These Chouquettes, or little Choux Buns topped with Pearl Sugar, are a traditional French treat you will find in every bakery in France. Perfect for afternoon tea or parties, these sugar puffs pastries can be served on their own or filled with cream.
Why we love this recipe
Along other delicious desserts like Flan or Financiers, these Chouquettes are a classic treat you will always find in a French bakery. They are the perfect little bite for afternoon tea ("le goûter" in French): light, airy and slightly crunchy thanks to the pearl sugar topping.
Made from the same classic Choux Pastry dough than Eclairs, Profiteroles, Choux à la Crème, Chocolate Choux Buns or Choux au Craquelin, these Chouquettes are delicious quick and easy to prepare - and even easier to eat. Trust me, you will end up eating at least 5!
Ready in less than an hour, they are a great after school snack (I remember picking up a bag of chouquettes from the local bakery every other day when I was at university) and are also the perfect treat for parties, Holidays or as an edible gift!
What are Chouquettes
Chouquettes (pronounced "shoo-kets") are small choux puffs made from Choux Pastry (Pâte à Choux) topped with Pearl Sugar. They are usually sold at French bakeries plain, but can also be filled with Cream like Whipped Cream, Chantilly Cream or for an even more decadent treat, Pastry Cream or Diplomat Cream (like here).
They are often called the sweet version of Gougères that are little savoury Cheese Puffs made from Choux Pastry and grated cheese.
These Sugar Puffs require the basic ingredients of Choux Pastry with the simple addition of Pearl Sugar.
- Water: Choux Pastry can also be made with Milk, or a mix of water and milk, but I personally prefer to use water only for a super light, airy choux. You can substitute the water for milk for a richer choux bun.
- Butter: use Unsalted Butter. It will get melted with the water so you can use it straight from the fridge.
- Sugar: Caster Sugar or Fine White Granulated Sugar. You don't need much of it, Choux Buns are not usually very sweet.
- Flour: Plain or AP Flour, preferably sifted so you don't get lumps when cooked in the water/butter/sugar.
- Eggs: At room temperature. Eggs are probably the trickiest of the ingredients because the exact quantity required will always vary, based on how much you cooked the first part of the dough on the stove (how dry they are / how much water evaporated) and the type of flour you use. See the Tips section for more info on eggs quantity.
- Pearl Sugar: you can find two kinds of Pearl Sugar; Belgian Pearl Sugar and Swedish Pearl Sugar. The Belgian one is a bit coarser than the Swedish one. Both will work, but I recommend using the smaller one (Swedish).
Although Pearl Sugar is the classic topping for Chouquettes, they are sometimes replaced with mini Chocolate Chips.
I filled these choux buns with a Diplomat Cream, but they can absolutely be served plain without any filling.
How to make Chouquettes with Pearl Sugar
If you've ever made Choux Pastry before, this chouquette recipe will feel very familiar. That's because making chouquettes is exactly the same as making any other choux pastry recipes!
- Weight all of your ingredients and pre-whisk the eggs in a small bowl.
- Preheat your oven on 180'C/350'F. Prepare a large baking sheet with a baking mat, parchment paper or baking paper. You will get the best results with a Silpat (silicone mat) placed over a perforated tray (worth the investment if you make a lot of choux pastries and other baked goods).
- Photo 1: place the Water, Butter and Sugar and a medium size saucepan. Heat up on medium heat until all the butter and sugar has dissolved. No need to boil the water, a simmer is enough.
- Photo 2: move the saucepan from the heat and drop in the flour (preferably sifted) at once.
- Photo 3: stir the mixture with a wooden spoon or stiff spatula until it starts to come together into a dough.
- Photo 4: Place back on the stove on a medium low to medium heat and keep stirring for a few minutes to dry out the dough as much as possible. It is ready when you can see a thin skin at the bottom of the saucepan and the dough does not stick to the saucepan anymore.
At this point, the dough is called a "panade" in French.
A good way to dehydrate or dry out the dough as much as possible is to press it against the sides of the pan with a stiff spatula in a rotating movement (you can see the movement in the video found in the recipe card).
