y baby Plated Palate turns 3 today! I celebrated the occasion by baking some chouquettes. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve baked anything aside from the occasional batch of cookies, so baking doesn’t feel as intuitive anymore as cooking savory dishes has become to me. When I was still living in the US, my baking obsession was what initially propelled me to start my first and now defunct blog. After living in France for a few years, I launched Plated Palate to give myself a blank canvas to explore my culinary predilections. While I wrote just about any and everything and shamelessly posted unappetizing photos on my old blog, I’ve dedicated this blog to Vietnamese foods and the occasional French delight.
I felt the urge to do some baking to fête Plated Palate’s special day, but I wanted to make something that doesn’t require too much effort, especially since my baking skills have become rusty. Nothing could be more simple than making chouquettes, which is a choux pastry adorned with pearl sugar crystals. Making the dough for chouquettes applies one of the most elementary, foundational techniques in French baking.
Pâte à choux, or choux pastry, is the base of commonly known French pastries, such as éclairs and profiteroles. The dough only contains a few basic ingredients (water and/or milk, butter, flour and eggs) and rises from steam created as it heats up in the oven. What I love about this dough is that it’s super airy light and incredibly versatile. Because it’s hollow on the inside, you can fill it with just about anything you can think of, savory or sweet. This is a definite must-try recipe if you’d like to start dabbling in French pastries. Once you master this simple choux pastry, you will easily graduate to more complicated desserts.
Among the pâte à choux based sweets, chouquettes are the easiest to make. Though hollow in the center, the chouquettes aren’t filled with any sort of creams. They are simply sweetened with a generous sprinkling of sucre perlé (pearl sugar) on its exterior surface. While it’s pretty easy to find here in France, I don’t ever recall seeing this type of sugar when I lived in the US. Pearl sugar is much larger than regular sugar crystals and they retain their shape and color even when baked at high temperatures. It gives the chouquettes a bit of a crunch when biting into them.
Here in France, chouquettes are generally sold in little sachets by weight, usually about 100-200 grams, at the neighborhood pâtisseries. I mostly see parents bringing chouquettes for their kids as an afterschool snack when they pick them up from school. I’ve also seen people at the office enjoy chouquettes with their morning espresso or simply as a snack during the day. Chouquettes are definitely one of my favorite afternoon snacks along with a strong shot of espresso.
125 ml milk
125 ml water
100 g butter
50 g sugar
a pinch of salt
150 g flour
3 + 1 eggs*
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Heat water, milk, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Once it comes to a gentle boil, remove from heat and add all of the flour at once. Mix the dough with a wooden spoon until all of the flour has been well incorporated and becomes smooth. Return saucepan to the heat and continuously turn the dough with the wooden spoon for at least 1-2 minutes, at which point it will no longer stick to the pot. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. To expedite the cooling, give the dough a couple of mixes with a hand mixer to release hot air.
Add the 3 eggs one at a time and thoroughly mix with wooden spoon after each addition. If you have no muscles like me, you can use a hand mixer to save yourself some energy. Beat the fourth egg in a separate bowl and add half of it to the batter. Continue to mix until the batter is smooth and shiny. To verify that the batter has enough egg and is the correct consistency, scoop some of the batter up with the wooden spoon, lift it straight up and let the batter slide down. If the batter falls in the shape of a V, it is ready to pipe. Otherwise, add a little bit more of the remaining egg and mix well.
Fill a pastry bag (use a 10 mm tip) with the batter and pipe little round choux of 4 cm in diamter onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the surface with the remaining egg and generously sprinkle the surface with the pearl sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the surface is golden. To verify that the chouquettes are adequately baked, tap the surface and listen for a hollow sound. Remove from oven and transfer the chouquettes to a rack to cool.
*I use medium-sized eggs, which weigh about 60-65 grams each.
Bonne dégustation & thanks for reading!