Confession time. I feel like I've been missing out for a very long time. Missing out on how insanely, amazingly, delicious choux pastry is, and how easy it is to make. For some reason it was filed squarely away in my list of 'things that are difficult to make', and i'm totally bummed out that it was there for so long. Maybe it was the french name. Maybe it's because the last time I tried to make it, I carefully piped out a whole tray of 'eclairs' before Dad pointed out I had accidentally piped out things that were definitely more phallic than originally intended. Or maybe just because I thought it was tricky. But I dunno why it was there for so long. Because not only is it fun, and easy to make, but it is ridiculously versatile. You can fill it with whatever you please, or just eat the buns as they are. Both are amazing. You need to make.
And seeing as this is the first choux recipe I have posted, it seems only fair and reasonable that I go all out, right? Why would I share a simple cream puff recipe, filled with whipped cream, when I can take a cream puff, add a layer of crunchy delicious cookie dough before it is baked, and then fill it with caramelised bananas, pecan brittle, and caramelised white chocolate whipping ganache? If we are going to have fun with cream puffs round here, we might as well do it properly.
My mind was low key blown by a few things here. The first was the addition of the craquelin. I had seen it before, and assumed it was a super fancy technique. I was amazed to learn that it was simply a very thin layer of cookie dough, frozen, and placed in a disc on the piped out choux mound before it is baked. As the choux bun bakes in the oven, and somehow magically puffs up, the craquelin melts and spreads over the surface of the bun, creating the most beautiful crackly finish.
The second was the whipping ganache. When I was planning out this recipe, I turned to my amazing friend Lisa, who is a pastry chef in London. Not only is she insanely talented, but she puts up with me bombing her with questions about flavour profiles, recipes, and plating on the regular, and still hasn't told me to go away. This time in particular, she sent through a recipe for a whipping ganache, which I hadn't heard of before. It is similar to a regular ganache, except it is stabilised with a little corn syrup (or glucose), and a second measure of cream is added after the chocolate and cream have been melted together. Once it has rested in the fridge, it is whipped up. The result is amazingly light, and almost mousse-like. I'm hooked. Gonna add whipping ganache to everything now.
When I started planning this, I knew that I wanted to find a way to incorporate my current obsession - Valrhona's Dulcey Chocolate. It is a caramelised white chocolate, which is one of the most amazing things I have ever come across. They describe it as "creamy and toasty", which is the perfect description. I am not typically a white chocolate fan, but I am full-on addicted to this stuff. I used it in the whipping ganache, and it gave it the perfect flavour - not too sweet, and not too overpowering. It was the perfect base to add to, which I did - adding a layer of caramelised banana, and a pecan brittle in the bottom of each choux bun, before topping with a big swirl of the ganache.
And OH MY. The result was insane. The crispy cream puff, the smooth silky whipping ganache, the delicate banana flavour, and the crunch from the pecan brittle, all combined to make the perfect mouthful. I will definitely be making these again. I know they look ridiculous and intimidating, but I promise that when you break down all the steps, it is 100% worth it and they aren't as scary to make as they look! I hope you give them a try! Let me know if you have any questions at all!
A few wee tips:
- I have included an extra 'just in case' egg in the ingredients. The reason that this is in there, is that sometimes you need to add extra egg to the pastry if necessary. You want the mixture to be at a consistency where if you dip in the beater of the mixer, the batter will form a 'v' shape and eventually break off. If it is too stiff, and breaks off very quickly, you may need to add another beaten egg, and mix again, before performing the test.
- This article from Erin Mcdowell explains everything so well, as per usual!
- I made the pecan brittle and the ganache the day before, as the brittle needs time to set, and the ganache needs overnight or 12 hours to mature.
- Leave all the components separate until just before you serve. If you have leftover components, store them all separately, and then assemble as needed.
- My oven really only takes one tray at a time, so I piped out both trays of choux, then only topped them with the craquelin when I was ready to bake. Store the craquelin in the freezer until you are ready to use.
- Choux Freezes! Freeze the cream puffs just after they have been piped out, then once solid, place in a ziploc bag in the freezer. Bake off as usual.
- These can be filled with anything you like! The Choux au Craquelin is the perfect vehicle for any filling you like. I filled some with mascarpone whipped cream, and they were amazing!
Choux au Craquelin with Caramelised White Chocolate Whipping Ganache, Caramelised Bananas, and Praline Brittle
- Makes about 12 Cream Puffs -
Caramelised White Chocolate Whipping Ganache
335g Heavy Whipping Cream
75g light corn syrup
450g Caramelised White Chocolate (I used Valrhona's Dulcey)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
335g Heavy Whipping Cream, cold
200g (1 cup) Sugar
150g (1/2 c) Corn Syrup
60g (1/4 cup) water
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Unsalted butter, at room temp
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp baking soda
Flaky Sea Salt to Finish
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
120g all-purpose flour
120g dark brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
125g whole milk
110g unsalted butter, cubed
5g Kosher Salt
5g vanilla bean paste
165g All-purpose flour
240g eggs, lightly beaten, plus more if required (see tips)
5-6 ripe but firm bananas
200g (1 cup) sugar
Butter for the pan
- PROCESS -
CARAMELISED WHITE CHOCOLATE WHIPPING GANACHE
In a small pan over medium heat, combine the first measure of cream, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
Bring the cream mixture to just shy of a boil, then pour over the chocolate, and immediately cover the bowl with a plate. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, then whisk the mixture until smooth. Gradually add the second measure of cream, whisking very well to incorporate. Transfer to an airtight container, and place a piece of plastic wrap over the surface of the ganache, then rest in the fridge for at least 12 hours to allow to mature.
