Classic French Choux au craquelin is, in fact, a crispy cream puff, sort of a professional and fancy-looking choux pastry. My Choux au craquelin tutorial will take you through how to take your cream puffs to the next level, which is even more delicious with a crunchy craquelin layer on top. These choux buns can be filled with your favorite fillings eg. vanilla bean pastry cream, and I will provide several more filling ideas. Choux au craquelin is certainly one of the most delicious choux pastries you will ever make!
- What is craquelin
- What is the difference between cream puff and choux au craquelin
- Why this is the best recipe
- How hard it is to make Choux au craquelin
- Ingredient notes
- 6 Expert Baking tips
- Equipment notes
- Troubleshooting Guide
- Filling ideas
- Other Choux pastry recipes
- RECIPE CARD
- Professional Choux au craquelin (crispy cream puff)
What is craquelin
The translation of craquelin means cracker, and it is effectively a sweet and crunchy cookie disk topping that is added to a basic cream puff dough to give it a distinct sweet and crunchy texture. It is made of 3 simple ingredients; flour, butter, and sugar.
Choux au craquelin is a Classic French dessert that belongs to the family of choux pastries such as. eclairs and Paris-Brest. You will have to prepare the choux dough and craquelin dough separately, then place the craquelin disk on top of the piped choux dough. When they bake, the craquelin melts on top of the cream puff to form the most perfect crackly layer. It gives an incredible texture, a velvety look, and an incredibly delicious crunchy taste to the cream puffs! A must-try if you are a choux pastry lover!
What is the difference between cream puff and choux au craquelin
Both of them are in the family of choux pasty along with profiterole and eclair! Choux au craquelin is effectively a cream puff that is topped with a thin disc, a so-called craquelin. The preparation of the Choux au craquelin is identical to cream puff, except the craquelin disk on top which is made of creaming butter, sugar, and flour.
Taste-wise they are very similar and equally delicious, however texture wise the Choux au craquelin is crunchier due to the craquelin cookie on top.
Choux au craquelin is as versatile as cream puffs, you can easily turn one base choux au craquelin recipe into mocha choux au craquelin, mathcha choux au craquelin, chocolate choux au craquelin or just keep it simple making vanilla bean choux au craquelin using my pastry cream recipe.
Why this is the best recipe
Choux pastry in general (eg. eclairs, cream puffs, profiteroles) is made of a few basic ingredients like sugar, butter, flour, milk, and egg however it is important to read and follow the instructions carefully in order to avoid typical eclair mistakes such as 1. cracked surface, 2. soggy inside, 3. flat and deflated choux buns 4. no air pocket to fill… just to name a few.
While making Choux au craquelin the perfect result we are looking for is a ball shape choux pastry that is risen with an even craquelin distribution on top (so no major cracks on the side), holds its shape after baking, and has a lovely huge air pocket inside that can be filled with a variety of creams, vanilla bean pastry cream being the most common one.
The most important factors to baking perfectly shaped, evenly risen choux buns are:
- Using the right ingredients eg. high protein content bread flour
- Using the right equipment, eg. silicone baking mat to roll the craquelin dough
- Learning the right technique, eg. piping skill
- Finding the right baking temperature: in my oven it is a 170C / 338F
In this recipe, I will cover all the necessary information you probably haven´t read anywhere else so your choux au craquelin will turn out exactly like mine!
How hard it is to make Choux au craquelin
Making Craquelin Cream puffs is actually not that hard, neither too complex nor time-consuming. What makes this recipe way easier than any other Choux recipe is that I have step-by-step easy-to-follow instructions for you with tons of baking tips along the way, I even have a Troubleshooting in this recipe!
The recipe might be long, and in fact, it is, because of the necessary information you need to know in order to succeed. Consider this recipe as a full-on Choux crash course, the only choux pastry recipe that you will ever need!
Funny fact! Making Choux au craquelin is actually easier than making Cream puff! Why? Because the craquelin on top encourages a more even puffing up in the oven, therefore, less chances for a cracked, uneven surface on the choux pastry.
