Chouquettes: French Cream Puff Recipe

Choquettes

Dinner in Paris generally starts at 8 pm, especially in restaurants. And most places don’t even open to take reservations until 7 o’clock. I once was talking to a visitor who was really upset as he recounted arriving 15 minutes early at a place that he had reservations for dinner. The staff was sitting down having dinner (how civilized!) and asked him to come back at 8, when the restaurant opened and the time of his reservation. He told me he threw a fit, not believing that they wouldn’t seat him, and stormed off. (I think I will try that next time I arrive at the airport early and throw a fit when they refuse to take off until the scheduled departure time.)

Anyone who’s worked in a restaurant knows how precious those few minutes of sitting down and eating are. Those moments of peace-and-quiet with your co-workers are the last chance to get off your aching feet for a spell and have a bite to eat. Especially since the next chance to sit down or eat something is likely to be well past midnight.

Parisians do dine rather late, and sometimes it can be a painfully long stretch between lunch and dinner. So French people often visit their local pâtisserie for an afternoon snack, known as le goûter, although nowadays Parisians often call it ‘le snack’.

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Le snack is often nothing more than a buttery financier or a tender Madeleine. At home, French children at home are often given a split piece of baguette with a bâton of chocolate tucked inside to keep them happy until dinner.

But my snack of choice is invariably les chouquettes: Cream puffs covered with crunchy nuggets of sugar, then baked until golden-brown. The eggy, pillowy puffs are piled uneventfully behind the counter and sold in crisp little paper sacks, each one holding about 100 grams, or about 10. I found that engaging the counter person in a few words of niceties will often mean that before the ends of the bag are twisted shut, a few more will be tossed in as a petit cadeau for l’americain.

Nothing is easier to make than chouquettes and you can bake them tonight with ingredients you likely already have on hand. Unfortunately I don’t know where in your country you can buy the very coarse, crackly sugar that they use in France. But you can substitute any large-grained sugar that you have. And since I like to add chocolate to whatever I can, whenever I can, I press some chocolate chips into a few of the puffs before baking.

The ones with chocolate chips, needless to say, are always the first consumed once the puffs are cool enough to handle.

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Chouquettes
About 25 Puffs

From The Sweet Life in Paris (Broadway Books)

Shaping the mounds of dough is easiest to do with a pastry bag, although you can use two spoons or a spring-loaded ice cream scoop.

  • 1 cup (250ml) water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (90g) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 cup (135g) flour
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

Glaze: 1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon milk

Crystal sugar (Coarse sugar is available in the US from King Arthur and in some Ikea stores. In Paris, I buy mine at G. Detou.)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (220 C.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2. Heat the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a small saucepan, stirring, until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and dump all the flour in at once. Stir rapidly until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.

3. Allow dough to cool for two minutes, then briskly beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth and shiny.

4. Using two spoons, scoop up a mound of dough with one spoon roughly the size of an unshelled walnut, and scrape it off with the other spoon onto the baking sheet.

5. Place the mounds evenly-spaced apart on the baking sheet. Brush the top of each mound with some of the egg glaze then press coarse sugar crystals over the top and sides of each mound. Use a lot. Once the puffs expand rise, you’ll appreciate the extra effort (and sugar.)

6. Bake the cream puffs for 35 minutes, or until puffed and well-browned.

(If you want to make them crispier, you can poke a hole in the side with a knife after you take them out of the oven to let the steam escape.)

The cream puffs are best eaten the same day they’re made. Once cooled, they can be frozen in a zip-top freezer bag for up to one month. Defrost at room temperature, then warm briefly on a baking sheet in a moderate oven, until crisp.

24 comments

  • We recently made these from Clotilde’s C&Z recipe and they were much enjoyed. I will modify the recipe to include the reference to ‘W’ for the scoop size, as I like to laugh while I work in the kitchen. Though I’m not sure you weren’t being too generous. IKEA (of all places) is where I finally found the coarse sugar, but next time I’ll be using chocolate, too!

  • You can also buy pearl sugar from Danish and Swedish web sites (just do a search on the web). I’m going to have these sweet things ready for my daughter when she gets home from school today!

    I love your blog David. It makes me happy.

    xoxoxo

  • I think you mean chouquette, non? ;-) Your title says choquettes! (I am a cheap editor! that’s all right)
    I have a friend from Loiret and she is the one who introduced me to those little babies, glad to have a recipe!!!!

    And ah yes le goûter, I belong to the adult world and cannot do without my goûter!

    Delicious looking!!!

  • Hi,
    Ingredients call for water. Instructions call for milk.

    Which one?

    I was losing weight :-)

    David
    Walnut Creek

  • Monica: Yes, do try them with chocolate. They’re great.

    Nicole: If you’re happy, I’m happy. What a happy couple we are!

    1: Surfas is a great store, and perhaps they carry the sugar. Another place to try is Sweet Celebrations (http://www.sweetc.com), formerly known as Maid of Scandinavia (a much better title, I think) although most of their products aren’t on their web site, so you actually have to call and, gulp, deal with a real person!

    Bea: Show off! Your language is so difficult (although to be fair, I spelled it right half of the time.) I don’t feel bad, since even my French friends here don’t even understand their language much of the time. BTW: I’ll sending you my next manuscript….in English!

