OK, maybe not “cracklins”, those are the marvelous crispy, porky bits you get when you do this. Though I suppose my choux puffs would be terrific with some of those, no? Choux Kentucky style! Actually, what I’m talking about is choux crowned with disks of a cookie-like dough, a hyper-sweet topping known as craquelin in France.
Though I can’t say for certain, I believe this is a case of West borrowing from East, since the technique is identical to the one that creates the Japanese go-to sweet bread, melon pan. It’s well known that Japanese pastry chefs have been besting the French at their own game in recent decades. The Japanese cream puff mega-corp Beard Papa has been making a mint off crunchy-crusted choux since 1999. Is this a gift Japan gave back to France as a thank you for all that classic technique? It very well could be.
But be that as it may, this technique is fast becoming the new standard for sweet choux preparations. Not only does it add flavor and texture to typical puffs, it helps keep the shape of those puffs round and consistent. What’s not to love? Make yours by combining three ounces (6 tablespoons) of soft butter with three ounces (1/2 cup) of light brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle. You can also do this in a bowl with a spoon, but I’m addicted to machines.
Cream the butter and sugar together, then add 3.75 ounces (3/4 cup) of all purpose flour…
…and stir that together. Thanks to David Lebovitz for the proportions!
Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper…
…and roll it out very thin, about 1/8″ inch, nearly filling up the whole parchment sandwich. Put that in the fridge until it’s very firm, about an hour. You can keep it there for up to several days.
Meanwhile prepare a batch of choux batter and pipe your puffs whatever size you like.
Dab any little points down with a moistened finger!
Then, choosing among the cutters in your round cutter set, select the one that’s about the size of your batter blobs. Cut the cold batter to shape…
…then apply the disks to your choux and bake immediately while the dough is still cold (the crust is more even when the batter doesn’t have a chance to warm and spread).
Bake according to standard directions, 10 minutes at 475 Fahrenheit, another 20 at 375, then depending on the size up to an hour more at 250 to dry them thoroughly. And there you have it! Fill with whipped cream or pastry cream, drizzle with chocolate of you like…you know, all the usual cream puff stuff. These are best eaten the day they’re made.