Chouquettes are little puffs of choux pastry, sprinkled with pearl sugar.
They can be bought by the weight in French bakeries, in a thin bulging paper bag. When you’re a kid, the best part is eating the sugar crystals that have collected at the bottom of the bag when the last of the chouquettes has been devoured. The proper way to do this is lick your index finger and gently pick up the crystals (be warned, you may have to fight your sister for them), until the sugar is crushed too finely and you give up, then just pour the remnants directly into your mouth, shaking the paper bag to get it all.
Chouquettes are also one of my boyfriend’s favorites, and he can tell you which bakeries around his office or in our neighborhood have reached the best standards in quality chouquettes.
When you’re a kid, the best part is eating the sugar crystals that have collected at the bottom of the bag when the last of the chouquettes has been devoured.
Having recently, and to my great delight, found a bag of the special pearl sugar that chouquettes require, Saturday afternoon found me happily setting forth on the project of making my own sugar puffs, sort of following the recipe given by this great cookbook Maxence (who knows me oh-so-well) gave me for my birthday last year, called “Les Gâteaux de Mamy” (Grandma’s cakes). I say “sort of” because I did compare this recipe with others I found on the web, and changed a few things around based on their recommendations, like I usually do.
The first batch was submitted to the test of the in-house expert, who declared them yummy. He did say they were a little moister and eggier tasting than bakery-bought chouquettes, and I decided that this was because they were a little undercooked, as our oven seems to run a little colder than it says (note to self, buy an oven thermometer, find out if this is true and quit complaining). Some websites recommended to leave them to cool down a little in the turned off oven, but I am Jack’s lack of patience, and I couldn’t resist taking them out right away, which did cause them to deflate a little (no incidence on taste, of course, just looks).
So the second batch was baked at a higher temp and for longer, leaving them inside for a little while this time. (The instructions below reflect this method.) This batch turned out to be just what our tastebuds hoped for : slightly crusty yet tender little pillows that melt in your mouth, contrasting with the delicously crunchy sugar crystals.
UPDATE 1. Below is a revised recipe, as it appears in Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, my book on Paris restaurants and food shops.
UPDATE 2. I have slightly improved upon the recipe with a couple of tricks: I now sprinkle the baking sheet with pearl sugar so the chouquettes are more evenly studded, and I brush the raw chouquettes with a sugar syrup to form a slight caramelized crust on top, and help the pearl sugar adhere.