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!