Sometimes you discover things in the most random way. In this case, Chouquette is the name of a dog and the owner’s favorite pastry. It is a very simple pastry of a choux puff with pearl sugar on top, but I looked for a recipe nonetheless to get guidance on what it’s really about. I found this Chouquettes recipe on David Lebovitz’s website, but as I got to the bottom of the page, my eye caught a delicious looking picture of puffs with a crackly sugary coating on top. Craquelin. I had never even heard of this, but since I’m making a batch of choux pastry anyway, why not try both?

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Making choux pastry I think is one of those things where once you make it, it’s not scary at all. I always loved cream or custard-filled choux, so much so that I made Croquembouche for my wedding. Basically a cream puff cone tower stuck together with caramel. In my experience, the key to a good choux pastry comes down to using the right size eggs. When the recipe says “large eggs,” it means large eggs, not extra large, not jumbo. Too much egg will often lead to a puff that is too thin-skinned or soggy (even after drying it out in the oven). Since all my eggs come from our backyard chickens, the sizes can be irregular, so I have to eyeball it and use my best judgment.

What I find the most difficult with getting the puff just right is figuring out the right temperature and length of bake time based on the oven and how big the puffs are. Some ovens, like my super old electric one, are not accurate at all. Based on my crappy oven, with walnut-sized pastry dough mounds at around 400°F, I was able to achieve nice crispy golden brown puffs after 17 minutes, much shorter and at a lower temperature than the recipe. You may have to experiment a little bit.

For the Chouquettes, the only part that wasn’t really clarified in the recipe was the type of pearl sugar to use. Here in the US at least, you will mainly see two types: Belgian and Swedish. The difference between the two is that the Belgian pearl sugar consist of bigger chunks while the Swedish pearl sugar is smaller. The first time I tried making Chouquettes I only had Belgian pearl sugar so I thought it might work, but I quickly realized that the sugar pieces were way too big in relation to the puffs. So, I tried them again with Swedish pearl sugar (available at Ikea if you have one nearby, and also online) and it was just right. The whole point of Belgian pearl sugar is so that it does not dissolve when baked inside, for example, a Liège waffle, whereas Swedish pearl sugar is more for topping pastries.

The Craquelin was very straightforward, and the result was delicious with an irresistible texture of delicate crunchiness. What I liked about both these recipes is that it didn’t require too many ingredients and they were a delight to eat. Although the recipe says it yields 25+ puffs, I ended up with maybe double that. Perhaps my idea of “walnut-sized” is not quite accurate. Even then, they were gone in mere minutes.

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