Craquelin

craquelin top

If you’ve ever wondered how French pastry shops make cream puffs with that distinctive decorative crackly topping, look no further. (If you’ve never wondered, you can skip to the next entry.) The topping is called craquelin, a simple dough that’s easily put together and is a nifty little trick to gussy up ordinary cream puffs.

French flour

butter and light brown sugar

The dough is softened bits of butter, sugar, and flour, which is frozen then rolled out, then baked on top of each cream puff. Bakeries in Paris often make chouquettes, which are sold by the bag and make the perfect afternoon snack.

rolling craquelin

cookie cutters

But fancier shops will dress up their cream puffs, which adorn more elaborate pastries. I made a batch of pâte à choux (cream puff) pastry recently, and decided to dress them up with craquelin (you can find cream puff recipes in my books, Ready for Dessert and The Perfect Scoop, as well as at the link above to chouquettes) – and was delighted to pull the tray from the oven to find the dough had draped nicely over the tops.

craquelin tops

You can either snack on them as they are, or fill them with ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream and let them rest in a pool of chocolate sauce.

cream puffs

Craquelin
About 50 cream puffs

This makes enough dough to cover fifty bite-sized cream puffs. You can either cut the recipe in half, or wrap the rest of the dough and freeze it to use on a future batch of cream puffs. (The dough will keep for up to two months in the freezer.)

It’s easiest to roll out between two pieces of parchment paper but you can use plastic wrap if that’s all you have available. Find a cookie cutter that’s about the same size as the diameter of the unbaked puffs, and use that to cut circles to place on top of the dough before baking them off in the oven.

The puffs may expand a bit more than normal, so you should pipe them a little more widely spaced apart than you might usually do.

  • 3 ounces (85g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (100g) all-purpose flour

1. In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon, then add the flour and continue to mix the dough until it’s smooth. (You can also use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.)

2. Put the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll the dough until it’s about 13-inches (33cm) round. Slide the dough on a baking sheet and freeze the dough.

3. Make your cream puffs, and after they are piped onto a baking sheet, remove the dough from the freezer and let it stand a minute or so, until it’s defrosted just enough to cut. Using a round cookie cutter about the same diameter of the puffs, cut out circles of the dough and set them on top of the puffs. Bake the cream puffs as indicated by the recipe, until the tops are nicely browned.

Never miss a post!

56 comments

  • October 1, 2013 6:05pm

    I have actually never seen this before! I love cream puffs (I actually just posted some last week) and will definitely be trying it out. Thanks David!

  • October 1, 2013 6:13pm

    This is a beautiful technique and these cream puffs look amazing. I look forward to trying this out!

  • Ssuan
    October 1, 2013 6:14pm

    Excellent — just what I’ve been wanting! Thanks, David.

    One thing I’m curious about: have you really found that the cracquelin-topped puffs expand more than usual, or is the instruction to space more widely than usual simply insurance? I imagine that the sugar would make baked cracquelin stickier than plain baked choux puffs.

  • October 1, 2013 6:18pm

    I’ve never heard of cracquelin, either; is it almost like a baked streudel on top? In any case, they look incredible, and keeps burning my envy for anyone who has regular access to a French bakery!

  • October 1, 2013 6:26pm

    I was making cream puffs from the bouchon cookbook and he talked about making a cookie to place on top of the cream puffs which I thought was odd so I decided to ignore it. Now I understand….haha.

  • October 1, 2013 6:31pm

    The before pics are especially mesmerizing. And thank you for putting both metric and US measurements in the recipe. Much appreciated!

  • October 1, 2013 6:49pm

    I can’t say I’ve ever wondered about this but now I am intrigued. Normally I don’t like cream puffs because I find they are kind of bland and boring but this sounds like a great way to jazz them up!

