Last updated on November 1st, 2023.
Choux au craquelin (pronounced shoo o kra-ka-la) may sound like a sophisticated French dessert, one best to get at a Parisian bakery, but the truth is that it is just a fancy and crispy cream puffs (classic french choux). And today, we are mastering this professional-looking pastry with a complete step-by-step written and visual tutorial.
What Is Craquelin?
To put it in simple words: it’s cream puff cookies, similar to Chouquetts.
We all know choux pastry or cream puffs, so let’s take a minute to talk about craquelin. In French, craquelin means cracker, which is precisely it; a sweet cracker made of three simple ingredients: butter, sugar, and flour, placed on top of the piped choux dough. During the baking process, as the butter melts, the sugar dissolves, and the choux pastry bakes, the cracker spreads and overlaps the baked choux, giving it a beautiful cracked top with a crispy texture.
In addition to a crispy texture, the craquelin also provides sweetness to the cream puffs, and I found that they are delicious to snack on with no filling at all.
Another thing is that the craquelin will weigh down the cream puffs and give them the perfect symmetrical topping, making it a great way to bake shaped choux pastry like these heart-shaped ones.
Ingredients for the au craquelin recipe
We start with maxing the craquelin dough. Since it is rich in butter, after we mix it, we need to give it enough time to set it again in the refrigerator or freezer. Have your rolling pin ready, along with two sheets of parchment paper.
- Butter at room temperature.
- Sugar. For this recipe, I used light brown sugar; please read my notes about variation for more options.
- All-purpose flour. I use unbleached, but bleach will work fine.
Best sugar for craquelin and varaiations
The sugar provides a crispy texture to the crunchy choux buns, so avoid using alternatives like honey or maple syrup. Granulated and cane sugar are great options, as well as light brown sugar to give it some deep molasses flavor.
Food coloring is an excellent option for adding color to a special occasion. Make sure to use granulated sugar for the best color effect, and add the coloring along with the sugar.
Ingredients for choux pastry
Choux pastry call for four basic ingredients; make sure to bring them to room temperature for the best results.
- Butter, salted or unsalted is both good options.
- Milk. For a non-dairy alternative, use water or your favorite plant base milk (unflavored and unsweetened).
- Large eggs. A large egg in the united stated weighs 55 grams.
- All-purpose flour. Bread flour is also a good option.
How to make choux au craquelin Recipe?
How to make Craquelin disk
You can use a wooden spoon, a hand mixer, or a stand electric mixer.
- Mix the sugar and butter until fully incorporated with no butter lumps.
- Add the flour and mix to incorporate.
- Place the dough over a sheet of parchment paper, top it with another piece, and roll it to 1/4″ thick. Place in the refrigerator to set while you make the pâte à choux (cream puffs).
How to make choux paste (cream puffs)?
Check out my post about how to make choux pastry, to learn more.
The first two steps are making Panade, which is the step we take to hydrate the dough before adding the eggs.
- Optional step: line two baking sheets with parchment paper and use a 2-inch (5cm) cookie cutter or a heart-shaped one to mark pencil circles, leaving 3 inches between each circle. You can turn the paper for safety measurements, so the pencil faces the bottom of the pan.
- Place the butter and milk in medium sauce over medium heat and have the flour ready next to the pan. Cook the butter and milk until the butter has melted and the milk is starting to simmer.
- Add the flour, reduce heat to low heat, and using a wooden spoon, vigorously stir for about 2 minutes until the dough is smooth and you notice a thin layer of dry flour at the bottom of the pan.
- Remove the batter from the stove, place it in a bowl of a stand mixer, and use the paddle attachment to cool it for about 3 minutes. Alternatively, allow it to cool for about 15-20 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until it is fully incorporated and you have a smooth batter that drops from the spatula in a V shape. Note that at first, it will look very messy, but keep mixing, and it will come together.
Piping and Baking the choux au craquelin
- Fill a large piping bag with the dough, then pipe the dough at the center of each marked circle. Start with the center and gently squeeze until the dough almost reaches the edges. Please do not move the and keep it still at a 90 degrees angle.
- Remove the craquelin from the refrigerator and use the cookie cutter you used to mark the cream puffs to cut the crackers.
- Gently lift the crackers (I highly recommend using an offset spatula) and place each on top of the piped choux pastry. Bake.
How To Fill?
There are two ways to fill the pastries. Choose the way you think works for you best:
- Use a serrated knife to cut the crackly top and fill the bottom. This method is excellent when you fill with a fruit filling or serve the pastry as the star dessert.
- Poke a small hole at the bottom of each choux (or side), then pipe the filling. Great when you want to coat the pastry with chocolate or when you make a croquembouche. Note that you will need a pastry bag and a special piping tip (affiliated tip).
The crunchy cookie crust makes this classic dessert the perfect vessel for all your favorite fillings:
- Diplomat cream (folding pastry cream into heavy cream and mixing gelating for more stability).
- Bavarian cream.
- If you’re a chocolate lover consider one of these options: Chocolate whipped ganache, Chocolate ganache, Cremeux Au Chocolat, and chocolate whipped cream.
- Crème légère. Fold pastry cream into whipped cream, like in this Chou a la creme recipe.
