I still remember my first chouquette.
I’m not big on breakfast. While it’s most people’s favorite meal, it’s something I usually resolve to eat around this time every year. Mostly, I fail. But one fine morning, I was in Paris and on my way to cooking school. Cooking school is not for the faint of heart or the empty of stomach. You need calories to burn. So as I passed by the bakery around the corner from Le Cordon Bleu, I gazed into the window for some inspiration.
In a little cloth-lined basket, I saw a stack of something I’d never noticed before. Puffs of crisp dough, covered in a crust of pearl sugar. I asked what they were. That baker was never friendly and replied with a terse, “chouquettes”. I realized I was on my own, so I ordered a handful. With my first bite it hit me: profiterole shells. They are profiterole shells, without all the sweetness of cream and chocolate. Just the simple, air-filled, balloon of a shell, crisp on the outside, airy pocket inside, and covered in sugar. A little bit eggy, just a little bit rich. But light enough for a girl who hates breakfast.
They’re so easy to make at home, and so charming to serve in a little basket at brunch. I add a slight American twist by serving them, and sometimes even injecting them, with an assortment of jams.
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- ½ cup water
- ½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- A pinch of fine sea salt
- ½ cup flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons pearl sugar, or more to taste
- Assorted jams and preserves
Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a medium saucepot, bring the water, butter, sugar, and salt to a boil in a covered pot over medium heat. Take the pot off the heat, and dump in the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until completely incorporated. Return the pot to medium-low heat and stir for 60 seconds, until the dough comes away from the sides of the pot and forms a ball.
Turn the dough out into a bowl, and add 1 egg at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon until the egg is completely incorporated. The dough will be thick and sticky. Use a tablespoon measure to place balls of dough on a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet, spacing out the chouquettes. Dip your finger in a bowl of water, and pat down any spikes in the dough that might burn. Sprinkle with pearl sugar.
Bake 10 minutes at 400°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F for 30 additional minutes. Take the chouquettes out of the oven, pierce the bottom of each pastry with a skewer, and cool on a wire rack. The hole in the bottom allows the steam to escape without making the chouquette soggy. Serve in a cloth-lined basket.
If you can't find pearl sugar, do what I did here: put 12 sugar cubes in a freezer baggie and use a rolling pin to lightly smash them up. Solution!
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