Ever notice how some choux just look so much more uniform and identical. And have a crunchy, sweet feel when you bite into them. Well, chances are there was a craquelin on top. But don’t let the word freak you out. It is actually super easy to make.
Deciding whether or not to put craquelin on top of your choux pastry really comes down to personal taste and the effect you are looking for. I’m team craquelin while my husband isn’t. Which one do you think you are?
What Is Craquelin?
Craquelin is simply dough made from three ingredients mixed together: butter, flour and sugar. A pinch of salt can be added as well. The dough is then rolled out to a thickness of about 2mm and cut into desired shapes: circles for choux, rectangles for éclairs for example.
The refrigerated (or frozen) dough is then placed on top of your piped choux pastry just before putting everything in the oven. The craquelin will quickly soften with the heat and form a crunchy protection over the choux pastry, preventing it from rising randomly and cracking.
You can see from the pictures below (especially the overhead shot), that the choux made with craquelin look fuller and bigger. The choux were piped into molds and were exactly the same size before going into the oven.
What Sugar To Use?
Let’s talk a little bit about the sugar used to make craquelin. The most common type of sugar used seems to be brown sugar. I don’t always have brown sugar on hand and was wondering if I could just replace it with white sugar. I tried making three batches of craquelin with three types of sugar: white granulated sugar, brown cane sugar and caster sugar.
The brown raw cane sugar I used had the largest crystal size while the caster sugar had the smallest. As a result, caster sugar was much easier to incorporate into the dough and the dough was smoother and easier to roll out.
The craquelin made with caster sugar turned out to be most uniform one, while the one that cracked the most and had the largest gaps was the one made with brown sugar. In terms of taste, however, I think my favorite was the one with brown sugar. It had a very nice crunch to it.
Was there a huge difference? Not really. So I would say just use whichever sugar you want to use, or have.
Adding Flavors Or Colors
I don’t know about you but I’m thinking: Chocolate!! All you have to do is replace part of the flour with cocoa powder and you’ll get a nice chocolate craquelin. You can try it out while making these chocolate éclairs.
You can even color the craquelin if you want to make some red and green choux for Christmas for example!
We learned previously how to make choux pastry. Now let’s see how to make the craquelin for it.
Preparing The Craquelin
- Simply whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. I just use a fork for this.
- Add the softened butter and using your hands, mix until a homogeneous dough forms.
- Place the craquelin towards one side of a piece of parchment paper and shape it into a small rectangle. This will make it easier for you to roll it in a uniform way. Fold the paper and using a rolling pin, flatten the dough until it is about 2mm thick. Try not to make it much thicker than that or it will weigh down your choux. As a result, your choux won’t be able to puff up as much.
I’m terrible at flattening dough and always end up with some weird, uneven shape. I find that starting with the shape you want and “blocking” one end with the parchment paper helps you get a better result.
And you’re done! That was it! Easy peasy right? It is probably way too soft to handle now so you have to refrigerate it for about an hour. Or you can freeze it for 15 minutes while preparing the choux pastry.
Covering Choux Pastry With Craquelin
Now that your craquelin is nice and cold, you will be able to cut your circles using a cookie cutter. Cut out shapes that are slightly larger than your choux. Then, right before baking the choux pastry, simply place the craquelin on top of your choux and gently press it so it doesn’t fall off. Don’t press it too much though as you don’t want to flatten your choux.
The craquelin is quite forgiving and you shouldn’t really encounter any issues. But here are just a few things to keep in mind.
Troubleshooting The Craquelin
The craquelin is hard to handle
If your craquelin starts breaking apart and you have trouble cutting shapes, it is probably too cold. This will happen especially if you froze it. Just let it soften for a few minutes at room temperature before cutting shapes.
If on the other hand, you have trouble transferring the craquelin to the choux because it is too soft, simply place it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes and try again.
The craquelin separated in the oven
If your craquelin got soft and ripped while you were trying to transfer it to the choux, don’t just try to patch it up quickly. It might cause it to separate in the oven and leave a big gap. You are better off rolling the dough again and freezing it so you can cut a proper shape.
Smaller gaps in the craquelin could be due to improper mixing. If you use cold butter and don’t mix it fully into the dough, the butter chunks that remain in the dough will melt in the oven and leave gaps in their place.
You might also notice sometimes that there are gaps in the craquelin if the choux puffed up a lot in the oven.
The choux pastry didn’t rise enough
Make sure to roll out the craquelin to a thickness of 2mm and not more than that. If the craquelin is too heavy, it will weigh down the choux pastry which won’t be able to puff up as much.
If the craquelin was already thin, then there might have been an issue with the choux pastry. You can check out the troubleshooting section (10.1) in the choux pastry post.
And that’s it! You can prepare the craquelin weeks in advance and simply store it in the freezer. Or you can make it just before preparing your choux pastry and freezing it until needed. Next time, we’ll be using the craquelin to make Philippe Conticini’s amazing Paris Brest!