September, the time between summer and fall. I am definitely not ready for summer to be over, but what can you do? It’s not like you could write somewhere and complain. So, nothing to do but to make the best of the last sunrays and warm-ish days.
The nice thing about late summer is that you can start baking again. After all it’s not so incredibly hot any more that you melt in your kitchen, even if the oven’s not on and a fan is pointed at you. Then again, I’m not one to be kept away from my kitchen, so I have been a bit obsessed with Chouquettes all summer. They are a tiny version of profiteroles, often drizzled with chocolate ganache or sprinkled with pearl sugar. They are made out of choux pastry and you would use this dough to make other, also pretty amazing things, such as eclairs or cream puffs.
My love affair with choux pastry began when I was in sixth grade, living in Bolivia across from a bakery. I would go there every day. Not to eat, because I didn’t have that kind of money and my mom would have raised an eye-brow, but to ask for their profiterole recipe. Eventually, after asking for a few days and coming back over and over, they gave it to me. Bear with me, these were pre-internet times. Since the recipe didn’t come with a lot of instructions, my profiteroles failed to rise properly except once. And I couldn’t figure out what I had done right. Or wrong. I tried making profiteroles when I was older and already knew my husband, but again, they weren’t a huge success. They were delicious, just not fluffy. My husband ate them anyway and I thought no longer of it.
Then, about two years ago, when I didn’t know about my celiac disease, my friend Kati and I would meet up on Sundays and spend them drinking coffee and eating delicious treats at a Parisian style bakery here in Cologne, where they also sell Chouquettes. I would always buy one, in awe of its fluffiness.
Now, being gluten-free and all, it’s hard to come by Chouquettes. Unless you make them. So, I made Chouquettes for my husband’s birthday and he greedily ate them up. I loved them to, and made them a few times since.
Now, the secret to fluffy Chouquettes? Well, there’s three, actually. You really need to let the mixture of water, butter and flour rest and cool off before you add the eggs. Why? Well, think omlette and boiled egg and how you can only make stiff egg whites with raw egg. That’s why! The second secret? Don’t be skimpy with the egg. Use large eggs, extra-large if you can find them. The third and final secret is to let them bake until they are done. This means letting them in the oven for a minute or two longer than you think is sensible. Why? Otherwise they will collapse! This may mean, if your oven heats unevenly, that you may have to take out the Chouquettes that are read out first (in order to avoid burning), and let the ones which are not yet done, bake until they are by moving them to the areas of your baking tray that are better heated. And if you realize that your Chouquettes fall into themselves after you have already taken them out: fret, not just put them back into the oven and bake them a bit longer until they are absolutely done and won’t collapse.
I have also made these in a salty version, using chives and cheddar cheese. They were amazing! You can, of course, make eclairs or whatever else you fancy with this dough – in a salty and sweet version – and then fill it with something amazing, like green pea puree or vanilla pudding or a bit of love.
Whichever way you decide to make Chouquettes, I promise they will be a huge success. I recently went to a party (mostly celiacs) with a huge box of these in tow and they were a big hit. My husband suggested that I take a can of whipping cream with me, but I decided that this was not necessary.
250 ml water
1 pinch sugar
1 tbsp sugar
150g gluten-free flour (I use half Schaer Farine, and half Harina de Reposteria by AdPan)
¼ tbsp. gluten-free agents (which is what I call a mix of equal parts xanthan and guar gums, carob and arrowroot flours)
4 eggs – the largest kind you can get
Pearl sugar (or chives and a cheese you love or melted chocolate)
Place the water into a medium sized-pot. Turn on the heat, at the sugar, the salt and the butter and let the butter dissolve. As soon as the water is boiling, add the flour (which you have already combined with your gluten-free agents) and form a smooth, even dough with the help of a whisk. Turn off the stove (if you haven’t already) and then let the dough cool off (about twenty minutes, depending on the weather).
Once the dough has been cooled off, add the eggs, one by one and continue whisking until the dough is lumpless and completely even.
If you are making these in a savory variation, now is the time to add your grated cheese and the chives.
Now, line two baking tins with baking parchment and proceed to make your Chouquettes. In culinary school, they have you make Chouquettes with a pastry bag, but I don’t actually own one of those, so I make do with a teaspoon. I pick up a bit of dough, and then place it on the baking tin. With my thumb and my index finger, I pull the dough upward a little (maybe going from the bottom up) as to form a somewhat steep little mountain. Continue with the rest of your dough until it is all used up. If you are making these with pearl sugar, now is the time to cover each individual Chouquette with a few pieces of pearl sugar.
Bake your Chouquettes at 200 °C between 25 and 35 minutes. Remove Chouquettes from oven, and let cool off. Transfer Chouqettes into a bowl or a box, and eat from there.