This Crème Brûlée Choux au craquelin (cream puff) is filled with silky vanilla pastry cream (Crème Pâtissière) and topped with a crunchy caramelised sugar layer just like traditional Crème Brûlée! It´s delicate texture and delicious flavour will certainly impress everyone. My Crème Brûlée Choux au craquelin is crunchy, creamy, silky with a wonderful caramelised sugar flavour! Certainly one of the most delicious choux pastry I have ever made!
Choux au craquelin is a type of cream puff that is topped with a thin cookie disc called craquelin. In comparison to regular choux pastry such as profiterole or cream puff, the craquelin adds an extra layer of sweet crunchy texture. Choux au craquelin is effectively the pro version of cream puffs! Similarly to every other choux pastry, instead of a raising agent, it employs high moisture content to create steam during cooking to puff the pastry.
Making choux au craquelin is not difficult but you have to follow certain steps in order to succeed - my recipe will take you through on everything you need to know step by step! Let´s get started!
What does success look like when making choux au craquelin recipe?
The result we are looking for is a ball shape pastry that is risen evenly (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 your favourite fillings.
The choux au craquelin recipe only using a few basic ingredients like sugar, water, butter, milk and flour however it is important to read and follow the instructions carefully in order to avoid typical mistakes. What we are looking for is:
1. evenly baked buns with no major cracks on the surface
2. creamy but well baked inside the bun, not soggy
3. keeps its shape after baked, do not deflate
4. huge airpocket to fill
My Top 5 Baking Tips for home bakers
- Read the recipe carefully including my tips and recommendations on how to avoid and fix typical issues during baking. Making choux au craquelin is quite a technical one so you will most probably need my tips
- Avoid using substitutes and changing the recipe unless you are aware of how to fully reformulate the recipe in order to keep the balance in texture as well as flavour. Reducing sugar, replacing egg, using vegan milk or gluten-free flour etc. will all have an impact on your baking, particularly when it comes to something like choux pastry
- For consistent, happy baking experience always measure your ingredients with the help of a Digital scale. Cup measurement is provided as an indicative figure only and might be used for less complex and large batch recipes however it is not an appropriate method for more delicate, complex pastries like this choux au craquelin
- Did you know that most home ovens can significantly under or oven run? Also, oven temperature hugely drops when opening the oven door therefore it is recommended to always pre-heat the oven above the required baking temperature.
- Temperature is so important when it comes to baking and accurate oven temperature is key, can make or break any recipe. Make sure you invest into an inexpensive Digital oven thermometer to avoid under baked, burnt, sad looking desserts
Important notes regarding the INGREDIENTS of this Crème Brûlée Choux au craquelin recipe
For the choux bun (cream puff)
- Milk: Whole milk is the best, definitely avoid using milk substitutes for this recipe unless you are aware of how to reformulate the recipe
- Sugar: This choux dough is made using simple granulated sugar. While heating the mixture up make sure sugar full dissolves. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article in here
- Water: Simple tap water is fine. Milk-water ratio in this recipe is 50-50%. If you are more experienced, feel free to play around with different ratios
- Salt: An essential ingredient in most of the dessert recipes. Salt balances the flavour and enhances other ingredients, in choux pastry recipe it 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 butter in all my recipes. While in most of the recipes butter needs to be on 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 12-13% 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 instead. 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
As you can see making choux pastry is super simple in terms of the ingredients, nothing fancy. The secret is behind the technique so make sure you continue reading my tips.
