These Classic French Choux au Craquelin (Crispy Cream Puffs) make the most delicious dessert bites for afternoon tea or parties. The crunchy Craquelin cookie topping is the perfect way to add some texture and help shape your favourite choux buns!
Why we love this recipe
Choux Pastry is probably my favourite things to make, ever. Whether it is a classic Choux à la Crème, Chouquettes, Chocolate Choux Buns, Mini Chocolate Éclairs or Profiteroles, I just love anything Choux. But do you know what I love even more? A delicious Choux Bun topped with a crispy Craquelin cookie topping!
Adding this thin layer of crackling cookie on top of your Choux pastries not only helps them bake into a perfect round shape, it also provides them with a delicious sweet and crunchy texture.
This Choux au Craquelin recipe will show you exactly how to make cripsy cream puffs with detailed step by step instructions and lots of tips to create create the most impressive choux buns ever!
What is Craquelin
A "Craquelin" (pronounced "Kra-ke-lan") is a thin cookie layer that is cut out and added on top Choux Pastries before baking them. It is used to create a sweet and crispy topping shell over choux pastries, providing both texture and shaping
But what does Craquelin mean? It comes from the French verb "Craquer" (or "craqueler") which means to crack. Pretty straight forward!
This dough is recognisable by its 'cracked' look that is created when the Choux puffs expands in the oven and make the thin layer of dough crack. It can be left plain (golden brown) or naturally coloured and flavoured with different ingredients.
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What is Craquelin made of:
- Butter: unsalted butter, very soft and at room temperature. Make sure to take it out of the fridge a few hours before making the craquelin so that it has the right consistency.
- Sugar: I usually use Brown Sugar, but traditionally craquelin can be made with raw sugar or thick granulated brown sugar.
- Flour: Plain / All-Purpose, sifted. You can add a pinch of salt as well if you want.
The basic plain craquelin is only made with those three ingredients, but you can also colour it or flavour it with other ingredients.
For example, you can replace a small quantity of the flour with unsweetened cocoa powder. You can also flavour it with some freeze dried fruit powder such as raspberry powder or strawberry powder, some fine coffee powder or matcha powder. You could even add orange and lemon zest to it.
Basic Choux Pastry Ingredients
What is Choux Dough made of:
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- Liquid: I only use Water to make choux (which makes them super light and airy), but choux pastry can also be made with Full Cream / Whole Milk - or a combination of both water and milk.
- Sugar & Salt: only a small quantity of both; pate a choux is not usually very sweet.
- Butter: Unsalted. It will get melted straight away so it can come from the fridge.
- Flour: Plain / All-Purpose Flour or Pastry Flour. Make sure to sift the flour before adding it to the choux mixture to avoid any lumps.
- Eggs: medium to large eggs, at room temperature. Make sure they do not come straight out of the fridge.
The quantity of eggs is indicative here. How much egg you need exactly will always slightly vary based on a few different factor such as how much you dehydrated the dough on the stove, the brand of flour or the size of the egg.
How to make Choux au Craquelin
1. Making the Craquelin Pastry
Start by preparing the craquelin dough that will need to freeze for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour to get very hard.
- Place the very soft butter in a small bowl. Add the Brown Sugar and mix it in.
- Add the Flour, using a stiff spatula, work the mixture until you get a thick, slightly soft paste.
- Transfer the mixture between two sheets of baking paper / parchment paper (or silicone mat). Using a rolling pin, roll the pastry into a very thin layer about 2mm (1/16-inch) thick.
- Place on a flat baking sheet and freeze for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until it has completely solidified.
Craquelin can also be prepared in advance and kept in the freezer for a couple of months.
2. Making the Choux Pastry "Panade"
The first step of making choux pastry is to prepare a mixture called a "panade", which is cooked on the stove.
- Photo 1: Place the Water, Sugar and Butter in a small to medium pot. Put on the stove on low to medium low heat and leave until the butter has melted and the liquid starts to boil slightly.
- Photo 2: Remove from the stove and drop the Flour in at once.
