I’m so sorry to have left y’all hanging for so long! In the midst of our kitchen renovations (our apartment is still a disaster zone, by the way, because my husband decided to embark on another renovation project in my absence-the whole apartment this time!), it was pretty difficult to prepare anything worth salivating over. And, immediately after finishing our kitchen, I took a much needed two week trip back to California to visit my friends and family after not seeing them for over 2 years!! I can’t even begin to tell y’all how thrilled I was to be back on US soil again where everything is familiar to me and to finally get to celebrate Thanksgiving again with everyone back home. Obviously, the French don’t celebrate this hedonistic food fest and my husband isn’t the biggest fan of turkey, so it’s been a good three years since I’ve had a real Thanksgiving meal! Though, after going home this time, I feel a bit inspired to start my own Thanksgiving tradition for when I can’t make it back to the US so I can have a little piece of home here in France.
I was more than excited to share with my family some goodies from France, such as foie gras with a sprinkle of baies roses (pink peppercorns), pâté, and chocolates. I was also quite eager to make some of the pastries that I have learned to make here in France for the aficionados of sweets in my family, but without French butter, they just don’t have that same Frenchy taste. So, I lugged back nearly 10 pounds of French butter, and surprisingly, I used up nearly all of it during the 2 weeks I was home. To their delight, I made everything from cream puff pastries to chouquettes to bûches de Noël (yule log cakes) to madeleines.
I had never seen chouquettes before in the US, so I wanted to introduce these tasty delights that I’ve come to adore to my family. They are essentially cream puff pastries without the cream filling and they are adorned with pearl sugar, which is a coarse sugar that does not melt when baked. The choux pastry is also slightly sweeter since it doesn’t have a filling. Here in France, I often see folks at the office eat these with their morning coffee or simply as a snack during the day. They are generally sold in little sacks by weight, usually about 100-200 grams, at the local pâtisseries. I’ve actually never bought them before though, because they’re super easy to make.
For these chouquettes, I modified my go-to choux pastry recipe from my Cordon Bleu book of chocolate recipes. Instead of using just water for the dough, I use a mix of 50% milk and 50% water. I also upped the sugar quantity and reduced the amount of salt. To finish, I top the dough with the pearl sugar after piping the choux pastry onto a baking sheet. I hope you enjoy these as much as my family did!
[inspired by Petit Larousse du chocolat]
makes about 2 dozen125 ml water
125 ml milk
150 g flour, sifted
100 g butter
3 eggs + 1 egg
50 g sugar
1 pinch of salt
1-2 handful of pearl sugar
Preheat oven to 180°C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat the water, milk, butter, salt, and sugar until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until the ball of dough is smooth and all of the flour is well incorporated. Return the saucepan to the heat and turn the dough with the wooden spoon for at least 1-2 minutes, until it doesn’t stick to the pan anymore to ensure that it dries a bit. Place the dough in a bowl to cool for a couple of minutes. To speed up the cooling, mix the dough with a mixer for a few seconds.
Thoroughly incorporate the 3 eggs, one at a time (this step is usually done with a wooden spoon, but my arms get tired pretty quickly so I use a hand mixer). Beat the fourth egg in a separate bowl and add half of it to the batter. Continue to mix until the batter is smooth and shiny. To verify that the batter is ready, scoop some batter with the wooden spoon and raise it up, allowing the batter fo fall. If the batter falls in the shape of a V, it is ready. Otherwise, add a little bit more egg and mix well.
Fill a pastry bag with the batter and pipe round balls of 4-5 cm in diameter onto the baking sheet. Brush the surface with the remaining egg and sprinkle with the pearl sugar. Bake 25-30 minutes until the surface is golden. The chouquettes are done if you tap on the surface and they sound hollow. Allow to cool on a rack.