For the craquelin disk
- Sugar: Many recipes using light brown sugar for craquelin however I recommend cane sugar for the signature velvet texture. Second best option is light brown sugar however it won´t look exactly the same. Please read my article in here if you are unfamiliar with what cane sugar is
- Flour: Simple AP 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
For the pastry cream filing (Crème Pâtissière)
- Milk: Use high fat content milk, the highest you can get! It makes all the difference in the world when it comes to deepness of the taste
- Sugar: Simple, white granulated sugar is perfectly fine. If you want to learn about the different types of sugar and how to use them in baking, please read my article in here. I prefer my pastry cream not overly sweet as you will see
- Egg: Some recipes call for whole egg however I strongly advise to use egg yolk only for the best texture and flavour. Perhaps try my pavlova recipe if you want to use up your egg whites or my macaron recipe also requires egg white. Other, maybe not so obvious note is that the colour of your egg yolk will dictate the colour of your pastry cream. I prefer bright yellow colour hence trying to purchase the best quality, free range-eggs when I am making pastry cream. Few times I made this recipe using eggs from my parent’s farm, OMG the colour was just out of this world! Needless to say use fresh egg eggs
- Flour: Flour is one of the thickening agent in this pastry cream recipe, use AP flour. No, it won’t taste like flour! 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
- Starch: Corn starch is the other thickening agent in the recipe, theoretically you could only use flour only OR starch only however I prefer 50%-50%.
- Vanilla: Vanilla is THE heart of making pastry cream! Avoid using artificial vanilla. There are several great brands for fine, pure vanilla, I use Nielsen massey which I love and really recommend. I use vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract for my pastry cream for the deepest, most delicious vanilla cream
- Butter: Use always unsalted. I am using 82% fat content butter in all my recipes. Room temperature is key here. If too cold, it won’t incorporate properly. If too hot/liquid, it will make the pastry cream runny and very difficult to emulsify with the rest of the ingredients
7 Baking tips regarding the TECHNIQUE of making this Crème Brûlée Choux au craquelin recipe
1. How to make pastry cream (Crème Pâtissière)
I have a detailed step-by-step Guide about how to make silky, creamy, delicious pastry cream, make sure you read it in here. I even have a Troubleshooting Guide in that recipe, I am sure you will find it super useful if making pastry cream the first time.
The process of making Crème Pâtissière is the following:
- Mix together sugar and egg yolk until slightly fluffy for about 1-2 minutes
- Mix in corn starch, flour, and vanilla with until thoroughly incorporated and have a smooth paste
- Bring milk to boil in a saucepan on medium heat then remove it as soon as it starts simmering
- Pour the warm milk over the egg yolk mixture slowly while whisking vigorously with a Hand whisk. This stage is effectively tempering the egg yolks
- Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and cook on medium heat for a few minutes until it thickens. Concretely it is approximately 1 min after the first boil
- Add in room temperature soft butter and mix with a Rubber spatula until completely incorporated
- Pastry cream needs to completely cool before using it for in dessert. Place the cream into a shallow bowl and cover the entire surface with plastic wrap to avoid skin forming on top. Store it in fridge
2. How to cook choux dough
- Making any choux pastry whether it is eclair, cream puff, or choux au craquelin starts with a cooking process. Choux dough is a cooked dough which means the butter milk water mixture first needs to be heated then you will add the flour and cook the dough for a few minutes (2-3minutes) over medium heat mixing constantly. Make sure you sift flour before adding to the mixture as you want do avoid lumps. The cooking process is ready when some moist evaporates from the dough and by then there should be a thin skin formed on the bottom up the saucepan.
- Mixing the egg in will need somewhat your judgement. Only add a small amount of egg at a time, consistently whisking after each addition (I am using the paddle attachment on my stand mixer). First, the mixture might separate but keep whisking 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 the how much you “dried” the mixture earlier, 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 point so if you accidentally added more egg and the dough is too runny, start again.
3. 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, neither too runny
- Move the dough into a piping bag fitted with round nozzle tip
- For an 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 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 case of this choux au craquelin recipe it is fine if you start piping immediately
- 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. The recipe makes 20 cream puffs
- 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 finger tip
4. How to make the craquelin disk
- The craquelin recipes consist only 3 ingredients (butter, sugar, flour), however it might take some practice to learn how to utilize the temperature for our benefit. If the butter flour sugar 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 minimum an hour. Leave the Silicone baking mat on it for now, it 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, temperature will be very important at later stage. The craquelin sheet needs to get properly frozen and firm to be able to handle. 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 soften, place the sheet back to the freezer for a few minutes then continue. Try to work as quick as possible as you also don´t want the craquelin disks to melt on top of the choux buns
- Please note, that 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
5. How to bake this Crème Brûlée 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 to start with high baking temperature then decrease 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 then decrease it later, please see 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 over or under run 10-15C (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, 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 to start 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 in my eclair recipe that can be applied for any choux pastry, please check it out in here.