- Photo 3: Using a stiff heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon, vigorously stir until the mixture turns into a thick paste.
- Photo 4: Place the saucepan back on the stove over low heat and vigorously stir for 2 to 3 minutes to dehydrate it. Press the dough against the sides of the pan to dry it out as much as possible. You should see a thin skin form at the bottom of the pan.
Once the dough is homogeneous and has cooked for a couple of minutes, transfer in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment - or a large mixing bowl if making by hands or with a hand mixer.
3. Adding the Eggs and Piping the Choux Buns
- Leave the dough to cool down for at least 10 to 15 minutes (or mix it with the beater or a stiff spatula until it reaches room temperature). Don't skip this step; it the dough is too hot, it will cook the eggs.
- In a small bowl, whisk your eggs.
- Photo 5: Pour the beaten egg over the "panade" a little bit at the time.
- Photo 6: mix on low to medium speed until the mixture is completely smooth. Add a little bit more egg and repeat the process. The mixture will seem to split at first but do not worry, it will come together.
- When almost all of the whisked eggs has been added, stop to check the consistency and assess whether or not it needs more egg. The dough should be smooth, slightly fluid, shiny and fall back into a "V" shape when you pick some up with a spatula.
You might need less than 2 eggs - or more than 2 eggs. It is very important to stop adding eggs once you reach the desired consistency rather than relying on the number of eggs only.
If you are making the choux pastry in advance, you can store it in the fridge, in a bowl covered with plastic wrap touching its surface or airtight container, for a few hours.
- Preheat your oven on 200 degrees Celsius / 390 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the choux pastry in a pastry bag fitted with a large round piping tip.
- Prepare a flat baking tray with a silicone baking mat or baking paper - or keep it unlined.
- Photo 7: Pipe small dollops of pastry on the tray (I usually pipe them to be 4 cm / 1,5 inch wide), holding the pastry bag perpendicular to the tray a few centimetres away from the it. Make sure to leave some room between each Choux. You might need a second tray.
- Take the craquelin pastry out of the freezer and peel of the baking paper. Using a round cookie cutter, cut out small disks of craquelin. If you want the craquelin to fully cover the choux, cut out disk that are slightly larger than the piped buns.
- Photo 8: Gently pick up the craquelin with a small offset spatula and place the cookie disk over each choux bun. Slightly press on it to make it stick. If the craquelin becomes soft and starts to break, place it back in the freezer for a few minutes.
4. Baking the Choux au Craquelin
- Place in the oven and directly drop the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake for about 25 minutes (more or less depending on the size of the choux). Open the oven door for one second and close it back off straight away. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until the choux have risen and puffed and the craquelin topping looks golden.
- Place on a wire rack and leave to cool down completely before removing from the tray and filling with your choice of filling.
- To fill choux au craquelin, poke a small hole with a small knife at bottom the buns then insert the tip of a pastry bag filled with your choice of filling. Alternatively, simply slice the choux in half and fill them.
I usually go for a simple vanilla pastry cream filling or chocolate cream filling/
The only difference between cream puffs and choux au craquelin is the thin layer of crackling cookie called "craquelin" placed over the choux pastry before baking the choux buns.
Absolutely! Although a craquelin is usually plain, you can flavour it with a few drops of vanilla extract, some cocoa powder to make Chocolate Choux Buns, some fine coffee powder for Coffee Choux Buns, matcha powder or even fruit powders like strawberry powder or paspberry powder.
Yes, craquelin can be used over any type of choux pastry such as Eclairs, Paris-Brest or Profiteroles. Simply cut out the craquelin pastry to the desired shape.
Using the right amount of eggs is key to get the perfect consistency of choux pastry. Too little and the choux will be dry and not well puffed. Too much and the batter will be too runny, resulting in flat choux.
To add the right amount, add the whisked eggs a little bit at the time and stop as soon as you reach the right consistency. You might need more or less egg that the amount written in the recipe.
Troubleshooting and Tips for success
Tips to make Craquelin
How large should I cut the Craquelin?
