Introducing you to these authentic French Chouquettes, otherwise known as pastry sugar puffs. These small choux puffs baked with a generous sprinkling of pearl sugar on top make the perfect light and sweet afternoon snack.
The other week I introduced you to Choux Pastry and how to make it easily. Using this same pastry, Chouquettes are one of the easiest choux treats you can make. It's the same process, except you sprinkle these with pearl sugar before baking. The result is a choux puff with a sweet, crisp exterior and hollow, airy, soft interior.
Chouquettes are an absolute delight to eat. My French Mother never ventured into making choux pastry at home. But I remember buying these as a child over the counter in many French bakeries on our trips to my grandparents in Agen. As a result, I now make them regularly at home, and my kids adore them wholeheartedly.
What are Chouquettes?
As you've guessed, Chouquettes originated in France and are a favourite of Parisiens in particular. Pronounced 'shoo-ket', they are made with choux pastry which forms the base of many a French dessert, such as éclairs, profiteroles and the wedding favourite, croquembouche. Affectionately known as French pastry puffy bread in the US, chouquettes are a globally popular French patisserie recipe.
Chouquettes or French Sugar Puffs are spooned or piped into mounds and sprinkled with pearl sugar. The sugar holds its shape whilst baking so that the pastry balls, once baked and cooled, are left with crunchy sugar around the outside. Baked smaller than profiteroles, they are easy to eat in one bite.
In pâtisseries (French bakeries), chouquettes are often sold over the counter in paper bags filled with chouquettes balls. The French enjoy them at all times, particularly as an afternoon snack called 'le goûter' given to school children. Whether you make or eat them, they are devoured easily and loved by all!
Why you'll love this Chouquettes recipe
- Uses basic ingredients. The ingredients to make choux pastry are basic pantry and fridge ingredients that you'll have on hand. The pearl sugar is the only ingredient you'll have to source, but it's easily found online.
- The process is simple. Making choux buns is not a complicated process. We can break it up into two parts. Making the choux pastry itself, then piping and baking.
- Crowd pleaser. As these are piped and baked into bite-sized puffs, you can get around 40+ sugar puffs from one batch. They may sound a lot- but you can eat quite a few in one sitting (trust me!). You may find you need to whip out another batch!
- Kids love to help make these! Pearl sugar is like a magnet for kids. They just love it! Get them to help pipe the dough and sprinkle the mounds with the pearl sugar for some afternoon fun. They'll adore eating the end result too!
French Sugar Puff Ingredients
The Choquette dough is made from a very simple list of ingredients. It's important to read through my notes. And I urge you to weigh the ingredients on a digital scale rather than by US cups. The accuracy of weight, especially regarding the flour, milk and water, is imperative to your success with choux, especially if you are a beginner.
- Milk and Water - In equal measures, a combination of the two produces a crisp puff on the outside yet still has a little softness in the dough coating the inside of the choux bun. To me, this is perfect. If you want crispier puffs, then use only water. Or, for a softer, more custard-like interior, use only milk.
- Sugar and salt - You can opt for granulated or caster sugar. The sugar adds a gentle sweetness, and the salt seasons the dough, flavouring and stopping the dough from tasting bland.
- Flour - Plain flour (all-purpose) flour is best. Make sure to sift it before, as this helps produce a lump-free choux dough.
- Butter - I prefer unsalted butter as you can control the amount of salt added. If you use salted butter, omit the extra salt in the recipe. You can also use brown butter too for an additional nuttier flavour.
- Eggs - Use large eggs. I recommend 4 in the recipe but have an extra egg available. You may not need it or use it only a little, but you should always have it on hand.
- Pearl Sugar -These large sugar crystals give an incredible crunch to the outside of the choux bun. You only need a 100g (⅓ cup) for this recipe, but I always have a jar of pearl sugar in my pantry. One packet lasts forever, and it's so useful to have available.
All about Pearl Sugar
Let's go into exactly what pearl sugar is, the different types, what we use in our chouquettes recipe and where to buy it.
What is pearl sugar? Pearl sugar, nib sugar or hail sugar, as it's sometimes referred to, is a speciality sugar made by compressing sugar crystals to form small, hard, rounded clumps of sugar.
Why it's great: their benefit in baking is that they won't dissolve or melt when baked at high temperatures. This makes them perfect for adding sweetness and crunch to all sorts of baked goods like danish pastries, cakes, cookies and waffles.