    David: It’s water, although some people use milk for puffs that will be more tender…so you can use either. If you’re trying to lose weight, my friend, this is the wrong blog!
    : )

    Everyone: Ok, ok. I get the hint. I’ll start blogging and posting less frequently, and being more careful editing and checking for typos.

  • Ah ahaahh I cannot wait to get the manuscript!! Sorry, I am taking my revenge on you for all those times I was told “she is cute” when I butcher the English language. Someone else has to suffer!

  • No! No! No! David! I would much rather have typos than you not post as often! Everyone has typos every so often. I love your blog and I check it numerous times a day and then find myself wondering where you are that you aren’t posting more often! I just got some amaretti cookies today that had the pearl sugar on so I had to explain to my husband all about the post today. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  • beautiful post, David – great photos. so much fun to see what these puffers look like before puffing up. yum.

  • Hi David,

    Thanks for posting this. We were all ready for a snack so I made them right away.

    But my dough came out very runny (thanks for the precooked photo) so I added flour until I could form some kind of a walnut sized piece. Alas, they didn’t rise (although they tasted great). Any idea what I might’ve done wrong?

    Cheers.

  • Catherine – your oven probably wasn’t hot enough. Same thing happend to me first time I tried these, raising the heat and putting them back in the oven for a couple of minutes did the trick.

  • Catherine: Try Dana’s suggestions. Also, make sure you’re using ‘large’ eggs, not extra-large. And vexing to bakers is the fact that flour can vary depending on which region you live in, or how you measure it. Perhaps you need to cook the dough more than you did as well, which evaporates some of the moisture as well.
    And if it’s any consolation, I’ve seen pastry shops in Paris selling flat chouquettes too!

  • Dana and David,

    Thanks for the tips – I’m going to try these again. I didn’t have the right sugar so I used lots of chocolate mini chips and everyone loved the special “cookies”!

  • Oh what a happy family we all are. I can’t wait to make the recipe and follow all the comments while doing so. But, David, you start us going. Merci!

  • OH my goodness, I gave up the idea of losing more weight when I started my food blog. But this really is testing the boundaries….

    Still, I have to try them? Do you think they’d work with gluten-free flour? (rice flour, tapioca flour, and millet combination)

    And if you let typos stop you from posting as often as you do, I’m going to fly to Paris and force you to sit at your computer!

  • Thank you for the parenthetical clarification regarding the size of the dough balls. In the absence of that I would have tried making each of them about as big as a pea.

  • For my goûter (I prefer this word to “snack”) I love to have chouquettes. The stuffed ones are called “chou à la crème”, the chouqette being the dry ones. For this special sugar I buy it in… Brussels.

  • oh la la… david, thank you thank you thank you for the recipe!! (you have no idea how happy i am right now!!)

  • Hi David –

    I’m very frustrated. Maybe it’s just me, but I just made these little beauties and burned the crap out of ‘em. Pulled most at 20 minutes, and the ones I left in … well, after a few drinks they might pass.
    I’m checking my oven temp, but I haven’t had a problem before and, if anything, my oven seems to run fairly cool. And, I SWEAR, I double-checked – the really are Bush-brain-sized.
    Suggestions?

  • … a quick addendum – just baked the second batch, and pulled after 18 minutes. Perfectly cooked. Truly, I made them walnut-sized and, again, oven hasn’t been a problem in the past. Should I have reduced the temp from 425 when I put them in?

  • Cathy: Sorry you had a problem. I made the recipe 3 times and they came out as shown in the photo. It seems that if you did one batch at 20 minutes and they burned, but cooked the second for 18 minutes and they were perfect, the difference in 2 minutes is rather slim so I suspect your oven temp is the culprit and may need a quick-check with an oven thermometer. In most of my recipes I provide both a time and visual/textural clue for doneness to compensate for varying ovens. And because I’m crazy for choquettes, I re-tested the recipe this morning (see my Flickr page for photos) and found that in my oven, fitted with an oven thermometer, they were nicely baked at 35 minutes…the only problem I have is now I’m swimming in choquettes!

  • Hi David,
    Made these for my kids this afternoon, they were thrilled. My daughter has seen me make cakes, cookies, muffins and just about every ‘American style’ sweet. She is most impressed with these as they are her favorite. Thanks for blogging about these.
    Looking forward to meeting you here in Paris next month for our tour! Maureen

  • Hi David,
    I’m an enthusiastic fan of the blog, and have usually had good luck with your recipes, but these are awfully troublesome, as I too can’t help but scorch the little darlings. They puff up and look beautiful on top, but underneath they hide a bitter burnt bum. I have two oven thermometers, so I don’t think it’s a matter of heat accuracy. I’ve made them three times, trying such variations as lowering the temperature, cooking them for less time, using different baking sheets, etc. But they all end up with unsightly (and unappetizing) burns, even when slightly undercooked on top. Any idea what the problem could be?

  • hi April- in general many home ovens have rather intense lower heat due to the placement of the element. To avoid burnt bottoms, try baking on a higher rack, stacking 2 baking sheets on top of the other (creating a cushion of air), or baking on a silicone mat which deflects heat. Or buy a facy new convection oven!
    Also black or dark baking sheets absorb heat and can overcook things on the bottom. In France, many of the choquettes you enjoy have a dark, almost burnt bottom. It’s rather rustic. If you look at my Flickr page you can see the difference between choquettes baked directly on a black baking sheet vs the ones shown here.