Paris is for me a totem. An emblem of all that's good, and elegant, and desirable. I believe that someday I'll live there, I'll rent an apartment the size of a shoe box in a fashionable neighbourhood that's full of cafes and gorgeous people. I'll have a neighbourhood patisserie that is famous for its brown butter chouquettes (pronounced shoo-kett), bites of pate choux studded with nuggets of bright, white pearl sugar that people buy by the dozen. Till then, it will just have to be Paris in my Nigerian kitchen.
I first tried chouquettes in-situ, in Paris 4 years ago, buying them in a bag and loving them. The leftovers stayed at the bottom of my bag, and ended up squashed - to tell you how light and airy these choux buns are.
This recipe is inspired by Clotilde's of Chocolate & Zucchini plain sugar version, and since her's were baked in Paris, my dream.....there is no better beginning. I've used milk instead of water alone, and infused it with notes of orange tea and caramel from brown butter, and brown sugar.
I got my pearl sugar (French, sucre perlé) at G. Detou in Paris. Pearl sugar, sometimes called nib sugar is made of large, lentil-sized sugar bits which stay crunchy when baked. Clotilde suggests crushing sugar cubes as a substitute; or using Demerera or Turbinado, chopped caramelized nuts, or chocolate chips. —Kitchen Butterfly
- Makes a few dozen
½ cup whole milk
1/3 cup melted (brown) butter
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3 teaspoons loose tea, ground with 3 teaspoons white sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
Pearl sugar for sprinkling (see note)
1 Orange tea bag or 1/2 teaspoon Orange tea leaves
Optional, to serve - whipped cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate sauce
- To make the dough: combine the milk, butter, tea mixture, salt, brown sugar, and 1/2 a cup of water in a small pot or pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and once it begins to froth, remove from the heat and add all the flour at once, stirring with a wooden spoon until well blended and a cohesive dough is formed. Return the pan to the heat, and keep stirring on low until the mixture forms a smooth ball that pulls away from the sides of the pan.
- Allow it to cool for 3 - 5 minutes, and then add the eggs, one by one, stirring well after each addition. Don't be afraid that the eggs will get scrambled, they are 'cooler' - but be sure to work quickly. Put the pastry in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour or up to a day.
- Make the tea sugar syrup: Combine the 2 tablespoons of caster sugar with 2 tablespoons of water, over high heat, turning it down to a simmer for a minute. Stir, to ensure the sugar is dissolved. Take it off the heat, and add the tea bag or tea leaves, leaving it to stand for a couple of minutes. Strain syrup and discard teabag or leaves. Allow the syrup to cool and set aside for later use.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. To ensure that the chouquettes are well studded with sugar, sprinkle some pearl sugar evenly on the prepared sheet. Remove the batter from the refrigerator and put into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip to form small balls of batter, about the size of a walnut. Alternatively, use 2 teaspoons and portion out dough onto the baking sheet, leaving at least an inch of space between them. Using a pastry brush, brush the dough balls with the tea sugar syrup and sprinkle with pearl sugar. (Any pearl sugar which doesnt adhere to the buns after baking can be collected and reused) .
- Bake for 20 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown making sure not to (open the oven door in the first 10 minutes. Check the base of the chouquettes to check for doneness - they should be bronzed. Turn off the oven and leave the door slightly ajar for another 5 minutes to 'temper' so they don't deflate at room temperature due to the temperature difference.
- Transfer to a rack and allow to cool completely before serving, with your favourite tea or coffee!
- Leftovers should be stored at room temperature in an airtight container. To make almost as good as new, reheat for 5 minutes in a 300°F (150°C) oven. Enjoy.
- We had them for breakfast stuffed with leftover chocolate mousse and drizzled with chocolate sauce. Yummy.