Ever heard of them? Me neither.
Not until about a few months ago when he dropped the “Oh! I remember having these back in France. You should make them!” bomb. How could I possibly resist his oh-so-very-subtle hint?
Now, if you know me at all, you’d know that pastries are not my thing. You all remember the pistachio pear tart massacre, right? I’m still twitching thinking about it.
So yeah, pastries scare the bejeezus out of me. But now that I’m armed with a grown-up oven, I seem to have been injected with a little more confidence to try my hand (pun intended…see pear tart injury notes) once again with these delicate little suckers. I will NOT be defeated by pastry dough!
However, I was ALMOST defeated by my citywide reconnoissance for the infamous “pearl sugar”, the distinguishable garnish for chouquettes. I’m not talking about the fancy decorative sugar that looks like pearls or the sparkly bedazzled sugar crystals. THE pearl sugar is very coarse and opaque, a diamond in the rough considering the intense scavenger hunt through all the gourmet shops in Manhattan. Alas, my acquisition of the pearl sugar came at the baker’s mecca, N.Y. Cake on 22nd & 6th Ave. The sweet smell of victory! Literally.
His subtle hint came with, of course, a subtle email linking to Chocolate & Zucchini‘s recipe post. A very successful food blogger turned cookbook author in France, I knew her recipe would be the perfect guide to make my first pâte à choux (pastry dough). This basic dough is the groundwork for many classic bakery treats like chouquettes, croquembouche (cream puffs) and eclairs. Chouquettes is essentially the first stage of the latter pastries which are filled with cream or custard.
I imagine chouquettes to have been invented accidentally because when the baker took them out of the oven to cool before filling with custard, the baker’s greedy hungry boyfriend ate them all up when she wasn’t looking. Okay, that’s not the real story of how they came to be so don’t try to sound intellectual at a dinner party and start quoting me on this one. But this scenario seems to be the case in our household and I don’t think he’d ever give me the opportunity to even squeeze in a little filling into one of these chouquettes. C’est la vie!
|6||Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small cubes|
|1/4||tsp fine sea salt|
|1||cup flour, sifted|
|4||large eggs at room temperature|
- In a small saucepan combine butter, sugar, salt and 1 cup of water. Bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the sifted flour all at once. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon then place pan back over low heat. Keep stirring dough until it pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball in the center of the pan. Remove from heat.
- Cool for 3 minutes then add the eggs one at a time, stirring to combine thoroughly after each egg. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to a day. This is your pâte à choux.
- In a small saucepan, combine 2T of sugar and water over high heat. Once it boils, simmer over low heat for another minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees (my oven temperature is a bit weak so I heated mine to 425). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using two small teaspoons, form very small walnut-sized balls and drop them on the baking sheet, one-inch apart.
- Lightly brush the tops with sugar glaze and sprinkle generously with pearl sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. TIP: Do not open the oven in the first 10 minutes of baking. And when the chouquettes are done, turn off the heat, leave them inside and open the oven door just a crack. This will prevent them from temperature shock and deflating. After 5 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool completely before serving. Makes approximately 40-50 small pieces.