It depends if you want the craquelin to completely cover the Choux pastries or not. For a partial cover, cut out the craquelin to be about the size of the piped choux or slightly smaller. For a full cover, the craquelin needs to be slightly wider than the choux.
Why is my Craquelin soft?
Because it is rolled so thinly and contains a high quantity of butter, craquelin will soften very quickly. If the craquelin starts to get soft when you are handling it, simply place it back in the freezer to harden for a few minutes. You might need to place in back in your freezer a few times if working in a warm environment
What to do if the Craquelin is breaking?
The craquelin might be too cold, too warm or rolled too thinly. Either patch it up together with the heat of your fingers, or re-roll the craquelin to the right thickness and freeze it again.
What to do with leftover craquelin?
The great thing about craquelin is that you can keep it in the freezer for months and use it as you go! Simply re-roll the leftover dough between to sheets of baking paper, wrap it well and leave in your freezer until ready to be used.
Why is did my craquelin not crack?
This can happen if the pastry was rolled too thinly (you will get large, uneven cracks) or too thick (you will get a thick flat layer). Ideally, roll the craquelin to be about 2mm (1/16-inch) thick.
Why is my craquelin not crunchy?
This could happen if you did not use the right ratio of ingredients, if the butter was too soft when placed in the oven or if the oven was not warm enough.
Tips to make Pâte à Choux
Why is choux pastry cooked twice?
This is the particularity of Pâte à Choux: it is cooked first on the stove to dehydrate the dough, then secondly in the oven. The first cooking of the "panade" allows to gelatinise the starches contained in the flour, which will help create the special "puff" in the oven.
What consistency should Pâte à Choux have?
I mentioned above that the quantity of eggs is really important and might vary, which is why it is better to add the whisked eggs a little bit at the time.
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 and the batter cannot be saved.
Another way to check the consistency is to pick up some of the mixture with a spatula and let it fall back. If part of the mixture breaks off and you are left with some pastry hanging from the spatula in a 'V' shape, it is ready.
Why did my choux au craquelin not rise?
Could be caused by a few different factors: the dough wasn't dehydrated enough on the stove, the eggs weren't mixed in enough, you did not add enough egg, or the oven is not at the right temperature.
Why did my Choux collapse or deflate?
Usually, it means that they didn't cook for long enough, or the oven wasn't at the right temperature. The heat will make the water turn into steam and puff the choux, but they need to be cooked long enough for the creation of a crust that will make them hold their shape.
Make sure not to open the oven door as long as the shells around the choux has not set. Once out of the oven, leave the choux on the baking tray until completely cool - they will finish baking and drying out on the tray.
Why are my cream puffs not hollow?
If the "panade" is cooked on the stove for too long, most of the water will have evaporated before the choux pastry is placed in the oven. Some amount of water is required to make the choux puff and make them hollow.
Why does my choux pastry go soft?
Unfortunately, choux pastry has a tendency to turn soft rather quickly. That is because the thin shell starts getting soft when it absorbs humidity. If possible, keep the baked choux at room temperature as long as possible and only fill them just before serving.
- A stiff Spatula (hard plastic rather than silicone) or wooden spoon. If you use a spatula that is too flexible, you will struggle to mix the pastry correctly.
- Piping Bag / Pastry Bag and a round piping tip (although you can also just cut out the tip of the bag with scissors if you don't have the right tip).
- Ideally, you want to pipe the choux buns directly over the metal baking sheet. Using silicone baking mat can make the choux not bake evenly in certain cases. Perforated baking mats are great for an even baking but I have encountered issues with them as the bottom of the choux would get stuck in the small holes.
- Small round cookie cutter to cut out disk of craquelin, and a small offset spatula to place them over the choux without breaking. Handling craquelin with your warm hands will make them go soft more quickly.
Choux Filling Ideas
When it comes to the filling, it is entirely up to you!
- Chocolate Fillings like Chocolate Pastry Cream, Chocolate Crémeux, Chocolate Whipped Ganache or Chocolate Namelaka.
How to store
Choux au craquelin are stored differently depending on if they are filled or not:
- Un-filled Choux: kept at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Make sure they are completely dry before placing them in a container as any moisture will make them soggy.
