If the sudden abundance of posts is any indication, I have been cooking a ton, but have lacked the time to actually post about it. I think my excuse is decent- my senior thesis exhibition was a couple of weeks ago, for which all of my time and energy had been fed to for the last few months. The weekend was a whirlwind of excitement, exhaustion, big meals with my family and a confusing combination of relief and aimlessness. My only disappointment, insane as it may be, is that I didn’t have time to bake anything for my exhibition opening.
So come the Monday after my show, the senior thesis group/class met to critique the show, and obviously I wasn’t coming in empty-handed. I made chouquettes, or sugar puffs, one of my favorite pastries ever. I discovered them when I was living in a Paris for one of those summer high school study abroad programs.
It was an amazing experience- my first time living both in a foreign city and spending more than a few days away from home (camp was really never my thing), adapting to a different culture and language barrier, and so on. But being introduced to chouquettes by my photo teacher is one of the brightest memories- reaching into a big paper bag and dubiously biting into something covered with sugar that looked like tiny rocks, only to have the whole thing melt away into a swirl of sugar and butter. I ate them at least three times a week that summer, but could never find them once I returned home stateside.
Two years ago, I finally decided to just google them and see what turned up (I’m not the best at the internet). The search produced pages upon pages about them, and I felt like a major dolt. One quick purchase of some pearl sugar later, I was in business. I made them at once, and they were so good and easy to make that I forgave myself. Crisis averted.
My only note is that I’ve read about some people having issues with runny batter, which makes it harder to handle. I never ran into that problem until this time around, when I thoughtlessly heated the water and butter under medium heat, only to have a completely liquid batter. I probably should have just made do with it, but I had made them so many times before that I was positive I could do it better. So I made sure to boil the water on high heat, until gently bubbling, and my batter came out perfectly, thick enough to handle with just two spoons.
From David Lebovitz‘s The Sweet Life in Paris
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup flour
4 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon milk
Pearl sugar, sanding sugar, or mini chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a cookie sheet with a reusable nonstick baking mat or parchment paper. [You really can’t skip this, or your pan will end up with a ton of melted sugar glued to it.]
- Heat the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a meduim saucepan, stirring, until the butter is melted.
- Remove the pot from the heat heat and dump all the flour in at once. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a smooth ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
- Let the dough cool for five minutes, then briskly beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the dough is smooth and shiny.
- Pipe or scoop the dough (I like to use an icing bag without a tip) into tablespoon-sized mounds spaced evenly on the baking sheet.
- To make the glaze, whisk the egg yolk with the milk.
- Brush the top of each mound with some of the egg glaze then the topping of your choice over the top and sides of each mound. This is not a time to be sparse, as they will puff up a lot.
- Bake the chouquettes for 18-20 minutes, or until puffed and golden brown on top. They might need as much as 10 minutes extra depending on the oven, so start checking at 14 minutes or so.
- Cool on a rack for a few minutes, then serve immediately, because one, they are amazing straight out of the oven, and two, they don’t keep great overnight.