6. How to fill cream puff
Making this Crème Brûlée Choux au craquelin is so easy once you have the pastry cream and choux buns done. Make sure you let the pastry cream set and the choux buns come to room temperature.
- Cut the top of each choux bun
- Fill each bun with pastry cream, I suggest to use a pastry bag. Make sure,. that you fill the buns in a way that there is a layer of cream on top of the buns (see picture below). It is important when it comes to caramelisation later, as without this cream layer what you would end up is potentially burning the choux buns
- Sprinkle sugar on top of the pastry cream
- Then grab your Blow torch and gently caramelise the sugar on top of the pastry cream. You might need to practise this part a bit and find the ideal power that is enough to caramelise but don´t burn the buns, play around with it a bit
Voila, your Crème Brûlée Choux au craquelin are ready, they will certainly impress all your family and friends! They must be filled straight before serving as the filling quickly soften the choux buns. Enjoy!
7. What equipment is needed to make this Crème Brûlée Choux au craquelin recipe
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 loving 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 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 to consider investing into it or alternatively line a baking tray with parchment can work too, it is just neater 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.
Blow torch for caramelising the sugar
Regarding the Blow torch, it is really not an expensive piece of baking equipment and you can use it to caramelize meringue on lemon meringue pie, to caramelize marshmallow and I even use it for cooking to caramelize cheese. It is really one of those fun baking equipment you might not need all the time but when the need comes, it is so handy!
Some more Choux recipe ideas
Eclair tutorial - My Ultimate eclair tutorial, a foolproof recipe that you can not miss out on! Everything you ever wanted to know about eclairs and even more! One of the most popular recipes on the blog, check it out in here
Choux au craquelin with pumpkin and caramelized white chocolate - This is the ultimate Fall edition Choux au Craquelin recipe! The perfect cream puff (choux pastry) topped with a crispy craquelin layer and filled with silky pumpkin ganache and caramelized white chocolate ganache. Recipe in here
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! Extra praline paste and roasted hazelnuts in the filling brings additional crunchiness making this Paris-Brest one of the most impressive desserts of all! Recipe in here
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 balancing the flavours. Recipe in here
Some more Crème brûlée recipe ideas
Crème brûlée - Making Crème brûlée dessert is shockingly easy, it comes together in literally 5 minutes using 3 simple ingredients: cream, egg yolk and sugar. This is a no fail, restaurant like professional Crème brûlée recipe that will impress everyone, try it! Recipe in here
Crème brûlée macaron - This macaron recipe delivers on all the key Crème brûlée attributes without compromise: lovely bite sized macaron shells are sandwiched together with creamy custard filling while a crunchy caramelized sugar is added on top as decoration. Recipe in here
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Crème brûlée choux craquelin
For the pastry cream
For the choux bun
For caramelizing the top
- cane sugar white or brown can work too
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.
- Start with making the pastry cream according to my detailed step-by-step Baking Guide in here
- Let pastry cream fully set and chill before using
- Continue with the craquelin by creaming butter and sugar together then add the flour. If the mixture is too soft place it into the freezer for few minutes for the butter to harden a bit.
- When the craquelin dough harden a bit, roll it out 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 minimum an hour. If at any point during rolling the dough 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 to 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 up the saucepan
- Transfer the dough into a bowl and let it cool down 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, approx. 1 cm 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 then cool them on cooling rack
- Cut the top off and fill the buns after both pastry cream and choux bun completely cooled
- Sprinkle the top with sugar, approx. ¼ tablespoon per bun then caramelize the top in a few seconds with Blow torch