You want to make sure that the "panade" gets as dry as possible, which will insure the choux buns rise nicely in the oven.
- Remove from the stove and transfer into the bowl of your stand mixer (or a mixing bowl if making by hands). Set aside to cool down for about 10 minutes so that the hot dough does not cook the eggs once added.
- Photo 5: add the eggs a little bit at the time, mixing with the leaf/paddle attachment. It will look like the dough is splitting every time you add some eggs, it's normal! Keep mixing and it will eventually come together.
- Photo 6: keep on adding the whisked eggs until you get a soft, supple pastry. You may need to add less or more than the recommended egg quantity; that will depend on your flour and how much dehydrated the dough got on the stove.
To know you have reached the right consistency, poke a finger into the dough and lift it (a little bit of dough should stick to the finger). Turn the finger upside down so that the dough is standing up, then look to see if the dough is slowly falling back down, creating an inverted 'C' shape.
If the dough stands up without falling back at all, you need to add more eggs. If it is too liquid and collapses completely (as opposed to creating a nice 'beak'), you have unfortunately added too much eggs.
- Photo 7: place the choux pastry in a pastry bag fitted with a large round piping tip. Pipe small mounds of pastry on the mat, leaving some space between each chouquette as they will expand.
Some recipes recommend brushing the cream puffs with an egg wash, but I've personally never found it necessary.
- Photo 8: sprinkle some pearl sugar over each chouquette. Make sure to add a lot of pearl sugar as the choux will expand in the oven and some might drop off.
- Bake for 25 minutes, open the oven door for a second to let the steam out then close it off straight away and bake for an additional 10 minutes. The chouquettes should be puffed and golden. Note that the exact baking time might vary based on the size of the chouquettes and your oven.
- Take out of the oven and leave to cool down completely, then serve straight away (or fill with cream before serving). Here is the Diplomat Cream recipe I used as a filling.
Pearl Sugar is basically just small chunks of coarse sugar. You can find pearl sugar online or in speciality shops. Alternatively, you can also make your own pearl sugar from sugar cubes (see tutorial here)!
I have personally never tried the ziplock bag trick to replace a pastry bag. If you don't have a pastry bag, you can also use a small ice cream scoop to shape the chouquettes.
Traditionally they are enjoyed plain, but you can also fill them with basically any cream you want: Whipped Cream, Chantilly Cream, Pastry Cream, Diplomat Cream (used here), or even a Chocolate Pastry Cream or the coffee custard I used inside my Coffee Choux Buns!
There are three key elements to make beautiful, puffed choux pastries:
- dry out the dough as much as you can on the stove.
- only add eggs until you reach the desired consistency - even if it is less or more than the recommended quantity.
- bake them for long enough (longer than you think) without opening the oven door, except for once during the baking, and for a second only.
- What is the right consistency for the dough? As mentioned above, the exact quantity of eggs will often vary and is key to get the perfect consistency. To know you have added enough eggs and have the right consistency, poke a finger into the pastry - a little bit of the mixture should stick to your finger. Lift the finger, turn it upside down so that the dough is standing up, then look to see if the dough is slowly falling back down, creating an inverted 'C' shape.
If the dough sticks up without falling back, you need to add more eggs. If it is too liquid and collapses completely (as opposed to creating a nice 'beak'), you have unfortunately added too much eggs.
- The Chouquettes aren't rising: the dough wasn't dried out enough on the stove, the eggs weren't mixed in enough (or you used too much or too little eggs) or the oven is not at the right temperature.
- The sugar puffs collapsed after baking: it usually happens when they are not baked enough (or not at the right temperature) and there is still too much moisture inside them. The heat from the oven turns the water and eggs into steam, which makes the choux pastry rise. If they are not baked for long enough, they won't have time to create a crust and structure that will help them keep their shapes when all that steam has evaporated.
- The choux pastry puffs are getting soggy after a while: unfortunately, it will always eventually happen with choux pastries as they absorb moisture from the air. That's why they are best eaten straight away, or kept at room temperature otherwise (there is too much moisture in a fridge).
