I was shopping at Sur la Table the other day when I overheard a saleswoman trying to help a young French woman find a specific type of sugar for a recipe she wanted to make. There was a little bit of a communication problem taking place and as I listened in (I happened to be standing next to them and also looking at baking products, not simply trying to eavesdrop!) I realized what the girl was after: pearl sugar. It turned out that she wanted to make a batch of chouxquettes and needed the coarse sugar to lend them a crunchy exterior. I politely suggested the pearl sugar, and the saleswoman was able to find her a box and send her on her way – and I was left with a desire to head home and make a batch of chouquettes myself!
Chouquettes are cream puffs that have been rolled in pearl sugar before baking to give them a crisp, crunchy exterior. They’re not filled with cream of any kind, unlike regular cream puffs; they simply start out with the same choux pastry that cream puffs do. I didn’t see them when I was in Paris last year, but I first heard about them a few years ago when David Lebovitz mentioned making a batch of the popular French snack.
Choux pastry is not difficult to make and you can whip these treats up in just a few minutes at home, although you will have to wait a bit as they bake to indulge yourself in them. They’re light and eggy, with a lovely sweet crunch to them. They are absolutely at their best when they are fresh out of the oven. Use pearl sugar for the best sugary crunch and to get the same speckled look that these have. If you don’t have any and can’t find it, use another coarse sugar, or even some crushed sugar cubes, and generously sprinkle some on before baking.
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
3 1/2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/2 cup pearl sugar (or other very coarse sugar)
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Combine milk, water, butter, sugar and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until dough comes together in a ball. Continue to cook, stirring continuously, for one additional minute.
Transfer dough to mixer or clean bowl and let mix at a low speed for 2-3 minutes until slightly cooled. Beat eggs in eggs one at a time, waiting until each egg is fully incorporated to add the next one. Increase mixer speed to medium-high for 1 minute to ensure that batter is very smooth.
Using a spoon, form the dough into 1-inch balls. Roll each in the pearl sugar, then place onto prepared baking sheet.
Bake for about 18-22 minutes, or until golden brown.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Makes about 20 chouquettes.