking) starts this week. One lesson is of the Choux. I will be sure to have half the class make this version so they can enjoy the difference in the two.

    Thank you..

    1. Hey Kelley!

      So glad to hear from you. You’ll have a lot of fun with these. It’s amazing how symmetrical they turn out — and how rigid. Please check back in and let me know how it went! Cheerio,

      – Joe

  9. So cool to see your site! I had several issues:

    Puffs didn’t rise (the expanded a tiny bit, but we’re pretty dense)

    Topping didn’t spread and fell off (it was almost frozen). When it was done, it just looked like a cookie sitting on top.

    Any advice?

    1. Thanks Chris!

      But dang…that’s a lot to go wrong. Let’s start with the choux. Do you remember what the texture was like once the dough was made? Also, did you cook it for the full time?

      – J

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