For the choux bun (cream puff)
- Milk: Whole milk is the best, definitely avoid using milk substitutes, unless you are aware of how to reformulate the recipe
- Water: Milk-water ratio in this Pâte à choux recipe is 50-50%. If you are more experienced, feel free to play around with different ratios
- Sugar: Choux dough is made using granulated sugar. While heating the mixture up, make sure sugar fully dissolves. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article here
- Salt: An essential ingredient in most dessert recipes. Balances flavor and enhances other ingredients, in choux pastry recipe, salt also contributes to the right texture
- Butter: Use always unsalted as you want to be in control of the quantity of the salt. I am using 82% fat content European-style butter in all my recipes. While in most of the recipes butter needs to be at room temperature, this is an exception. Since butter will be heated, it is fine to use it straight out of the fridge
- Flour: Make sure to use high protein content bread flour to achieve that lovely huge air pocket. I am using a 12% protein content flour, and get very poor results with low protein pastry flours. It might not be called bread flour in your country, please search for the protein content on the bag and purchase the one that is recommended to make bread. If you want to be a Pro when it comes to deciding what type of flour to use in your baking, please read my article in here
- Egg: Room temperature as always. I will have special notes on the quantity of the egg at a later stage of this recipe.
Exact ingredient quantities can be found in the RECIPE CARD, at the bottom of this page.
For the craquelin disk
- Sugar: Many recipes use light brown sugar for craquelin, however, I recommend cane sugar for the signature velvet texture. The second best option is light brown sugar, however, it won´t look exactly the same. Muscovado or Turbinado etc. can be all good to substitute, however, make sure you use a type of sugar that has medium crystals. Please read my article in here if you are unfamiliar with what cane sugar is
- Flour: Simple All purpose flour is fine here
- Butter: Unsalted room temperature butter. It is important that the butter is soft enough to be able to cream but not runny
Exact ingredient quantities can be found in the RECIPE CARD, at the bottom of this page.
6 Expert Baking tips
1. How to prepare pate au choux
I have a very detailed tutorial about Choux pastry in my eclair recipe. It contains tons of useful information about the choux dough, how to pipe it, how to bake it, what equipment is needed etc. I even have a Troubleshooting guide in case something goes wrong, make sure you check it out.
Making any choux pastry whether it is Paris-Brest, eclair, or choux au craquelin starts with a cooking process. The choux dough is not the type of dough where you can add a bit of this, a bit of that at a later stage, the steps and their order in the recipe are strict therefore make sure you follow them.
The choux dough is a cooked dough which means the butter, milk, water mixture the so-called first needs to be heated until simmering. Then, you will add the flour and cook the dough (the so-called panade) for a few minutes (2-3minutes) over medium heat mixing constantly. Make sure, you sift flour before adding it to the mixture as you want to avoid lumps. The cooking process of the panade is ready when some moisture evaporates from the dough and by then there should be a thin skin formed on the bottom of the saucepan.
Mixing the egg in will need somewhat your judgment. Only add a small amount of egg at a time, consistently whisking after each addition (I am using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment). First, the mixture might separate but keep your mixer on, and the dough will come together and should reach a glossy, pipeable consistency. I like to do the “V test”: the dough is ready when it slowly falls down from the paddle attachment in a V shape. Slowly is key here, it should not be too runny.
Please note, that depending on the flour you use and how much you “dried” the mixture at the cooking stage, you might need to use slightly more or less egg than stated in the recipe. Very important that you can not add more flour to the mixture at this late stage, so while adding the egg into the mixture check the dough consistency regularly, and if you accidentally add more egg and the dough is too runny, start again.
2. How to pipe cream puff
As mentioned above, while mixing the egg in you have to take into consideration to mix in as much egg to get a shiny, pipeable consistency. The mixture should not be too firm, nor too runny.
Move the dough into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle tip. For even, burst-free baking it is important to get rid of any air bubbles before piping. You can achieve this by pressing the air pockets out of the piping bag with your hands before piping.
