This might possibly be one of the best weeks of the year - it’s National Baking week! To be fair, I do bake pretty much all the time, all year round but this is a great time for those who may not necessarily bake at all and want to challenge themselves with something new.
To get you in the baking spirit, I’m bringing you a recipe for my hazelnut cream choux puffs. Light as air and full to the brim with a sweet hazelnut praline cream, these are just delightful.
Choux pastry used to be something that I avoided for ages. It always came across as a bit intimidating and super technical with numerous blogs and articles emphasising just how tricky they were to get perfectly right. After a couple of attempts, I realised there was absolutely nothing to be scared about so don’t be put off! This is a recipe where you really do learn best by doing in order to understand what the right texture is. The consistency of the dough before it’s baked is quite important here and is determined by how many eggs we use. This can vary slightly each time but we’re looking for a glossy pipeable mixture that falls and hangs from the spoon when lifted.
One of my biggest tips for the best choux (and for baking in general) is to always use great quality ingredients where you can to give the best flavour. I’ve used Kerrygold Salted butter here which is made from milk produced by Irish grass fed cows, giving me a beautifully rich, full flavoured choux pastry.
To get that crunchy exterior that you can see in the photos, I’ve added a ‘craquelin’ on top before baking. It’s a mixture made from butter, flour and sugar and is rolled out and cut into discs that sit on top of the choux. As the puffs bake, the craquelin encases the choux and forms a sweet crackly crust on top.
R E C I P E
75g Kerrygold Salted Butter, softened
100g Light Brown Sugar
100g Plain Flour
50g Kerrygold Salted Butter
1/2 tbsp Caster Sugar
75g Plain Flour
2 tbsp Icing Sugar
Praline Paste (if you can’t get hold of this, you could use Nutella instead!)
M E T H O D
To make the craquelin, beat the butter and sugar together for a few minutes until pale and creamy. Add in the flour and stir until you have a thick, smooth dough. Roll the dough out between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper to a thickness of about 2- 3 mm. Slide the sheet onto a baking tray and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4/ 170C Fan. To make the choux pastry, heat the water, milk, butter and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add in all the flour at once. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
Place the saucepan back on a medium heat and continue to stir for 2-3 minutes until the dough comes away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using an electric whisk). In a separate jug, lightly beat the eggs together.
With the mixer on medium speed, beat the dough briefly to cool it down a bit. Pour in part of the beaten eggs a little at a time - letting it fully incorporate before adding more. The mixture will look lumpy at first but will come together. Continue to add some of the eggs until you have a consistency that is slightly thicker than dropping consistency - it should hold a ‘v’ shape when you lift a wooden spoon from the bowl.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag and snip off the end to give a hole about 3/4 of an inch wide. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper and pipe blobs of choux pastry, leaving about an inch space between them.
Take the chilled craquelin dough out of the freezer and use a round cutter to cut out discs that are the same width as your piped choux. Place a craquelin discs on top of each choux and bake for 28-32 minutes until the choux buns are a deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven and pierce the bottom of each choux wih a skewer or toothpick to let the steam escape. Place them back in the oven for 5 minutes to dry them out a little before letting them cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the filling, whip the cream and icing sugar to soft peaks. Stir in the praline paste or Nutella until fully combined and whip briefly until the cream holds stiff peaks. Be careful not to overwhip! Fill the cream in a piping bag fitted with a french open star tip.
Use a sharp serrated knife to slice the choux buns in half. Add half a teaspoon of praline paste or nutella into the bottom choux bun and pipe on swirls of cream. Cover with the top half of the choux bun before serving.