Preheat the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c. Place the pecans on a baking sheet. Bake for approx 8 minutes, shaking often, until the pecans are lightly golden brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly, then chop roughly. Set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat. Measure out your butter, vanilla and baking soda, ensuring that there are no lumps in the baking soda.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt in a medium pot over medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the pecans. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture registers 300˚f / 150˚c on a sugar thermometer.
Remove from the heat, and immediately add the butter, vanilla, and baking soda. Stir quickly to combine. Pour out onto the prepared baking sheet, spreading slightly if needed. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and leave to cool completely.
Place all ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium until combined. Turn out the dough onto a large piece of parchment paper, and top with a second piece. Roll out to 1-2mm in thickness. Place the dough, still between the parchment sheets, in the freezer for an hour, or until ready to use (Can be made ahead).
CHOUX AU CRAQUELIN
Preheat the oven to 400˚f / 200˚c. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a cooke cutter, trace six 2 1/2" circles on each baking sheet using a pen or a pencil, then flip over the baking sheet so that the side with the drawing is facing downward.
Fit a large piping bag with a large round piping tip.
In a medium pot, combine the milk, water, butter, salt, vanilla bean paste, and sugar. Place over medium heat, and stir until the butter has melted and the mixture has begun to boil. Remove from the heat, and add the flour all at once, mixing quickly with a wooden spoon to combine. The mixture will form a thick paste.
Return to the heat, and, stirring constantly, cook the mixture for 2 minutes to help dry it out. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute to help cool down the mixture.
With the mixture running on low, slowly stream in the 240g egg. Mix on medium speed for 4 minutes, or until the egg is fully incorporated. Test the consistency of the batter by dipping in the beater and pulling up. If it forms a v which eventually breaks off, you are good to go. If it seems too stiff, slowly add another beaten egg and mix to incorporate.
Transfer the choux pastry to the prepared piping bag. Using your traced circle as a guide, pipe mounds onto the baking sheet, ending each with a little flick of your wrist. If the choux has left a point, you can flatten down with a wet fingertip. Repeat with the second tray - you should end up with 12 mounds.
Remove the craquelin from the freezer, and peel off the top piece of parchment. Using the same sized cutter you used to trace the circles on the parchment paper, cut out 12 circles of dough. Place each carefully on top of a mound of choux, pressing lightly to adhere. (if you are only baking 6 at a time, only put craquelin on the first 6 - add it to the next batch just before they go in the oven)
Bake the cream puffs for 15 min at 400˚f / 200˚c, then turn down the oven to 350˚f / 180˚c, and bake for a further 20 minutes, until the puffs are deeply golden. Remove from the oven and poke a small vent in the side of each using a paring knife or chopstick, to help the steam escape. Place on a cooling rack to cool completely. If baking in two batches, return the oven to 400˚f / 200˚c, and repeat the baking process with the remaining buns.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cut the bananas into thick coins. Place the sugar on a plate or in a shallow bowl. Line a baking sheet with baking paper sprayed lightly with cooking spray, or line with a silpat. Working with about two bananas worth at a time, roll each coin in the sugar so it is coated all over. Transfer the sugared bananas to a clean plate.
Melt about a tablespoon of butter in the skillet, and then carefully add the bananas, spreading out evenly in the pan, and ensuring none touch. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the slices are well caramelised, before flipping with tongs or a spatula, and cooking for a further 1-2 minutes. Remove carefully from the pan, and place on the prepared sheet. Repeat with the remaining banana.
Using a whisk, whip the whipping ganache until it is thick and holds its shape (the reason you do this by hand is that it is very easy to overwhip in the stand mixer, causing it to split). Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large french star tip.
Break up the pecan brittle into large chunks, then place in a bag, and hit with a rolling pin until it resembles a mixture of fine crumbs, and slightly larger pieces of brittle.
Using a sharp bread knife, cut the tops off the cream puffs, about three quarters of the way up.
Place a thin layer of crushed pecan brittle in the bottom of each cream puff. Top with a well packed layer of caramelised bananas, and then another thin layer of brittle. Pipe a swirl or mound of whipping ganache on top of the banana and brittle, and top with the choux lid you cut off earlier.
Serve immediately. Best eaten the day that they are made.
Thank you so much to Valrhona for providing me with the chocolate for this recipe! All opinions are my own.