These Classic French Choux au Craquelin, or Cream Puffs with Craquelin Topping, make the most delicious dessert bites for afternoon tea or parties. The sweet and crunchy Craquelin biscuit is the perfect addition to your favourite Choux Buns recipe!
Why we love this recipe
Choux Pastry is probably my favourite thing to make, ever. Whether it is a classic Coffee Choux Bun 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!
Adding this biscuit topping to your Choux not only helps them to bake in a perfect round shape, it also provides a delicious sweet crunchy topping to your cream puffs.
Don't be scared by the fancy name - it's much much easier to make than you think. All it takes is 3 ingredients!
Let me show you how to make Choux Pastry with Craquelin and create the most impressive Cream Puffs ever!
What is "Craquelin"
A "Craquelin" (pronounced "Kra-ke-lan") is a thin biscuit layer that can be added over Choux Pastries before baking them. It is used to create a sweet and crispy topping layer over pastries like Choux Buns (Cream Puffs) or Eclairs.
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, making the thin layer of dough crack. It can be left plain (golden brown) or naturally coloured with different ingredients.
A basic Craquelin is made out of 3 ingredients only, but many other ingredients can be added to flavour and colour it. A coloured Craquelin is a great way to indicate the cream filling flavour of your Choux!
To make a plain Craquelin Topping, you will need (scroll down to recipe card for all quantities):
- Unsalted Butter - very soft
- Brown Sugar - (traditionally raw brown sugar)
- Plain / All Purpose Flour
The basic craquelin is flavoured only with sugar and butter, but you can also add small quantities of other ingredients for colour and flavour.
For example, you could add a little bit of Cacao Powder, Matcha Powder, Coffee Extract, freeze dried Raspberry Powder,... the options are endless!
How to make a Craquelin Topping
There are only 4 steps to follow to make a craquelin:
- Cream the Butter and Sugar
- Mix in the Flour
- Thinly roll the dough between two sheets of baking paper and let it rest in the freezer for at least 1 hour (or in the fridge for 2).
- Cut out small rounds of dough (or the shape of your choux pastries - so rectangular for eclairs for example) and place them over the piped Choux buns before baking them
How to make Choux au Craquelin
Now that your Craquelin is ready and resting in the freezer (or fridge), it is time to prepare your basic Choux Pastry.
This recipe is the same I use for all of my Choux Pastry recipes like my Choux à la Crème, and can be divided or doubled to suit the occasion. This recipe will make 15 to 20 Choux Buns, depending on their size.
Basic Choux Pastry Ingredients
To make Choux Pastry dough, you will need (scroll down to recipe card for all quantities):
- Water (sometimes replaced with Milk, or half milk half water)
- Caster Sugar - or a fine white sugar
- Unsalted Butter
- Plain / All-Purpose Flour
Note that the quantity of eggs is indicative here and you might need a little bit less or more depending on the size of your eggs. Check out the "troubleshooting" section of this article to learn about the dough's perfect consistency.
Making the Choux Pastry Dough
There are two main steps to make a classic Choux dough: cook the Water, Sugar, Butter and Flour on the stove, then add the eggs.
Let's look at each step in detail:
- Place the Water, Sugar and Butter in a small pot and melt on medium heat.
- Once the butter has melted and sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat and drop the Flour at once. Using a stiff spatula, stir to get a rough dough.
- Place back on the stove on low heat and vigorously stir the dough 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 your mixer (or a large mixing bowl if making it by hands).
- Leave the dough to cool down for at least 15 minutes (or mix it with the leaf/paddle adjustment 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.
- Whisk your Eggs in a separate bowl then add them to the dough, a little bit at the time. Mix on Low/Medium speed until smooth before adding more Eggs, and repeat the process. It will seem to split at first but do not worry, it will.
- When almost all of the eggs has been added, stop to check the consistency before adding more eggs (*)
- Transfer into a piping bag with large round piping tip
(*) As mentioned above, you might need a little bit less or more than 2 eggs, which is why I add whisked eggs a little bit at the time. Stop and check the consistency before adding more eggs. See the Troubleshooting section below for consistency questions.
Assembling the Cream Puffs
Both your Choux Dough and Craquelin Dough are now ready, and it's time to assemble your Choux au Craquelin!