Now at this point, you can leave the dough in the fridge for 1-2h – this helps to achieve even baking and quite useful eg. when making eclairs, however in the case of this choux au craquelin recipe, it is also fine if you start piping immediately. Make a decision according to how much time you have.
The recipe makes 20 cream puffs. Ideally, pipe the choux buns onto Perforated “air” baking mat that provides even baking due to air circulation through the mat. Try to pipe evenly while holding the piping bag vertically. Alternatively, pipe the choux buns onto parchment paper using a large tray. I don´t recommend using a silicone baking mat for making choux pastry as my experience is that the choux buns somewhat get wet from the bottom during baking.
You might find that after piping there are small peaks on top of the choux buns, feel free to gently press them down with your wet fingertip.
3. How to make the craquelin disk
The craquelin recipes consist of only 3 ingredients (butter, sugar, flour), however, it might take some practice to learn how to utilize the temperature for our benefit. If the mixture is too soft, it will be sticky and it won´t be possible to roll out. In the meantime, if the mixture is too cold, again, it won´t be possible to roll it out because it will break.
Like always, you have to be patient and find THE right temperature for rolling the dough. If too soft, place it into the fridge or freezer for a few minutes then try again. Make sure you do not add more flour into the mixture, the recipe is correct as it is, the temperature that has to be corrected if the dough seems difficult to handle.
For rolling the craquelin dough I suggest 2 Silicone baking mat. You can try to do it in between 2 sheets of parchment paper however it won´t be as neat. The best solution is to gently roll the craquelin in between 2 Silicone baking mat, then place the rolled-out sheet into the freezer for a minimum of an hour. Leave the Silicone baking mat on it for now, it will be removed when the craquelin is properly frozen. At any point, if the dough gets too sticky, place it into the freezer for a minute or two then continue rolling until reaches 2 mm of thickness.
Again, the temperature will be very important at a later stage. The craquelin sheet needs to get properly frozen and firm to be able to handle it. Grab a cookie cutter (slightly larger in diameter than the choux buns you piped) then cut circles out of the craquelin dough and place them on top of the choux buns. If at any point the craquelin dough softens, place the sheet back into the freezer for a few minutes then continue. Try to work as quickly as possible as you also don´t want the craquelin disks to melt on top of the choux buns.
Please note, that the size of the cookie-cutter circle will determine how the cream puff is covered with the craquelin. The choux will puff in the oven hence a larger diameter craquelin disk is needed to be able to fully cover the cream puffs when baked, see picture below.
You can even flavor or color the crauquelin disk with either food coloring or colorful ingredients eg. matcha, freezed dried raspberry, cocoa powder, black sesame, etc. Make sure you take the amount of coloring into consideration that is either a dry or wet ingredient so if you use 5g matcha powder, reduce the flour by the same amount.
4. How to bake the Choux au craquelin
Before baking, it is a must to freeze the buns with the craquelin disks on top of them – this will support even rise without cracks.
Some suggest starting with a high baking temperature then decreasing for the second half of the baking time. I find even baking temperature works better, supports more even baking. Having said that, I suggest to pre-heat the oven to a higher temperature and then decreasing it later, please see the instructions in the recipe. Feel free to experiment with your own oven!
It is very important that you use a Digital oven thermometer that states the correct oven temperature. I personally do not bake without my oven thermometer on, and if your oven is over or under run 10C / 50F (that is very common), then it will be impossible to follow this recipe and get the same result.
Do not open the oven door in the first 30 minutes under any circumstances as the choux buns might collapse.
I bake the choux buns for 40 minutes at 170C / 338F (no fan), but you need to test and try your own oven. It is a good idea to take one out at 40 min, wait for a minute to see whether they collapse, if not, very likely that they are well baked.
Overall, I suggest starting with my baking suggestions however each oven is different, you have to find what works best for you. What we are looking for is a nicely puffed-up pastry that keeps its shape. I have tons of tips and even a Troubleshooting guide later in this tutorial.
