Saturday, September 26, 2009

My First Chouquettes

I’ve been wanting to make chouquettes forever. The only thing holding me back has been lack of access to pearl sugar. My local IKEA does not have pearl sugar – I know, because I made a special trip just to find it – and it seems really stupid, conceptually untenable, to buy a $6 item online for which you have to pay another $6 in shipping. The alternative to pearl sugar is mini chocolate chips, but for whatever perverse reason, I don’t like them. I like regular-sized chocolate chips just fine, but mini-chips are not my cup of tea. I’m allowed to be inconsistent like that.

To make a very long story short, amazon was selling 12-packs of pearl sugar for half off. I bought the last batch, or I’d give you the link. I have no idea if I will ever succeed in using up a dozen bags of pearl sugar, but there was also free super-saver shipping ... and I ask, who among us is is not a sucker for super-saver shipping?

The pearl sugar that I ended up with is of the Belgian variety. I could be wrong, but it seems to be somewhat larger-grained than the more-common Scandinavian pearl sugar. This did not dissuade me from my chouquette ambitions, but I thought it might be even more difficult to get the sugar to adhere to the little balls of dough. Fortunately, this was not problematic.

I went with the David Lebovitz chouquette recipe. The only alteration I made was adding teaspoon or so of amaretto for extra flavor. I don’t know if it made any difference, but it imparted a slight almond tinge to the raw dough.

Yes, I sampled the very raw, very eggy dough. I’m trying to build up a resistance to salmonella.

I make a version of pate choux on a semi-regular basis for a Parisian Gnocchi, so I wasn’t a total newbie to the process. Basically, you just have to have really strong arms and patience.

1 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup flour
4 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon amaretto (optional)
1 cup pearl sugar
1 egg yolk diluted with water or milk for egg wash (optional)

Preheat oven to 400. Bring water, salt, sugar, amaretto, and butter to boil. Stir flour rapidly into water and mix until the flour pulls away from the sides of the pan. I leave the burner on until the dough pulls away, but some recipes don’t include that step. It should look like this:Let the dough cool slightly, about five minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, stirring after each addition until incorporated. The dough will look really ropey at first, but vigorous stirring will bring everything together. The dough will then look like this:At this point, one is confronted with a dilemma. Some recipes say to shape the dough with two spoons or a small ice cream scoop; other say to use a pastry bag. I used a Ziploc bag with a ½” cut in one corner, which is what I always do in place of using pastry bags.

I had mixed an egg yolk with a little water in a small cup for the egg wash. I had also dumped a cup or so of the pearl sugar onto a plate. To assemble, I squeezed walnut-sized lumps of dough directly into the cup with the egg wash, then I scooped them out and rolled them around in the pearl sugar. After that, I plopped the sugar-studded balls of dough onto an exopat-lined baking sheet and baked at 375 (because my oven runs verrrry hot) for about 25 minutes. This is what they looked like before they went into the oven:I turned off the oven and let them stand for a couple of minutes after they were done baking to assure they had dried out.

I think I diluted my egg wash a little too much, as the dough softened a bit, and the pearl sugar adhered almost too well. I was afraid the chouquettes wouldn’t be able to rise, simply collapsing under the weight of those huge crystals of Belgian pearl sugar. Fortunately, they rose just fine:Although my exopat looks now somewhat worse for the wear:These are just heaven. I want to say they’re the cotton candy of the pastry world, but that’s not right. Cotton candy is vile, and these are wonderful. The comparison is apt to the extent that chouquettes look quite solid but dissolve quickly in your mouth. The contrast of crunchy and airy and sweet sugar crystals with (relatively) savory dough is an indescribable pleasure.

I intend to make these again, but next time, I might skip the egg wash. The dough was plenty soft for the sugar to adhere without it, although that might result from weakness in my pastry-making technique.

Printable recipe here.

1 comment:

  1. I did these just this morning but did not use the eggwash or the pearl sugar. I just used normal sugar. After they cooled i poked a hole into them and put in whipping cream to make cream puffs! Next time i would love to try the pearl sugar!