- Preheat your oven on 180'C / 350'F and grease a flat baking tray.
- Pipe the Choux Buns on the tray, leaving some room between each Choux. The size is up to you, but I usually pipe them about 5 cm / 2 inch wide.
- Take the Craquelin out of the freezer and remove the top layer of baking paper. Using a round Cookie Cutter about the size of your Choux, cut out small disks of dough.
- Use a small offset spatula to lift the Craquelin disks and place them over each Choux. Keep any leftover dough - they can be re-rolled and kept in the freezer for another time.
- Place in the over to bake for 20 minutes. Open the over door for a couple of seconds to let the steam out, then close it straight away and leave to bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Depending on the size of the cream puffs, you might need to bake them for less or more time. The Choux should be puffed, golden and dry to the touch.
- Transfer over a cooling rack to cool down completely before filling them with your choice of cream.
For the Craquelin
How large should I cut the Craquelin
It is up to you and depends if you want the craquelin to completely cover the Choux pastries or not. I usually use a cookie cutter about the size of the piped Choux.
The craquelin is too soft to handle
Because it is rolled so thinly, it will soften very quickly. Simply place it back in the freezer to harden for a few minutes if the craquelin is too soft to handle or move. If it is warm in your kitchen, you might need to place in back in your freezer a few times while assembling the pastries.
The Craquelin is breaking
The craquelin might be too cold 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 leftovers
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, then wrap it well with the paper and leave in your freezer until ready to be used.
For the Choux Buns
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.
The Choux aren't rising
Could be caused by a few different factors: the dough wasn't dehydrated enough on the stove, the eggs weren't mixed in enough (or you did not add enough egg), or the oven is not at the right temperature.
My Cream Puffs collapsed
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.
It is also important to transfer the choux over a cooling rack straight out of the oven so that the outer shell can stay dry (without touching a still hot baking tray for example).
Craquelin Cream Puffs Filling
When it comes to the filling, it is entirely up to you! You can go classic with a Vanilla Pastry Cream or use a Chocolate Pastry Cream like I did here. You can also use a simple Whipped Cream or your favourite flavoured Cream and fruity fillings.
It depends if they are filled or not:
- Un-filled Choux: can be kept at room temperature in an air-tight 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.
If freezing unbaked, both the Craquelin and the Choux Buns should be frozen separately and assembled before baking. Craquelin can be rolled and frozen for up to 3 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.
More French Pastry Recipes:
- Pâte Sucrée (Sweet Shortcrust Pastry)
- Basic French Crêpes
- Fraisier Cake with Diplomat Cream
- Strawberry Charlotte Cake
- Strawberry Custard Tartlets
- Triple French Chocolate Tart
- Easy French Apple Tart
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Choux au Craquelin
- 30 gr (2 tbsp) Unsalted Butter - very soft
- 30 gr (2 tbsp) Brown Sugar
- 30 gr (3 tbsp) Plain Flour
- 125 ml (1/2 cup) Water
- 60 gr (1/4 cup) Unsalted Butter
- 15 gr (1 tbsp) Caster Sugar
- 75 gr (1/2 cup) Plain Flour
- 2 Eggs - (*)
Chocolate Pastry Cream - or your choice of filling
- 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 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 / 0.08inch thick) (1).
- Place in the freezer over a flat tray to chill for at least 1 hour (or 2 hours in the fridge).
- Preheat your oven on 180'C/350'F
- Place the Water, Butter and Sugar in a small pot and leave on medium 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 and remove any moisture (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 (3)
- Whisk the Eggs in a separate bowl. Add them to the dough a little bit at the time, mixing well between each addition. The dough should be smooth before you add more eggs. When almost all of the eggs have been added, stop to check the consistency of the dough before adding more (4).
- Transfer the Choux Pastry into a Piping Bag fitted with a large round Piping tip.
- Pipe small balls of pastry (5) over a greased flat baking tray, 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.
- Bake for 20 minutes, then open the door for a couple of seconds to let the steam out. Close the door again and bake for an addition 10 to 15 minutes, or until puffed, golden and dry to the touch.
- Place over a cooling rack to cool down completely before filling with your choice of cream.
- 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 5cm / 2inch wide
Read this recipe as a web story here!