- Creme Chiboust. Meringue lightened creme pat, or Creme Mousseline, pastry cream whipped with butter.
Fruit fillings are also great options, like this cherry filling.
Baking choux au craquelin is an easy task when appropriately made; please read the below tips for the best results:
- This is the first, second, and third tip I keep repeating. Use a kitchen scale (affiliate). Using cups and spoons is not an exact measurement and may lead to many frustrating outcomes.
- Bring the ingredients to room temperature before baking. Otherwise, the cracker disk may come out lumpy, and the choux pastries will rise slightly.
- Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces to melt simultaneously as the milk simmer.
- When making the pastry dough, pay attention to the texture. When dipped in a spatula, the dough is ready when it forms a V. This is even more important if you do not have a kitchen scale available. Add the eggs one at a time and before adding the last egg, do the V test.
- Do not be tempted to bake large cream puffs; 2-2.5 inches is ideal. Remember that they puff during baking. The larger they are, the more they will lose their shape.
- Do not open the oven door during baking. It will deflate the pastries.
- Allow the pastries to cool in the oven, with the oven off, and the door shut for about 15 minutes, then crack open the door before removing the baking tray from the oven.
- Only fill the pastries when they have completely cooled.
Storing, Freezing, and making ahead of time
Freezing: bake the pastries, then freeze them in a storage bag or an airtight container for up to four weeks. Bake for 5-10 minutes at 300F to make them crispy again. When ready to bake, remove it from the bag and allow it to reach room temperature.
Store: unfilled, store at room temperature uncovered. If filled with perishable, store in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Making ahead of time: You refrigerate the craquelin disk for up to 24 hours (longer might dry it out). Note that it might lose its crispy texture. The pastries can be stored at room temperature and empty for up to 3 days.
Troubleshooting guide and FAQs
The butter might be too soft; place it in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes, then try again.
Either the butter was too cold, or you added too much flour. Try to place your mixing bowl above your stove (2 inches away from the flame) for about 10 seconds, then mix again. Also, make sure to roll the dough before refrigerating.
The dough might need to be warmer. Give it a minute to warm up slightly, and use a flexible spatula to lift the cookies.
A bit bigger than the choux pastry dough. Remember that the dough will puff during baking and double its size by 2-3 times. I like to mark the circles and pipe the dough slightly smaller.
You either added too much flour or not enough eggs. Try to add an extra egg.
Either you added too much salt, or the oven temperature was too low.
That happens when the delicate choux is exposed to cold air too fast, either because you open the oven door or remove the pastries too soon. Let cool in the oven with a cracked oven door.
When filled, they will lose their texture. Another reason is placing them in a storage bag or airtight container at room temperature.
The oven temperature is too high. Make sure to bake at the middle oven rack and if possible, use a light baking pan.
You rolled it too thick, and the crackers set before they could spread.
Here are more dessert recipes you might like
Choux au craquelin
Light and airy cream puffs topped with sweet cracker and filled with unlimited filling options.
- 1/2 Stick Unsalted butter, softened (60 g /.2 oz)
- 1/2 Cup Light brown sugar (100 g / 3.5 oz)
- 1/2 Cup (+1 tsp) all-purpose flour (70 g / 2.5 oz)
- 1 Stick Butter (113 g / 4 oz)
- 1 Cup Water or milk (240 ml / 8 oz)
- 4 Large Eggs, room temperature
- 1 Cup Bread or all-purpose flour (120 g / 4 oz)
For the Craquelin
In a medium bowl, using a spoon beat together the butter and sugar until combined.
Add the flour and mix to incorporate.
Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll it 1/8" thick. Place in the refrigerator to set.
For the Cream Puffs
Preheat oven to 390F, line a cookie pan with parchment paper and trace 12-inch rounds or hearts using a cookie cutter. Turn the paper upside down so the marker ink will be facing down.
In a medium pan, place the milk and butter and cook over medium heat.
Once the butter has melted, add the flour and use a wooden spoon to incorporate the flour with the liquid.
Keep stirring and cooking until the mixture reaches 175F (79C), or for about 2 minutes over low-medium heat, until notice that the dough is smooth and the sides of the pan are clean
Remove from heat and place the dough in a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on low to allow the dough to cool.
Once the dough cooled (no steam is releasing), add the eggs and mix to a smooth batter. It may seem to curdle which is normal, just keep beating.
Fill a pastry bag with a round tip (Wilton #12 or #199) and pipe the dough as you trace the shapes on the prepared pan.
Remove the craquelin from the refrigerator and use the cookie cutter to cut out the cookies. Gently lift the craquelin and place it on the piped cream puffs dough. Repeat with the rest.
Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 365F and bake for additional 11 minutes.
Allow the pastries to cool in the oven with the door shut for 10 minutes, then slightly open the door for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Use all room-temperature ingredients.
- Use a kitchen scale to measure the ingredients for the best results.
- Do not open the oven door during baking and the first 10 minutes afterward.
- Use water instead of milk.
- Cut the butter into 1-inch pieces so it will melt as soon as the milk/water boil.
- Store the pastry at room temperature for up to 5 days, covered. Freeze for up to 4 weeks in a freezer bag or an airtight container.