  • October 1, 2013 6:51pm

    I am not sure if the Asian pineapple bun topping is similar to this but if it is I can not wait to try it. In Australia we used to have store that sold these buns with ice cream in it. Simply gorgeous

  • October 1, 2013 7:24pm

    You learn something everyday! What an interesting “trick” that I never really thought about before…and yes, it does remind me of Chinese “pineapple” buns that have a similar crackly sweet topping that is very delicious. I made cream puffs (first time) not long ago and maybe I’ll work my way up to dressing them up like this at some point… Thank you, David!

  • s
    October 1, 2013 7:26pm

    I bet this is delicious! My goodness

  • Liz
    October 1, 2013 7:31pm

    We do this in Sweden too and then fill them with whipped cream and creme pat.

  • October 1, 2013 9:09pm

    Looks lovely! Are there other applications for craquelin? Maybe on breads or other kinds of pastries?

  • October 1, 2013 9:22pm

    These remind me of the ‘pineapple bun’ tops at Chinese Bakeries. Named as such because of the way the cracks form on the bun when they’re baked. I didn’t realize they’re served on top of cream puffs as well. Delicious!

  • Don
    October 1, 2013 10:15pm

    Thought this was going to be a post about French cracklin or pork rinds.

  • Bernadette
    October 1, 2013 10:46pm

    David, where did you get that nice collection of round/ring cutters? Would they be available in the States?

    • October 2, 2013 7:13am
      David Lebovitz

      Mine are old (vintage) but you can get round sets of metal cookie cutters made by Ateco in the states, sold in cookware stores and on Amazon, in the US.

  • October 1, 2013 10:52pm

    Yay, David! I was looking for a secure and safety crackly top recipe, before yours the only really reliable that I found was Thomas Keller.

    Thanks :D

  • Jessica
    October 1, 2013 10:54pm

    I’ve found that chouxs rise less with craquelin on top. They don’t collapse while baking, but remain kind of smallish. Any way one can make up for that effect?

    • October 2, 2013 7:13am
      David Lebovitz

      As noted, I find the opposite – that mine rise more!

  • October 1, 2013 11:05pm

    Craquelin seems to be everywhere now! I never really understood it at first either – then in our bakery we would put some on round invidiual brioches filled with a (previously frozen) sphere of creme pat and rum-soaked raisin. They were very cute! I think the Japanese called them melon pan?

  • October 2, 2013 12:54am

    This is perfect for the holidays! Can’t wait to make them.

  • wendyb964
    October 2, 2013 2:12am

    Oh, my, that’s a lot of work. Pate au choux was the first baking item my French mum taught me to make. Yes, even before the traditional American chocolate chip cookies. I make them often as gougeres or plain and freeze. Tis good to know but think I’ll pass. I WILL learn to make laminated dough, however.

  • October 2, 2013 3:58am

    This recipe couldn’t have come at a better time. I am currently in pastry school and my next assignment is pâte à choux. I would love to use this craquelin to make my cream puffs even more special…especially since my blog is named for my love of choux!! Thank you ;-)

  • AP
    October 2, 2013 4:13am

    This looks like pineapple buns at Chinese bakeries, have you tried it on sweet yeast dough?

  • David
    October 2, 2013 4:24am

    This is AWESOME!
    Have you ever tried it with white sugar rather than light brown sugar? (just thinking that white sugar might sometimes match the flavor of a filling better than brown)

    …To anyone looking for a set of the round cutters in the U.S. I’ve seen them quite often in cooking stores and crafty stores that sell baking supplies. Also, very easy to find online.

    • October 2, 2013 7:16am
      David Lebovitz

      I haven’t used white sugar (in France, one often uses what’s called sucre roux, which is similar to unrefined sugar.) I like the taste of unrefined sugar, or light brown sugar, so I use that.

  • October 2, 2013 4:40am

    Hey David In Asia we also put them on buns, A famous one would be the Hong Kong Polo Bun. I suspect that in Asia they add some milk powder to the Craquelin.

  • Justin
    October 2, 2013 5:29am

    Release the craquelin!