The different types of pearl sugar: Pearl sugar is extremely popular in European baking and can be found in two sizes:
- Swedish Pearl Sugar: smaller compressed sugar pieces popular in Scandinavia. They are perfect for decorating cakes, cookies and pastries.
- Belgian Pearl Sugar: large compressed sugar pieces that are a favourite in Belgium mixed into waffles.
What sugar is best for chouquettes? For our chouquettes, we use Swedish Pearl Sugar. The smaller sugar crystals work better when sprinkled over the choux buns. As they are smaller than their Belgian counterpart, you'll get more over the surface area of the choux bun. This then gives a crunchier finish all over.
Where to buy pearl sugar? Unfortunately, both Swedish and Belgian, pearl sugar isn't readily available in regular supermarkets. However, I have found it in speciality food stores, and if you live near an Ikea, you'll often find it in the food section.
How to make Chouquettes
*Be sure to see the recipe card below for the full ingredients list & instructions!*
How to make choux pastry
The process of making choux pastry isn't complex or hard. It's a simple dough to make but has a couple of nuances you'll need to keep in mind. For this reason, I've provided step-by-step notes and process images for you to follow. It's an easy, classic French dessert, but the process of making it is one that you have to pay attention to.
Make sure to check out my How To Make Choux Pastry guide for plenty more tips and tricks and also help with troubleshooting.
The first step is to make the panade.
1. Melt mixture, then boil. This is done by heating the milk and water on low heat to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar and salt (Image 1). Once fully melted, the heat is turned up until the mixture is at a rolling boil (Image 2).
2. Add flour and form a dough. From there, off the heat, add the flour to the saucepan in one go and mix it vigorously (Image 3).
Placed back onto the stove top, the dough is 'cooked' to dry it out by causing the water to evaporate. This is done by 'beating it' in the pan for a couple of minutes until the dough forms a ball and a thin starchy film forms on the bottom of the pan (Image 4).
3. Beat to release the steam. The panade needs to be cooled down so that when the eggs are added in, they don't instantly scramble. The fastest way to do this is to add the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat it for the steam to release (Image 5). It's a quick process that only takes one minute.
Whilst the dough is cooling, whisk the four eggs in a jug (Image 6). This allows you to control how much egg is poured into the panade in the next step. The dough may not need it all.
4. Beat the eggs into the panade. With the mixer running on low speed, pour in ¾ of the eggs slowly, in 3 separate additions, mixing for 30 seconds with each addition. Add the eggs in too quickly, and you'll have runny eggs and bits of panade floating around! Not the outcome we need! A smooth and shiny dough is what we want (Image 8).
TIP: The perfect consistency.
This is one of those doughs where you must rely on visual cues to know when it's ready. There are a couple of telltale signs. It needs to be thick enough to hold its shape when piped.
- When perfect, the dough is smooth and thick in texture and shiny in appearance (Image 9).
- When the beaters are lifted, the dough should reluctantly fall off, creating a V shape (Image 10).
How to pipe and bake choux pastry
I prefer to pipe the choux pastry for baking. I find it mess-free and quicker, especially when kids are helping. That being said, it is possible to spoon the dough onto the lined baking trays into small mounds.
1. Fill the piping bag.
Fit a 1.3cm (½ inch) plain nozzle or Wilton 1A piping tip into the bag, then fold the tip up and pop the piping bag into a glass (Image 11). The top of the bag will overhang, which is not a problem.
Scoop the choux batter into the bag until full.
2. Refrigerate the dough and preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F). Once the piping bag is full, twist the wide opening to seal the bag and refrigerate the dough whilst the oven comes to temperate. When the oven is at temperature, move on to the next step of piping and baking.
3. Pipe the choux dough onto a parchment paper-lined baking tray. Ensure you hold the piping bag vertically upright - otherwise, you’ll have wonky, odd-shaped buns! (Image 12). Pipe 1-inches wide mounds about 2 inches apart.
Pipe a small amount of choux paste under each corner of parchment paper (the dough acts as glue and keeps the paper in place as you pipe).
I trace circles with a pencil around a 1-inch cookie cutter (or any similar round object onto a piece of parchment paper. I slide it under the parchment paper on the tray to use it as a guide. It helps get even-sized choux buns.
4. Prep choux on the tray.
- Brush the parchment paper with water around the buns. This produces more steam in the oven providing extra lift for the buns to puff up (Image 13).