- Filled Choux: when filled with a cream, they should be eaten straight away or kept in the fridge for one day. They will become soggy after that.
How to freeze
Both craquelin and choux pastry can be frozen separately then re-assembled before baking. Craquelin can be rolled and frozen for up to 2 months (though it will be fine in the freezer for much longer).
To freeze unbaked Choux, prepare the dough and pipe it on a flat baking tray. Place in the freezer until fully frozen then store in an air-tight container for up to 3 months. When ready to bake, cut out the craquelin and place it over the each Choux. Allow to bake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes to thaw.
I do not recommend freezing the choux with craquelin once baked as the craquelin won't thaw well.
Made this recipe?
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Choux au Craquelin
- 40 gr Unsalted Butter - very soft
- 40 gr Brown Sugar
- 40 gr (3 tablespoons) Plain / All-Purpose Flour - sifted
- 125 ml Water
- 60 gr Unsalted Butter
- 15 gr Caster Sugar - or fine white granulated sugar
- 75 gr Plain / All-Purpose Flour
- 2 large Eggs - at room temperature (*)
I highly recommend using the measurements in grams & ml (instead of cups & spoons) for more accuracy and better results.
- Place the very soft butter in a small bowl and mix it with a stiff spatula to make sure there are no large lumps.
- Add the Brown Sugar and cream it with the butter until smooth.
- Mix in the Flour until you get a smooth thick paste.
- Place the craquelin dough between two sheets of baking paper. Gently flatten it with your hands then use a Rolling Pin to roll it into a thin layer about 2mm - 1?16 thick (see note 1).
- Place in the freezer over a flat tray to chill for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour - or until completely hard.
- Preheat your oven on 200 degrees Celsius / 390 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the Water, Butter and Sugar in a small pot and leave on medium low heat until the butter has melted and sugar has dissolved.
- Away from the heat, drop in the Flour at once then mix it in using a stiff spatula until a rough dough comes together.
- Place the pot back on low heat and stir the dough for 2 to 3 minutes to dehydrate it (see 2).
- Transfer the dough into the bowl of your mixer and set aside to cool down for at least 15 minutes, or until it gets back to room temperature (see note 3)
- Whisk the Eggs in a separate bowl. Add the eggs to the dough a little bit at the time, mixing well until smooth between each addition. When almost all of the eggs have been added, stop to check the consistency of the dough before adding more (see note 4).
- Transfer the Choux Pastry into a Piping Bag fitted with a large round Piping tip.
- Pipe small balls of pastry (see note 5) over a greased flat baking tray (or a tray lined with baking paper), leaving room between each choux as they will puff.
Assembling the Craquelin Choux
- Take the Craquelin out of the freezer and remove the top layer of baking paper. With a round cookie cutter, about the size of the piped choux, cut out small disks of dough.
- Using a small offset spatula, lift up the craquelin disks and place them over each Choux buns.
- Drop the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the choux in the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes, open the oven door for 1 second and close it back straight away. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes or until puffed, golden and dry to the touch.
- Place over a cooling rack to cool down completely before removing from the tray and filling with your choice of cream.
Tried this recipe? Make sure to leave a comment and star rating below!
- Eggs: Depending in the size of your eggs, you might need a little bit more or less Eggs. Add the last whisked egg a little bit at the time until you get the desired consistency (see note 4).
- Make sure the craquelin is rolled too thinly or it will be hard to transfer over the Choux. If too thick, it might weight down on the choux and not allow them to rise properly.
- A good way to dry the dough out is to press and rub the dough against the sides of the hot pot with the spatula.
- If the dough is too hot, it will cook the eggs so it is important to let it come back to room temperature. To speed up the process, you can mix the dough with the paddle/leaf attachment of your mixer.
- It is important to slowly add the eggs to make sure you do not add more than needed (depending on the size of your eggs). 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 if the dough is 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 completely collapse (as opposed to creating a nice 'beak'), you have unfortunately added too much eggs and the batter cannot be saved.
- My choux were about 4cm / 1.5-inch wide