Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of videos of cream puffs that have a crunchy caramel on top. I NEEDED TO IMMEDIATELY TRY THEM.
Looking at the videos, the sounds of the caramel cracking is what did it for me, I mainly wanted to try them just to hear that sound.
BUT THE TASTE….so much better than I expected. The softness of the cream puffs with the crunchiness of the caramel went so well together!
Breakdown of the cream puffs
These cream puffs are made up of 4 different parts….or elements….I don’t really know what to call it, but this is what those parts are:
The choux buns
These are made out of choux pastry!
The process of making choux pastry is pretty simple, but I always use to struggle with it. There are a few things that can go wrong.
I’ve tried to include as much detail as I can in this blog post, hopefully it helps!
This is the second part to these cream puffs, but we are going to make this first because it needs to set in the freezer for a bit.
If you’ve never had or made craquelin before, it’s just made out of butter, sugar and flour.
It’s usually added on top of choux pastry to give it a crunchy exterior, and it also adds a nice crackly effect, which I think looks pretty.
The chocolate whipped cream
You could fill these with whatever you want; a custard, a pastry cream, a regular whipped cream…just whatever you like.
I went with a chocolate whipped cream!
The caramel top
For this, all you are doing is heating some sugar and water together. Then you can dip the cream puffs into this.
This adds a nice caramel flavour to these, as well as a crunch.
However, if you wanted to, you could skip this. They still taste amazing without it.
Common issues when making cream puffs
Like I mentioned, I have always struggled making cream puffs, or just any choux pastry in general.
Here are some common issued I’ve had. I’m not sure if these are issues other people have had too, or maybe the problem is just me. But here they are anyway:
The choux buns deflating after baking
Sometimes when you take choux pastry out of the oven, you see it start deflating immediately, and then they just end up flat.
It’s a little heartbreaking witnessing it to be honest.
To prevent this from happening, the best thing to do is just leave them alone. Don’t open the oven door during the baking time at all. You want the steam and heat to stay in the oven.
Then once the baking time is done, I like to turn the oven off, open the door slightly, and leave them in there for about 20 minutes before taking them out.
A lot of recipes don’t do this 2nd part, but I’ve found that it helps a lot, so I do it every time!
The craquelin breaking when cutting it
Once you have made the dough for the craquelin, you are going to roll it out then leave it to set up in the freezer for a bit.
Then once you’re ready to use it, use a cookie cutter to cut it into circles.
Sometimes when you are cutting the circles, they can end up breaking.
This just happens when the craquelin has been frozen for too long. Just leave it on your counter for 5-10 minutes and then try again.
The craquelin not cracking
As the choux bakes, the craquelin will start to form cracks on top.
If this doesn’t happen and instead you just get a smooth, flat layer, chances are you just didn’t roll the craquelin out enough; it was too thick.
You want it to be around 2 mm thin!
The craquelin didn’t fully cover the choux buns
This is honestly just up to preference. Some videos and pictures I see, the craquelin is fully covering the choux buns. Whereas some, the craquelin is not.
I prefer it to fully cover the choux buns.
So when cutting the circles out of the craquelin, I make sure that the circles are slightly bigger than the mounds of choux pastry!
Tips for making the choux pastry
Here are a few things that I’ve learnt give you better results when making choux pastry:
Cook the dough
To make the choux pastry, first you’re going to heat butter, water and salt together, Then you add your flour to this, and mix until a dough forms.
Once a dough has formed, you want to heat this dough for about 5 minutes.
Cooking the dough helps the starches in the flour gelatinise.
Do I know what this means….no, not at all to be honest. All I know is that it helps the choux buns become puffy in the oven. So don’t skip this step!
Let the dough cool for 10 minutes
After you have cooked the dough, the next step is to add the eggs into it.
But at this point, the dough is hot. If we add the eggs to it straight away, they will just cook, we don’t want this.
So instead, add the dough into a bowl and let it cool down for a bit.
Add the eggs 1 at a time
I’ve found that adding all the eggs into the dough at once causes problems; they don’t mix in very well.
Adding them in one by one will just give you a much smoother dough.
Side note, if you have an electric mixer, I really recommend using it.