  • Kissyfur
    October 2, 2013 7:25am

    I have eaten these and always wondered how the topping was done – now I know! Do you think it would be possible to roll the topping in a cylinder, freeze, then just cut thin slices to place on top, or does the texture/consistency not allow you to do this. I am very lazy about getting out the rolling pin……

  • October 2, 2013 11:23am

    once, i tried adding some red food coloring to the Craquelin dough and it worked like magic (obviously, but i couldn’t help myself :)
    made them look very elegant

  • Jessica
    October 2, 2013 4:38pm

    @David,
    I guess I’ll try until I get it right!

  • October 2, 2013 4:41pm

    Your silpats look remarkably pristine. Mine are nearly black.

  • October 2, 2013 4:59pm

    A very nice/simple touch for a holiday cream puff; can’t wait to make it. Thanks!

  • Jeannie Taillat
    October 2, 2013 5:17pm

    Hi David,

    I’m a “blog virgin”. Yours is the first I have ever followed and this is the first time I have ever commented. I originally found your blog when looking for a “gougere” recipe. Yours worked marvelously. You popped up in two other searches and that’s when I climbed on board. It has been very pleasant and I very much enjoy your posts. Only days before you posted “The Glass Half Full” I was explaining to a friend how the French (usually) only pour half a glass. Then today you used the word “Craquelin” which had appeared only minutes ago in an email from my French mother-in-law. In fact I was asking the history of the “brioche au sucre” which I had somehow understood to be from “le nord”, possibly because of the extraordinary ones produced a few blocks from her home but which I never found elsewhere in France. I would love for you to give us that particular recipe someday. In any case I can hook you up if you want to visit Lille, which has its charm…”Les gens du nord,
    ont dans le coeur le soleil qu’ils n’ont pas dehors.”

  • Lynn D.
    October 2, 2013 5:40pm

    There’s a very similar topping on the some of the pastries in the Mexican bakeries in town (Salem, Oregon). Now I know how they do it.

  • October 2, 2013 6:48pm

    Craquelin? More like CRACK! I could eat the entire batch….

  • Laurie
    October 2, 2013 8:04pm

    Hmm. Interesting; I will give this a try. But in the first paragraph do you really mean, “look no future”? I think “further” might be a better choice… Love your blog, David. We visit Paris whenever we can (which is only once every few years), and we’ve been several places because of you that we might have otherwise missed.

  • Elle
    October 2, 2013 8:08pm

    Yes, how DO you keep your silpat’s so clean? I’ve tried everything to scrub them but nothing’s worked so far.

    Also, I think this topping might be great on Japanese Cloud Cheescake. Also like the thought @Maya had of adding coloring – imagine how fun for red velvet cupcakes – or any flavor – instead of icing? And on sugar cookies!

  • laney
    October 2, 2013 8:43pm

    Have you ever heard of Pappa Roti? It is a franchise that is taking the Gulf countries by storm…. They area a coffee shop that features the buns. They look exactly like the ones you have posted a photo of. They pipe the Craquelin on top of each bun in a spiral instead of cutting out a disk. Turns out the same after baking.

  • laney
    October 2, 2013 8:49pm

    Just FYI the PappaRoti franchise is also in the far east,… Malaysia, Singapore and India. So maybe it is a spin off of the Hong Kong polo bun.

  • Suzanne Barker
    October 2, 2013 8:53pm

    Had a similar topping on “Dutch Crunch” rolls in SF but there it was made with rice flour dough put on top of regular bread dough. I will have to try this one. Dutch crunch includes: 1 tablespoon dry yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. 1/4 teaspoon salt & 3/4 cup rice flour. Very easy to do – just search for Dutch Crunch bread recipe.

  • JoAnn
    October 2, 2013 8:58pm

    How did I not know about this? David, every new post is such a wonderful treat! Seriously. You have a marvelous gift for piecing together bits of your life, bits of the lives of those who you visit, glorious recipes, and incredible descriptions of social customs in all parts of everywhere. I love it. The only thing better would be to find out I’m your long lost sister and actually get to experience things with you. Wink wink!

