Enter any boulangerie or pâtisserie in France and you are likely to see a tempting pyramid of freshly-baked chouquettes on display – buttery, light, choux pastry covered in crunchy pearl sugar. A traditional after-school treat in French households, chouquettes are nevertheless often overshadowed by less humble members of the choux pastry family – éclairs, Paris-Brest, religieuses and Saint Honorés. However, they are an incredibly moreish, simple alternative if you’re not in the mood for getting elbow deep in creams and pastries.
Pearl sugar is sprinkled on the top of the piped buns to add an irresistible crunch that will keep you coming back for more. Its high melting point means the granules can easily survive high oven temperatures, sticking to the outside of the buns and giving them that distinctive crystal appearance and texture.
100g unsalted butter, chopped
4g fine salt
8g caster sugar
150g flour, sifted
4 medium eggs (225g of egg), cracked into a bowl and mixed with a fork
40g pearl sugar
1 piping bag
1 piping nozzle (plain circle or star-shaped) – 6mm is ideal
1. Preheat the oven to 210°C. Grease two baking trays or line with parchment.
2. Heat the water, milk, butter, salt and caster sugar together in a pan. When the butter has melted, remove from heat. Do not boil.
3. Immediately tip in the flour and stir quickly to combine.
4. Move the pan back over a low heat, and stir the mixture (known as a ‘panade’) until it comes away easily from the sides of the pan.
5. Remove from the heat, tip into a bowl and stir for 2-3 minutes until the mixture cools enough to add the egg.
6. Add half the eggs in one go and stir vigorously to combine. Then slowly add the remaining egg, little by little – you may not need to use all of it! Keep checking the consistency. The mixture is ready when it looks very silky, and will drop from a spoon held at an angle above the mixture – ‘dropping consistency’ . It shouldn’t be runny.
7. Place the nozzle in the piping bag and fill with the mixture. Pipe small circles onto the greased baking trays around 3cm in diameter.
8. Sprinkle generously with the pearl sugar. Tip the baking tray to pour off any excess.
9. Bake for 10-15 minutes at 210°C. Be sure not to open the oven for the first ten minutes as the chouquettes may deflate.
10. Transfer to a cooling rack and enjoy!
Note: The chouquettes can be frozen directly on the baking trays, after they are piped and sprinkled with sugar. When the piped mixture is firm, just tip into a plastic bag to store more easily in the freezer. When you fancy a few with coffee, lay out on a baking sheet and cook as above, allow a few more minutes in the oven.
by Jessica Donnithorne