Bite-size, adorable little puff pastry balls adorned with sweet sugar pearls. Scrummy, lip-smacking, I dare you to stop at one!
Miniature food is having a big moment, I’ve heard. And there is absolutely no way we’re taking on this trend without devoting a whole article to the sparklers of miniature French pastries: the pearl sugar chouquettes!
Chouquette literally means “little puff pastry”. Scrumptious. Lip-smacking. I dare you to stop at one! Chou-quette. The name is so darn cute it just screams for sneaking a few more in your mouth… and a few more after that!
In every French bakery they are sold by the dozen and handed to you gloriously in a big paper bag. And for decades, around 4:30pm, it is common sight to see mobs of school kids in the streets walking back home and stuffing their hands in those crumpled paper bags and licking every finger, not to miss a single sugar granule.
Choux pastries are ones of those recipes that can initially be a little intimidating, but it is actually quite easy. The key is to be quick – so make sure you measure all your ingredients and line them up in front of you before you start.
Making simple little pearl sugar chouquettes is a great way to get accustomed with the making of choux pastry. They are miniature, which makes it easier to create. A little round, a little hollow, but not at all perfect in shape. As a matter of fact, if their final puffed shape is not so round, it’s actually even better. Rougher edges will create more crunch, and they will have an even more rustic appeal. So really, don’t be intimated and just go for it.
Once you master this recipe, you will effortlessly be able to craft elaborate, classic French pastries such as profiteroles (filled with ice-cream and covered with melted chocolate), St-Honoré (filled with cream), Croque-en-bouche (piled into a cone tower and mounted with threads of caramel)… Yes, so many fancy names and perspectives… But truth is,these exquisite French desserts all start with tiny little chouquettes.
The savory version of a chouquette is called a “gougère”. They are usually made with hard cheeses such as gruyère or Emmental (also known as Swiss cheese), and make for perfect amuse-bouches. And just by mentioning this, I’m having a major craving for them … Well, looks like we have another upcoming recipe!
- 1 cup of water (250ml)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour (125g)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter (80g)
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 1 pinch of salt
- 5 large eggs (or 6 medium eggs)
- 50 g of pearl sugar
- 1 egg yolk + 1 tbsp of milk (for the egg glaze)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C) and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large saucepan, over medium-heat, heat the water, salt, sugar, and butter, stirring until the butter is completely melted. Stop stirring and bring to a light simmer.
- As soon as it is simmering, remove from heat and dump all the flour in the saucepan at once. Stir rapidly until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
- Scoop the dough out of the pan and into a bowl to cool down for just a couple of minutes.
- Add in the eggs, one at a time, and beat well until you reach a thick, smooth, shiny texture, that is slightly sticky.
- Using two tablespoons, scoop up a mound (tablespoon size) of dough with one spoon and scrape it off with the other spoon onto the baking sheet. You can also use a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip and pipe them.
- Once all the mounds are evenly-spaced apart on the baking sheets, brush the tops lightly with the egg glaze (one egg yolk diluted in one tablespoon of milk). Sprinkle the pearl sugar over the tops and sides. Remember that these mounds will puff up a lot when baking, so don’t be shy to sprinkle them with a lot of sugar
- Bake the cream puffs for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 375ºF (190ºC) and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, until the chouquettes are golden brown.
- Let them cool on the rack. If you want extra-crispy chouquettes, poke a tiny hole in the side of each of them with a knife right after you take them out of the oven. This will let the steam escape.
- The chouquettes are best eaten the same day they are made. But they can also be refrigerated in an airtight container or zip-top bag for up to 3 days; or frozen for up to one month. Defrost them at room temperature, and you can even re-crisp them in a 325° oven for 10 minutes.
- Pearl sugar is available at ikea stores, or online at kingarthurflour.com.