Well, well, well, if it isn’t January all over again! Can you believe it?? To be honest, to me it feels like Christmas has not yet happened and here we are…
Anyway! Today I am bringing one of my favourite bakes of all times: a choux au craquelin with apples, salted caramel and some beautiful cream. This will honestly make your mouth so, so happy.
You may be wondering what the heck is a choux a craquelin. Well, basically is a profiterole with a crunchy top made mostly of sugar. It’s different from profiteroles because while these are soft when you bite into them, the choux au craquelin are crunchy. Let’s deep into this, shall we?
What is a craquelin?
Glad you ask! As I briefly explained, a craquelin is basically a sweet pase that is placed on top of the choux pastry, it’s almost like a cookie dough made of sugar, butter and flour that is frozen and then cooked on top of the choux, when it cooks it almost hugs it making it crunchy to the bite. They also add a bit of extra sweetness, as choux pastry is made with little sugar. I like to make my craquelin using brown and normal sugar, however, you can use normal sugar only. The brown sugar gives them a brown colour.
How about the choux pastry?
Choux pastry or profiteroles seem a bit dreading but are super easy to make, they are made with water, milk, butter, sugar, salt, flour and eggs. You may see some recipes in which they are cooked with water only, but I like adding the milk. One of the many keys to good choux pastry is to be very careful while adding the egg, usually you don’t need the full measure in the recipe, so it’s important to add it slowly until you reach the desired consistency. Another key is to cook initially at 200 degrees celsius for 15 minutes and then take the temperature down to 170 for an extra 10 minutes, it is very important that your oven is completely warm when you put them in. Choux buns can be a little bit temperamental in the oven, I make them in a conventional oven without the fan. It is very important that you don’t open the oven while they are cooking, also, when they are done I like to turn off the heat and leave them in the oven for a couple of minutes, then I crack the door open to allow cold air in and leave them like that for a few minutes, finally, when I take them out of the oven I make sure they are away from any draft. It all sounds like a big effort, but I find that this assures me the choux buns keep their shape.
And how about the filling?
I have decided to fill my choux buns with apples, cream and salted caramel first of all because to be honest I think it’s the best flavour combination IN THE WORLD, but secondly because it just feels very seasonal! To be honest I cannot wait to experiment with other flavours as the seasons change.
I cooked my apples on the stove until soft and let them cool down completely before putting them inside my choux.
Once they are assembled, it’s best to eat them on the day, although they will stay fresh in the fridge for an extra day or two. This recipe is a small recipe so you can eat them all in one go!
Choux au Craquelin with Apple & Salted Caramel
Ingredients (makes 6-7):
For the craquelin:
- 50 gr of butter at room temperature
- 35 gr of brown sugar
- 20 gr of granulated sugar
- 55 gr of flour
For the choux pastry
- 57 gr of butter
- 60 ml of whole milk
- 60 ml of water
- 62 gr of flour
- 1 tsp of sugar
- A small pinch of salt
- 1 large egg
- 3 medium sized apples (I used granny smith)
- 2 tbsp of water
- 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 tsp of agave syrup or honey
- 150 ml of double cream
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp of agave syrup or honey
Equipment you will need:
- 2x piping bags (or freezer bags)
- A big nozzle (ignore if using freezer bags)
- A 5 cm cookie cutter
- A hand mixer with a dough hook and a whisk
- Parchment paper
- Oven tray
- Rolling pin
- Start by making the craquelin. Mix the sugars and the butter until incorporated, then add the flour and mix again until you have a dough, I usually use my hands to make sure everything comes together. Place the craquelin in a piece of parchment paper, cover it with another and using a rolling pin roll it to the thickness of a coin. Freeze for an hour until hard.
- While the craquelin is in the freezer, make the salted caramel and the apples. We need both of these to be cold by the time we put them in the choux bun, so I like to make them quite early in the process. Follow my salted caramel recipe to make yours or feel free to use shop bought salted caramel. For the apple, simply mix all the ingredients in a pot and cook them over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the apples are soft but have not lost their shape. You should be able to put a fork through them without breaking them. Let both the apples and the caramel cool down completely.
- After making the filling, you should be closer to the hour needed for the craquelin, so start making the choux pastry. The first thing to do is to mix the butter, sugar, salt, milk and water in a pot and cook it until the butter has dissolved completely and starts simmering, then, turn off the heat and add the flour. You will have to stir it vigorously with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes until it forms a pale paste. Set aside for a couple of minutes so it cools down slightly. Then, beat the egg separately and add it very slowly to the mix. You may not need the whole egg depending on its size, I use large eggs and there is always some left. Using the dough attachment of a hand mixer, add in the eggs bit by bit. After adding small amount, mix with your hand mixer for 20-25 seconds and then add again. The mix will first look curdled but will come together as you keep adding end and mixing. You will know it’s ready when it forms a thick paste that may start “climbing” up the hook of your mixer.
- Once the choux pastry is done, take a piece of parchment paper and place it over a baking dish and using a 5 cm cookie cutter draw 6 circles with a pencil. Allow 2-3 cm between each circles as the choux buns grow in the oven. Remember to turn the paper around so your food is not in contact with the pencil!. Then, put the choux pastry in a piping bag with a big nozzle or, alternatively, use a freezer bag and cut a big hole.
- Before piping the choux pastry, take the craquelin out of the freezer so it warms up ever so slightly so it’s easy to cut. Please note that the craquelin HAS TO BE HARD AND FROZEN when placing it in the oven so this should be done right before you are ready to pipe the choux pastry and put it in the oven.
- Pipe the choux pastry into the circles making sure that you fill them up completely and using the cookie cutter cut 6 circles of the craquelin. Place the craquelin on top of the choux pastry pressing it ever so slightly and cook in a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 15 minutes and then at 170 for another 10 minutes. Make sure the oven has reached this temperature when you put them in.
- Make sure you do not open the oven while cooking them. Once done, make sure you don’t open the oven straight away, turn the heat off and let the door closed for 4-5 minutes, then crack it open and let the cold air in for a few more minutes. When taken out of the oven, make sure there isn’t a draft or cold air, seems like a lot of work but it’s worth it to avoid them deflating!
- When the choux buns are cold, make the cream by mixing the ingredients in a bowl and beating them with a hand mixer until you have a nice thick cream.
- To assemble the choux buns, cut the top, add the apples so they fill up the bun, then pipe the cream on top of the apple and around the edges of the bun, cover it with the cut top piece and then spoon salted caramel over.
- These are better enjoyed on the day, however you can put them in the fridge and enjoy them for the next 2 days.
Try not using a black oven tray if you can, black oven trays attract more heat than silver ones.