Give your choux pastry desserts a sophisticated look with a craquelin topping! Made with just 4 ingredients and minimal time, the craquelin will add a wonderful sweet, crunchy layer to your cream puffs and eclairs to name but a few!
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 rolled out to a thickness of about 2 mm (1/16 inch) and cut into desired shapes: circles for choux, rectangles for éclairs and so on.
The chilled dough is placed on top of piped choux pastry just before baking. The craquelin topping will quickly start to soften with the heat and form a crunchy protection over the choux pastry, preventing it from rising randomly and cracking.
Pictured below: Left: The choux topped with chocolate craquelin just before placing it in the oven. Right: One minute into baking, the craquelin has softened and wrapped around the choux.
You can see from the pictures below (especially the overhead shot), that the choux made with craquelin looks fuller and bigger. The choux were piped into molds and were exactly the same size before going into the oven.
Let’s talk about the ingredients you’ll need to make the craquelin:
- Sugar: You can use any sugar you like/have. Most recipes call for light brown sugar but I will usually use dark brown sugar or white granulated sugar as it is what I have on hand. Sugar with a smaller crystal size, such as caster sugar, will be easier to incorporate into the dough. The dough will be smoother and easier to roll out and the baked craquelin will have a more uniform texture than if you were using larger sugar crystals (such as dark brown sugar). If you’d like more crunchiness however, I’d recommend using sugar with a larger crystal size.
- Flour: All-purpose flour, for structure. If you’d like to make a chocolate craquelin, you can replace part of the flour with unsweetened cocoa powder.
- Butter: It’s best to use unsalted butter and then simply add a pinch of salt. Cut it into small pieces and let it soften at room temperature before adding it to the dry ingredients.
- Prepare the craquelin: Simply mix all the ingredients together until a dough forms.
- Roll out the dough: Roll it out between two sheets of parchment paper to a thickness of about 2 mm (1/16 inch).
- Cut shapes: Cut circles (or desired shapes). Don’t remove them yet. Cover and chill until needed.
- Prepare the choux pastry: Pipe choux mounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. In case you missed it, I previously shared lots of tips and pictures for making choux pastry.
- Top with craquelin: Remove the dough from the refrigerator (or freezer). Carefully release the shapes. This should be quite easy to do if the dough is cold enough. Place on the choux buns.
- Bake the choux: Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool down before filling.
Okay, time for some step-by-step pictures!
How to Make Craquelin
- Mix together the flour, sugar and salt in a small bowl. You can just use a fork or a spoon.
- Add the softened butter and using your fingertips, mix just until a homogeneous dough forms.
- Divide the craquelin into two equal portions (70 g/2.5 oz. each).
Tip: The dough softens very quickly. It’s best to divide it into two so you can keep half of it chilled.
- Place half the dough on a piece of parchment paper and shape into a small rectangle. Fold the parchment paper to cover the dough (or top with another piece of parchment paper).
- Roll out the dough evenly to a thickness of about 2 mm (1/16 inch). I rolled it out into a rectangle, of about 12 x 16 cm (4.7 x 6.3 inches).Tip: If the dough is too thick, it will weigh down your choux and they might not puff up as much.
- If the dough isn’t too soft, cut circles of desired size with a cookie cutter, keeping them as close to each other as possible. If the dough is too warm to work with, chill it briefly then try cutting circles again. Tip: It’s best to avoid using the edges of the dough which are sometimes rolled out thinner than the rest.
Cutting shapes: I find it best to cut shapes in the dough when it’s not too cold. Cold dough will have a tendency to crack when you press a cookie cutter into it.
- Cover the dough once more (without releasing the circles). The shapes will be much easier to remove when the dough has been properly chilled. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or freeze for 15 minutes (on a flat surface). Repeat with the remaining dough.
Tip: Gather scraps and roll out again. If you don’t need more craquelin for your recipe, freeze for another use (well covered in parchment paper) on a flat surface.
If you’d like to make chocolate craquelin, simply replace part of the flour with cocoa powder. The process is exactly the same. Mix all the ingredients together to form a dough then roll it out and cut shapes.
Topping Choux Pastry With Craquelin
Now that your craquelin is ready, you can prepare the choux pastry. In case you missed it, it’s best to read how to make choux pastry. I explain every step in detail and you’ll find lots of troubleshooting tips.
- Pipe 4 cm (1.6 inch) mounds (or desired size) in staggered rows, spacing them about 4 cm apart.
- Carefully peel the parchment paper from the craquelin and release the circles (cut-outs). This should be quite easy to do if the dough is cold enough. Top the choux pastry mounds with craquelin and lightly press down to stick.
- Bake the choux in a preheated oven then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely at room temperature. Fill as desired.
How to Fill Choux Pastry
To fill the choux au craquelin, you can either:
- Poke a hole at the bottom of the choux and insert the piping bag to fill the choux. I’ve done this when making religieuse pastry and vanilla eclairs. This also works great for softer fillings which don’t hold their shape very well such as crème légère or chantilly cream.
- Slice the choux in two and show off your piping skills! I’ve done this when making chocolate choux with salted caramel filling and pistachio Paris-Brest for example.
The craquelin is quite forgiving and you shouldn’t really encounter any issues. But here are just a few things to keep in mind.
The craquelin is hard to handle
- Too cold: If the dough starts to crack when you are cutting shapes (pictured left, below), it is probably too cold. Just let it soften for a few minutes at room temperature before using it.
- Too warm: If the dough is too soft and you are having trouble topping the choux, chill it for about 15 minutes and try again.
The craquelin separated in the oven
- 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 small gaps in their place.
- Too much rise: When the choux buns puff up too much in the oven or too quickly, the craquelin is more likely to have large cracks. If you used the convection setting in your oven, try switching to the conventional setting or reduce the temperature next time.
- Uneven layer of dough: If the dough isn’t rolled out to an even thickness, the baked craquelin might not have a uniform appearance.
- Soft dough: If the craquelin got soft and split 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. It’s best to roll out the dough again and chill it before cutting more shapes.
The baked craquelin is falling apart
The craquelin will have a tendency to fall apart a little when you slice the baked choux. But if it separates from the choux in large chunks (pictured right, below), the choux pastry might have been too dry. The craquelin didn’t really stick to the choux and baked separately.
The choux pastry didn’t rise enough
Try to roll out the craquelin to a thickness of 2 mm (1/16 inch) and not more than that. If the craquelin is too heavy, it will weigh down the choux pastry which might not 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 freeze it until needed.
This post was originally published on January 19, 2021. I updated it with new pictures and more information.
Choux Au Craquelin Recipes
- Chocolate choux with salted caramel filling
- Religieuse pastry
- Pistachio Paris-Brest
- Triple chocolate eclairs
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Source: Craquelin recipe found in the Best of Philippe Conticini.