- With a wet finger, smooth down the points of the choux buns. This will prevent them from burning in the oven (Images 14).
- Add the milk to the remaining whisked egg and mix. Brush egg wash onto the buns. This gives a glossy sheen to the finished pastry but also helps deepen the golden colour and allows the pearl sugar to stick to the choux pastry (Image 15).
- Sprinkle the pearl sugar over each of the mounds. Sprinkle it generously as when the dough puffs up, it will fall off (Image 16).
5. Bake: When you put the buns in the oven, reduce the temp to 180C (350F) and bake for 25 minutes until the chouquettes are golden brown and crisp. Do NOT open the oven for the first 25 minutes whilst the choux are baking. Poke a hole in the base of the chouquettes and pop them back in the oven for 5 minutes. They can cool fully on the tray.
TIP: Poking a hole in the base allows any caught-up steam in the hollow to release and for the choux to dry out inside. This helps maintain a crisp shell.
Recipe pro tips
- Add the eggs in bit by bit. You'll remain in control of getting the right consistency. Pipeable but not runny.
- Sprinkle the chouquettes generously with pearl sugar. Sprinkle each choux mound with lots of pearl sugar - pile it on high!. It looks like quite a bit before baking, but the surface area increases as the dough expands.
- Line the baking trays with parchment paper. Some pearl sugar falls onto the tray and caramelises on the paper when baked. It's much easier to clean if baked on paper!
- Keep the piping tip and bag at 90 degrees. This helps create evenly round puffs that won't puff up lopsided when baked.
- Don't open the oven door before 25 minutes. The water in the dough and brushed water on the trays help create the steam needed to puff up the chouquettes. You'll let the important steam escape if you open the door and end up with deflated, soggy puffs.
- Watch the bake time. Depending on how large you piped the choux, you may need to increase the baking time. They should be lovely and golden when baked.
- Cool the chouquettes completely before eating. Let the choux cool right down on the baking tray. The choux will crisp up and harden on the outside. The crisp exterior and soft dough lining the inside of each puff are an incredible contrast.
How to serve Chouquettes
Enjoy the Choucettes once cooled and crisp. They are perfect on their own. The combination of sweet and crunchy on the outside and soft and custardy on the inside is absolute magic.
However, that are a few other ways to add flavour variations to your chouquettes.
- Spice: Add in ground cinnamon or ground ginger for a creative flavour boost.
- Brown butter: We all know the massive flavour benefits of brown butter. Those beautiful nutty notes that it emits. It would add another flavour profile to these little buns too.
- Vanilla: Scrap into the dough the vanilla beans of a vanilla pod. You'll have a gorgeous, well-rounded vanilla flour that will pair amazingly with the sugar pearl.
- Zest and citrus extract: Grate into the dough lemon or orange zest. You can also add a little orange or lemon extract for a real citrus boost.
- Filling: fill with Créme Chantilly to make a cream puff, as in the image above. Chocolate or vanilla pastry cream piped into the hollow through the base is an amazing addition too.
Frequently asked questions
All are made with the same French choux pastry. The cream puffs and profiteroles are both round puffs, whereas the éclair is piped into an oblong shape. Cream puffs are filled with cream only. Profiteroles and éclairs can be filled with whipped cream, pastry cream, or other French creams, and profiteroles filled with ice cream. They can all be topped with an icing glaze or drizzle of ganache.
Absolutely. My favourite would be Sweetened whipped cream, vanilla, chocolate pastry cream, or a chocolate cremeux. They do have to be eaten straight away, as the dough will start to soften with the moisture from the filling.
Yes! You can make the dough and refrigerate it for up to two hours before piping and baking. Make sure it's well sealed in a pastry bag. Or store it in an airtight container with the surface covered with plastic wrap so it doesn't form a skin.
How to store and freeze
To store: Store unfilled chouquettes in an airtight container for up to 2 days at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Re-crisp the shells in a hot oven for 5 minutes.
Filled chouquettes are best eaten within a couple of hours or stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Please note,, though, that the choux pastry will soften.
To freeze: Unfilled chouquettes can be frozen in a freezer-safe container for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and re-crisp in a hot oven for 5 minutes.
Equipment you’ll need
- Digital Scales: an absolute must for a precise and accurate way to measure out your ingredients.
- Heavy-based saucepan: Needed to make the panade (flour paste) in as the first part of the process.
- Wooden Spoon: To beat the flour into the butter mixture in the saucepan. Alternatively, use a rubber spatula.
- Stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment: You can use hand-held electric beaters too, or even do it by hand, but if your stand mixer is at the ready, then this is the quickest and easiest option.
- Piping bag: You can use a reusable or a disposable piping bag. My preference is a 16Inch piping bag (even though I did use a much smaller one for the photos as my piping bags are a bright blue and wouldn't have looked great in the images!!)
- Piping Tips: For choux buns, use a 1.3cm (½ inch) plain nozzle or Wilton 1A piping tip.
I can't wait for you to make this popular French Pastry Recipe. This French sweet bread is absolutely delectable. I hope that you love it as much as I do!
- 120 ml water
- 120 ml whole milk
- 120 g unsalted butter, cubed into small pieces
- 15 g granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon fine salt
- 130 g plain flour (all-purpose), sifted
- 220 g large eggs (4 eggs, but have 1 extra on hand), 4 to 5 eggs
- 1 teaspoon whole milk, for egg wash
- 100 g Pearl sugar
Make the panade
- Melt butter and heat water and milk. In a medium saucepan, add the water, milk, butter, sugar and salt, and heat on low until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to medium to high and bring to a rolling boil.
- Add flour. Remove the pan from the heat and add the flour immediately. With a wooden spoon, mix together vigorously until completely combined.Then return to medium-high heat and beat for 2 minutes until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. You’ll see a film form on the base of your saucepan, and you’ll know it’s ready. (Use a digital thermometer for accuracy- the panade should be between 75°C to 80°C (165°F and 175°F)
- Beat to release steam. Remove the pan from the heat and place it in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat for 1 minute on low speed to release some steam. Use a digital thermometer for accuracy- the panade should get to 60°C (140°F) or under before continuing on with the next step.In a small jug, whisk the four eggs together.
Add the eggs to make the choux dough
- Please read this step before continuing as the amount of egg added can vary.With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in ¾ of the whisked eggs in 3 to 4 separate additions, mixing for 30 seconds between each addition. Scrape the sides and base of the bowl halfway through. It may look curdled and slimy to start with but will come together as you beat the mixture. Once the eggs have been fully incorporated, beat the mixture for a further 2 minutes.Note on the perfect consistency. The choux pastry should be smooth and shiny and should hold its shape when a finger is passed through the mixture. Another sign that the batter is ready is when the beater or a rubber spatula is pulled up out of the batter and a thick V-shaped ribbon forms, of smooth dropping consistency. If your pastry has not achieved this consistency, add the remaining egg a teaspoon at a time and test the consistency again. If you need more egg, then whisk the 5th egg in a small bowl, and add a tiny bit at a time. Stop adding the egg as soon as you get the right consistency. I doubt that you'll need all this egg. Set aside any remaining egg to be used as egg wash.
Chill, pipe and bake
- Chill the dough. Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F). Fill a piping bag fitted with a round piping tip and close the open end of the piping bag and refrigerate for 30 minutes Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F).Pipe choux onto the baking tray. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper. Whilst holding the piping bag upright and keeping the tip of the piping tip touching the choux pastry, pipe 4cm (1.5-inch) wide mounds onto the prepared tray. Keep them 2.5cm (1-inch) apart.
- Prep choux buns on the tray. Using a pastry brush dipped in water, brush the parchment paper around the mounds. The water creates steam in the oven, which helps puff up the choux.Using the tip of your finger dipped in water, smooth the points of each mound. This stops the peaks from burning in the oven. Add milk to the remaining egg and whisk together. Brush this egg wash gently over the top of the choux pastry mounds. Sprinkle pearl sugar liberally over each mound.
- Bake. Place the tray in the oven and immediately reduce it to 180°C (350°F) and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. You mustn't open the oven door in these first 25 minutes of baking. Remove the buns from the oven and skewer a hole in the bottom of each choux bun to allow the steam to escape. Return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, and then allow chouquettes to cool completely on the baking tray.
All recipes are developed and tested in Metric grams. I strongly recommend that you bake using digital scales for a more accurate result. I have provided a conversion to US customary in the recipe but please note that I haven’t tested using this method.
More French recipes you may love
If you tried this French Chouquettes recipe or any other recipe on my website, please let me know how you go in the comments below. I love hearing from you. Also, please leave a star rating whilst you're there!
Don't forget to subscribe to the newsletter so that you don’t miss out on more delicious food, tips and news but also the chance to download your FREE DESSERT E-BOOK! Happy baking, friends!