Mixing eggs into choux dough is not easy. It can be done by hand, I’ve done it by hand a few times. But my arm was in pain afterwards. So if you have an electric hand or stand mixer, use it!
The chocolate whipped cream
I filled these with a chocolate whipped cream.
To make this, I first made a ganache by heating some dark chocolate and cream together.
Then I whipped some double cream with icing sugar, then added the ganache into this.
You could also just use cocoa powder but I feel like using ganache gives you a much smoother whipped cream so I prefer doing it this way.
Side note, I used dark chocolate. Once you mix it in with the rest of the cream, it won’t taste like dark chocolate. So if you don’t like dark chocolate, I recommend still using it.
Milk chocolate will give you a much milder chocolate flavour, but if you really wanted to use it, you could. Just instead of using 100ml of cream in the ganache, use 50ml instead!
The caramel topping
The last step in making these is to add the crunchy caramel topping.
To make this, all you’re doing is heating some sugar and water together until it turns a golden colour.
Here are a few tips:
- Don’t stir it – this will just cause the sugar to crystallise. Instead just gently swirl your pan around now and then.
- Don’t walk away – it might seem like it is taking a while to change colour, that’s because it does take some time. But once it starts to change, it changes quickly, so don’t walk away.
- Be careful when dipping the cream puffs into this – this is very hot sugar, so you don’t want to touch it. I recommend using gloves to be safe.
That’s it for the caramel topping, it’s pretty simple to make. Just try not to burn yourself!
Here are some other I’ve posted recently, I think you might like them:
Chocolate and Caramel Cream Puffs
- For the craquelin:
100g unsalted butter, softened
120g brown sugar
120g plain flour
- For the choux buns:
100g unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
160g plain flour
- For the chocolate whipped cream:
100ml double cream
100g dark chocolate
500ml double cream
150g icing sugar
- For the caramel top:
200g granulated sugar
- Start by pre-heating your oven to 190c/375f. Also line 2 trays with baking paper.
- Making the craquelin:
- In a bowl, mix together the butter and sugar. Then add in the flour and mix. It might not look like it's going to come together at first, but just keep mixing and it will. I find it easier to just mix it with my hands once the flour has been added.
- Place this between 2 pieces of baking paper and roll it out until it is around 2mm thick.
- Leave this in your freezer.
- Making the choux buns:
- In a pot, add the water, butter and salt. Place this over medium heat and let the mixture come to a boil.
- Once it comes to a boil, take it off the heat and add in the flour. Mix until a dough forms.
- Place this onto high heat and heat the dough for 5 minutes, stirring every now and then.
- Now add this into a bowl and leave to cool down for 10 minutes.
- Once this has cooled slightly, add in an egg and mix until combined. Keep repeating this until all the eggs have been added.
- Place this into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe 6cm mounds of the dough onto your trays.
- Take your craquelin out of the freezer and use a cookie cutter to cut circles out of it. You want your circles to be just slightly bigger than than your choux.
- Place these on top of the choux then bake for 45 minutes. Once done, turn your oven off, open the door slightly and leave them to cool in there for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, take them out, poke a whole into the bottom of them and leave them to cool completely on a wire rack.
- Making the whipped cream:
- In a small bowl, or jug, add the 100ml of cream and the dark chocolate. Heat this in your microwave for 30 seconds, then take it out and give it a stir. Keep repeating this until the chocolate has melted and you get a smooth mixture.
- Leave this in the fridge to cool down a little.
- In a large bowl, add the 500ml of cream and icing sugar. Whip this until the mixture starts to thicken, then add the melted choc/cream into this. Whip all this until you get firm peaks. Once you get to this point stop whipping it, you don't want to over whip the cream. Leave in the fridge until you're ready to use.
- To assemble:
- Once your choux buns have cooled, you can fill them.
- Add your whipped cream into a piping bag fitted with a round tip.
- Poke a hole at the bottom of each choux puff, then fill them with the cream.
- Leave these in the fridge whiles you make the caramel topping.
- Caramel topping:
- Add the sugar and water into a pot and place this on medium heat.
- Keep heating this, whiles swirling the pan now and then, until this mixture turns a golden colour. Immediately take this off the heat.
- Carefully dip the tops of the cream puffs into this, then leave them aside for a few minutes so that the caramel can set up.
- Now you can enjoy!