Tips for Success
- The amount of Eggs needed will slightly vary every time so it's important to add the eggs a little bit at the time and stop when you reach the desired consistency. You might need more or less of the recommended egg quantity.
- Be generous with the Pearl Sugar; the choux buns will expand a lot when they bake and some of the sugar will fall off.
- Bake them for longer than you think. That's the key to insure your chouquettes don't collapse after baked! Only open the oven once for a second only towards the end of the bake; if you open the oven earlier or more frequently, the choux might risk to collapse.
- If you cannot fit all the choux pastry over one baking tray, pipe on another tray and bake the second batch separately. Don't put two batches in the oven at once.
Storing & Freezing
These Sugar Puffs are best eaten fresh, straight away as they do not keep well for a long time. They should be kept at room temperature otherwise.
If filling with cream, I recommend adding the cream just before serving as it will make the chouquette soggy after a little while. They will also need to be stored in the fridge when filled.
Chouquettes can be frozen - choux pastry does freeze quite well! - but they will be a bit more soggy than when fresh after you thaw them (at room temperature for a few hours). You can re-heat them in the oven for a few minutes so they get a bit more crispy.
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Chouquettes (French Sugar Puffs)
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) Water
- 60 gr (1/4 cup) Unsalted Butter
- 15 gr (1 tablespoon) Caster Sugar - or fine white granulated sugar
- 75 gr (1/2 cup) Plain / AP Flour
- 2 Eggs, at room temperature - see note below
- 100 gr (3/4 cup) Pearl Sugar - or to taste
I highly recommend using the measurements in grams & ml (instead of cups & spoons) for more accuracy and better results.
- Preheat your oven on 180'C/350'F. Prepare a large baking tray with a baking mat or paper.
- Place the Water, Butter and Sugar and a medium size saucepan. Heat up on medium heat until all the butter and sugar has dissolved.
- Away from the heat, drop in the sifted Flour at once. Stir with a wooden spoon or stiff spatula until a dough starts to form. Place back on medium heat and keep stirring for a few minutes to dry out the dough as much as possible (see note 1).
- Transfer into the bowl of your mixer (or a mixing bowl if making by hands/with a hand mixer) fitted with the paddle attachment. Leave to cool down for 10 minutes.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the whisked eggs a little bit at the time, mixing until the mixture is smooth before adding more (see note 2). Keep on adding the eggs until you get a soft, shiny and supple pastry. You may need more or less egg than recommended (see note 3).
- Tranfer the choux pastry in a pastry bag fitted with a large round piping tip. Pipe small mounds of pastry over the prepared baking tray , leaving some space between each chouquette as they will expand.
- Generously sprinkle some pearl sugar over each chouquette.
- Bake for 25 minutes, open the oven door for one second to let the steam out then close it off straight away. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the chouquettes are puffed and golden (see note 4).
- Take out of the oven and leave to cool down completely on the baking tray. Serve straight away.
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- Eggs: Depending in the size of your eggs, how dry the dough is and the brand of flour you use, you might need a little bit more or less Eggs. Add the eggs a little bit at the time until you get the desired consistency.
- Pearl Sugar: you can find some online, in speciality shops or make your own by crushing sugar cubes.
- The dough (called "panade" at this points) is ready when you can see a thin skin at the bottom of the saucepan and the dough does not stick to the saucepan anymore. A good way to dry out the dough as much as possible is to press it against the sides of the pan in a rotating movement.
- It will look like the dough is splitting every time you add some eggs, it's normal! It will eventually come back together, just keep on mixing.
- The exact amount of eggs needed will depend on the brand of flour and how dry the dough got on the stove. To know you've got the right consistency, poke a finger into the dough and lift it (a little bit of dough should stick to the finger). Turn the finger upside down so that the dough is standing up, then look to see if the dough is slowly falling back down, creating an inverted 'C' shape. If the dough stands up without falling back at all, you need to add more eggs. Make sure to add the eggs a little bit at the time to avoid adding too much; you cannot save a choux pastry that has too much eggs and is too liquid.
- The exact baking time might vary based on the size of the chouquettes. Make sure not to open the oven door too early or more than once or the chouquettes might collapse.