  • Adriana
    October 2, 2013 10:25pm

    Nobody has such pristine Silpats…it ‘s the kichen equivalent of a lean desk ;)!

  • Mary
    October 2, 2013 11:16pm

    Hi David,
    This is my blogging debut. I couldn’t help but to respond to the “map of france” from a Parisian point of view. I still chuckle when thinking about it. I did note you are almost out of organic pecan, and as I will be in Paris from Oct 9-17th, I would be delighted to bring you some. I am staying just off of rue Montorgueil. Thanks to your Sweet Life in Paris and blogs, I found the 30 month Comte at La Fermette. Merci Beau Coup. Love reading all of your works.

  • Iman
    October 3, 2013 1:25am

    Hi David,

    I keep most of your blogs in a file, but I can’t fine the one you posted fairly recently with the crisp topping that you bake separately from the fruit. You said you would take it in containers with you to friends’ houses for the weekend.

    I wanted to make it when I was at a friend’s who had a surplus of aprciots, but we had to resort to a typical bake with the fruit one – good, but I wished I could have found yours.

    Is there a way I can get the recipe?

    Iman

    • October 3, 2013 9:14am
      David Lebovitz

      The recipe is Polenta crisp topping which is baked on the fruit, but can be made in advance and strewn over the fruit in the baking dish, then baked.

  • latafiolesucree
    October 3, 2013 10:24am

    didn’t christophe michalak originate this technique a few years back? i know both the choux and eclairs versions have been all over the pastry shops for a couple of years now at least. glad you’re covering it.

    • October 3, 2013 10:35am
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know who originated this technique but many bakeries, such as Ladurée and so forth, tend to use it. Many commenters wrote it was similar to a topping for an Asian bread, so perhaps that’s where the idea originally came from?

  • latafiolesucree
    October 3, 2013 10:33am

    btw do you have a good recipe for a creme mascarpone a la vanille? these days it seems like simple old-fashioned creme patissiere has become rather passe.

  • Adriana
    October 3, 2013 5:03pm

    The finished ones in the picture don’t look filled. Are they typically filled with a custard filling when topped with craquelin? How do I satisfy the need for chocolate too without interfering with the topping?

    • October 3, 2013 5:09pm
      David Lebovitz

      I noted in the post, in the last line between the 2 final photographs, some options for kinds of filling and where to place the chocolate sauce so it doesn’t interfere with the topping. However one could certain fill them as they wish, including using a custard (pastry cream), or similar filling.

  • Adriana
    October 4, 2013 2:11pm

    I want to take these to a potluck picnic. Chocolate is important to me and sitting on a pool of sauce won’t work in this setting. I think I will put a dab (or 3) of chocolate ganache in the bottom before filling with pastry cream.

  • Karine
    October 9, 2013 10:10am

    I have tasted these and they are truly delicious. The one I tatsed though had delicious chocolate toppings in them that will truly rock anyone who eats these.

  • October 14, 2013 1:15am

    Thanks for this enlightening post!
    As mentioned by Frances above, the look and recipe are strictly similar to the ubiquitous melon pan (メロンパン) the Japanese are so proud of (and which is a staple in convenience stores all around the country – I would argue that it is the equivalent of the French “pain au chocolat” for kids).
    Now, the question is: who invented it first, the French or the Japanese?…

    • October 14, 2013 8:43am
      David Lebovitz

      There is something I’ve seen in the states called “Dutch crunch” bread which also has a similar crust. (I Googled it and it’s called “Tiger bread” from the Netherlands – which they said has a crust made from rice flour painted on top.) So it seems that adding some sort of crackly crust to bread has implications in many cultures. As with most things, it’s hard to pinpoint who came up with it first. But since most foods represent a mix of cultures, the origins of this kind of topping are probably the results of various influences.

  • Courtney
    October 23, 2013 7:26pm

    I had never seen or heard of this, and was about to scroll past but then a saw a picture of brown sugar and butter, and well don’t all the best things start with brown sugar and butter. Now I’m kicking myself for using the last of the butter, and questioning if I should get out in the rain to get more.