5. How to fill and store
Filling these craquelin cream puffs is super easy, and can be done by either making a small hole on the bottom or cutting off the top and piping the filling in. You can fill them with one cream, or a combination of cream and jelly, or cream and fruit, or even cream and a crunchy layer. What is important is that you serve the dessert after filling as naturally the filling will soften the choux pastry.
In regards to how to store them;
- Un-filled Choux buns: They can be kept at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to 2-3 days. Before placing them in a container, make sure that they are well cooled so they won´t get wet or soggy inside the container.
- Filled Choux buns: After the choux buns are filled with cream, they should be eaten straight away or kept in the fridge for maximum of 12-24 hours. Very likely, that the filling would make them soggy after that, but it also depends on the filling itself, eg. how moist the filling
6. How to freeze
You can easily freeze the choux au craquelin and bake them fresh when you need them.
- Freezing unbaked choux buns - Both the Craquelin and the Choux Buns should be frozen separately and assembled before baking
- Freezing baked choux buns - While baked choux pastry eg. eclair can be frozen, I do not recommend freezing the choux with craquelin once baked as the craquelin won´t stay crispy
- Freezing after filled - As per above, I do not recommend freezing the filled choux au craquelin
Perforated baking “air” mat for even baking
I have been using Perforated “air” baking mat for more than a year now from a brand called Silikomart and love it. I use it all the time for baking tarts, choux, even for cookies. Thanks to the holes in the mat, the heat spreads evenly throughout the mats’ surface guaranteeing a perfect and even baking. Use the Perforated “air” baking mat on top of the oven rack so that the air can circulate properly. If you do not own this wonderful baking equipment it´s worth considering investing in it. Alternatively, lining a baking tray with a baking sheet can work too, it is just neater and less risky with Perforated “air” baking mat.
Silicone baking mat for rolling the dough out
I recommend using 2 Silicone baking mat for rolling the craquelin dough out in between them. It’s also possible to use parchment paper, however, the silicone mat provides a much neater, smooth surface. It can be washed and then used all the time so overall a really good investment. I am using the “Amazon basics” cheapest version, no need to buy anything expensive then you can use it all the time in the future for rolling “sticky” things like pie dough, tart dough, I even use it to roll the dough for babka.
Before we jump onto the typical mistakes, I must highlight that 90% of the baking mistakes whether it is in the case of this Choux au craquelin recipe, whether a different dessert, could be solved with precision and practice.
For a consistent, happy baking experience always measure your ingredients with the help of a Digital scale. Cup measurement is largely inaccurate, even just a little bit of too much flour or too little egg can cause best in class baking disasters. Using a Digital scale is quicker, more precise, makes less dirty dishes, and less stress for you while baking.
Issue No. 1.: Flour form lumps during cooking the choux dough
Solution: First of all, you have to sift the flour before mixing it into the rest of the ingredients. Secondly, remove the saucepan from the heat, then add the flour in one go, then whisk vigorously with a Rubber spatula until it forms one smooth ball and flour bits are not visible. Vigorously is key here.
Issue No.2. : The dough is so solid, it´s impossible to pipe
Solution: Your choux dough is too solid, mix in more egg. Make sure you add in a small amount of egg at once, mix in, then check the consistency again. The choux dough is ready when the dough falls off very slowly in a V shape.
Issue No.3. : The piped choux bun does not hold its shape
Solution: Your choux dough is too runny = wet, mix in less egg next time. Please do not try to fix the dough at this point by adding more flour, it won´t work. Start the process again and pay close attention to how much egg you add to the mixture
Issue No.4. : The craquelin is too sticky to roll out
Solution: You need to chill the craquelin dough. Baking is 90% playing with temperature and utilizing it for our benefit. Butter will get solid in the fridge so the craquelin dough will get more solid to roll. Also, make sure to use 2 Silicone baking mat for rolling the craquelin dough out in between them so it won´t stick. It’s also possible to use parchment paper, however, the silicone mat provides a much neater, smooth surface.
Issue No.5. : The craquelin is too hard to roll out
Solution: Sounds like you over-chilled the craquelin dough. Leave it on the kitchen counter for a few minutes until it slightly warm-up then when the temp is right, roll it in between two Silicone baking mat. If at any point the craquelin dough is too warm or too cold, you can always play with the temp buy using your fridge or freezer or leave it more on room temp depending on whether you want to chill the dough or warm-up
Issue No.6. : The choux buns do not rise in the oven
Solution: Most likely you need to increase the baking temp. Or, perhaps the issue is related to issue No.3.: your dough was too wet and your buns are baking more like a pancake without rising properly. Make it less wet next time (less egg)
Issue No.7.: The choux buns are deflated after baking
Solution: Most likely your choux buns were not baked well, bake it longer next time. I bake the choux buns for 40 minutes, but you need to test and try your own oven. It is a good idea to take one out at 40 min, wait for a minute to see whether they collapse, if not, very likely that they are well baked. Also, make sure you do not open the oven door during baking.
Issue No.8.: My choux buns are having huge cracks on the top
Solution: There are a number of reasons causing cracks on choux pastry therefore a number of solutions can be considered. First and foremost, make sure your oven temp is even. Do not change the oven temp suddenly and do not open the oven door during baking. Inappropriate piping techniques eg. applying uneven pressure while piping can also cause cracks on the choux pastry. Truth it, piping skill is something you will have to practice and it will improve over time. Too high oven temp and fan in the oven can also cause cracks on the top, try to find the sweet spot in terms of oven temp, a temp that provides a nice rise but without cracks, and do not use a fan in the oven.
Issue No.9.: The craquelin layer is baked unevenly on the buns
Solution: There will be always a few out of 20 that is baked a bit more uneven, I would not worry about it too much. However, if all of them are uneven, it must be a combination of a few issues. First and foremost, you need to use the right sugar while making craquelin, I am using so-called cane sugar, please see my tips above in the Ingredients section. Light brown sugar provides a less even craquelin surface and granulated sugar is not really appropriate to use, unlike some other recipes suggest. Secondly, uneven craquelin development might be related with Issue No. 8. , if the choux buns are rising too quickly, it also results in uneven craquelin development. See the solution at Issue No. 8.
Issue No.10.: My Choux au craquelins are not hollow inside
Solution: Again, there can be a number of issues causing not hollow choux buns. It is either related to Issue No.6.: Inappropriate rise – if so you know by now how to fix it. If you have a nice rise on your choux buns, but they are not hollow enough inside, most likely your flour has not enough protein. Even if you use bread flour, try a few different ones eg. 12, 13, 14% protein content and stick to the one that gives the best result.
Crème Brûlée Choux au craquelin - This choux pastry is filled with silky vanilla pastry cream (Crème Pâtissière) and topped with a crunchy caramelised sugar layer just like traditional Crème Brûlée! Its delicate texture and delicious flavor will certainly impress everyone.
Pumpkin & Caramelized white chodolate Choux au craquelin - This is the ultimate Fall edition Choux au Craquelin recipe! The perfect cream puff (choux pastry) is topped with a crispy craquelin layer and filled with silky pumpkin ganache and caramelized white chocolate ganache.
Apple Pie Choux au craquelin - This Apple Pie Choux au craquelin (crispy cream puff) is the perfect combination of American Apple pie and French Choux pastry, a showstopper dessert that will be the start this Fall! I love how the crispy Choux au craquelin bonds with the creamy homemade Apple pie filling while the whipped mascarpone on top balances the flavors
Tiramichoux - This Tiramisu Choux au craquelin (crispy cream puff) is the perfect combination of Italian Tiramisu and French Choux pastry, a showstopper dessert that will impress everyone!
Other Choux pastry recipes
Eclair - This is the only eclair recipe you will ever need! A foolproof eclair recipe that finally works! Have you ever experienced making flat or soggy eclairs? Or having huge cracks all over the surface? You might have tried all the recipes that claim the ‘perfect eclair’, and still ended up with flat, sad-looking ones? Never again!
Paris-Brest - Paris-Brest, a delicate ring shape Choux pastry with Hazelnut Praline Crème Mousseline filling, is definitely the Queen of French pastries! Crispy Pâte à Choux bonds together with silky, nutty Creme Mousseline filling in my Classic French recipe!
Professional Choux au craquelin (crispy cream puff)
For the choux bun
For the craquelin
- 100 g Unsalted butter Room temperature
- 100 g Cane sugar
- 100 g All purpose flour
US customary cup measurement is an indicative figure only. Measure the ingredients with a digital scale by weight (gram). Baking is art but also science which requires precision and accuracy.
- Cream room temperature butter and sugar together for a few minutes, then add the sifted flour. Cream for a few more minutes. If the mixture is too soft place it into the freezer for a few minutes for the butter to harden a bit before proceeding to rolling
- Roll the dough out in between two Perforated "air" baking mat into 2 mm thick, then place the rolled out sheet into the freezer with Perforated "air" baking mat on it for a minimum of one hour. If at any point, during rolling the dough, it gets too sticky, place it into the freezer for a minute or two then continue rolling until reaches 2mm of thickness.
- Continue with the choux pastry by sifting flour then measure and set aside
- Place butter, water, milk, salt, and sugar into a saucepan over medium heat
- As soon as the mixture starts to boil remove from heat, add the flour in one go, and whisk vigorously with a Rubber spatula until it forms one smooth ball and flour bits are not visible
- Place the saucepan back on the stove and cook the dough for about 3 min over medium heat mixing constantly. It is ready when a sort of skin forms on the bottom of the saucepan
- Transfer the dough into a bowl and let it cool slightly before mixing the egg in. Only add a small amount of egg at a time, consistently whisking after each addition. You should reach a consistency which is not too runny, not too firm but just fine to pipe. Pls see tips above
- Pipe 20 equal-sized buns on the baking mat leaving enough space in between them, as they will puff, then place the tray into the freezer for 10 min at least
- Pre-heat oven to 200 C / 392 F
- Take the craquelin sheet out from the freezer and with the help of a cookie cutter cut out 20 circles, slightly larger in diameter than the choux buns you just piped
- Take the choux buns out of the freezer and place one craquelin disk on each of them. The craquelin disk should be frozen and very firm at this point, which makes the process of cutting as well as placing them on top of the choux bun easy
- Pop the tray with the choux buns back to the freezer for 15 min
- Lower oven temperature to 170 C / 338 F and bake the choux for 40 min. Do not open the oven door in the first 30 min. If you are baking it the first time, it is a good idea to take one choux bun out of the oven at 40 min and check its consistency. If it is golden in colour, nicely puffed up, does not deflate on room temperature and the middle of the ball is not raw (it is ok if it's a bit wet, it will dry while cooling down) then it is considered to be done
- Cool either on the perforated air mat or if baked on parchment papaer, then cool them on cooling rack
- Measure your ingredients with a Digital scale for accuracy
- Use high protein content bread flour for the best results, I am using 12% protein content flour
- Do not skip the salt, it has a special function while baking choux pastry
- Use lightly whisked room temperature eggs while preparing the dough
- For the craquelin, use cane sugar
- Make sure you read my Expert tips section above to maximize your success. A short recipe alone is not able to cover all the necessary details, and science behind baking.
- While heating the milk, water, butter, salt, sugar mixture make sure that sugar and salt fully dissolves
- Do not skip sifting flour as you don´t want to deal with flour lumps while making this recipe
- Please note that you might need slightly more or less egg - and that is normal - depending on the flour you use and how much you dried the mixture while cooking it. Pay very close attention to the consistency while mixing the egg in and apply the V shape test.
- Do not try to save time by skipping the freezing part, it is an extremely important technical step of the recipe
- If you have never used a piping bag and piping nozzle before, it is worth practicing before
- I strongly advise using a Digital oven thermometer to be able to measure your exact oven temperature
- While baking, do not use a fan in your oven, it can encourage cracks on your choux