My favourite recipes are the ones that give you maximum return for minimum effort. For me, it’s quick mix brownies that satisfy that chocolate craving, one bowl cake batters that yield moist and tender crumbs, and it’s choux pastry with its endless possibilities.
I love making chouxs because they’re so incredibly versatile. You can shape them into whatever you want (buns, eclairs, paris brest, and even swans if you’re game) and you can fill and decorate them with pretty much anything. It can be as simple as filling them with different flavours of whipped cream, or a beautiful vanilla creme patissiere, lemon curd, mousses, or my favourite, rich dark chocolate cremeux. Plus, there’s just something so very cute about little choux buns that you can pop in your mouth, and taste all the flavours and textures together in one go.
I really wanted to share this recipe with you guys because it seriously tastes so damn good. You get the creamy savoury peanut flavour, accompanied by the sweetness and slight saltiness of the caramel, encased in a soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside pastry, topped with a light and creamy milk chocolate ganache (which by the way, is just divine, and pipes like a dream!).
The components in this choux include:
- Peanut butter creme patissiere
- Salted caramel
- Craquelin and choux pastry
- Whipped milk chocolate ganache
Some other variations I considered included folding small roughly chopped dark chocolate through the peanut butter creme patissiere to add a slight bitterness and make the filling more texturally interesting, or piping Nutella on top of the chouxs instead of the ganache, or even having small chunks of brownies scattered on top to make it even more decadent. If you try these variations let me know how it tastes!
Decorate however you like. I had some Ghirardelli dark chocolate in the pantry so I just broke them into pieces and stuck one on top of the milk chocolate ganache.
Here’s a tip to keep your chouxs round and uniform – put a thin disc of craquelin on top of each piped choux. It’s a simple step that not only makes it look better, it gives your choux buns a sweet crunchy top. You can flavour or colour the craquelin as well to give your chouxs a different look and taste.
Peanut Butter Creme Patissiere adapted from 'Patisserie' by William and Suzue Curley
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean - see notes)
120g egg yolks (approximately 8 eggs yolks)
100g caster sugar
50g plain flour, sifted
150g smooth peanut butter
225g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
150ml thickened cream, gently heated so it is warm
2 teaspoons sea salt
Whipped Milk Chocolate Ganache adapted from 'Bachour Chocolate' by Antonio Bachour
80g thickened cream
14g glucose syrup
130g milk chocolate
225g thickened cream, cold
90g plain flour
90g brown sugar
75g unsalted butter
Choux Pastry adapted from 'Patisserie' by William and Suzue Curley
125g unsalted butter
12g caster sugar
162g plain flour, sifted
250g whole eggs, beaten (approximately 5 eggs)
Thin chocolate panels or any other chocolate (e.g., Snickers, cut up into pieces), or make your own tempered chocolate discs
- Make the peanut butter creme patissiere. Heat the milk and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat until the milk boils. While the milk is heating, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a medium bowl until the mixture is fluffy and light in colour. Whisk in the sifted flour and mix until the mixture is smooth. Once the milk boils, take the pan off the heat and stream half of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, then strain the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk. Put the pan back on the heat and continue to whisk until the mixture boils. Turn the heat down to low and continue to stir the creme patissiere with a spatula for 5-6 minutes, until thickened. Take the pan off the heat and pour the mixture into a clean medium bowl. Let the mixture cool slightly, while stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes (you can use an ice bath to speed the cooling). Once the mixture has cooled down slightly, stir in the peanut butter, until smooth and combined. Pour into a container, cover the surface with cling wrap and store in the fridge overnight.
- Make the salted caramel. In a heavy based saucepan, heat the sugar over medium heat. Swirl the sugar around the pan occasionally to get the sugar melting evenly. As the sugar starts to brown on the edges of the pan, use a spoon or spatula to gently stir the sugar around so the edges don't get burnt. If you get any small hard lumps of sugar, you can turn down the heat slightly, keep stirring and just let it melt. When the caramel reaches a dark amber colour, add the butter, and whisk until incorporated. Pour in the cream, and whisk until smooth. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the salt. Pour into a heatproof bowl or container and leave to cool.
- Make the milk chocolate ganache. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the 80g cream and the glucose syrup until boiling, then pour on to the chocolate. Wait a minute to let the chocolate melt then stir the chocolate around gently until completely melted and combined with the cream. Add the 225g cold cream and stir until combined. Cover with cling wrap and store in the fridge for at least 12 hours to set.
- Prepare the craquelin. In a small bowl, combine the flour and sugar. Add the butter and rub in using your fingertips until the mixture forms a dough. Roll the dough out between two large pieces of baking paper, until it is very thin (about 3mm thick). Place in the freezer to rest and harden while you prepare the choux pastry.
- Make the chouxs. Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan forced, or 220°C conventional). Line trays with baking paper. In a heavy based saucepan, heat the milk, water, butter, and sugar over medium heat until the mixture boils. Meanwhile, combine the sifted flour and the salt in another bowl. Once the milk and butter mixture boils, take the pan off the heat and add in the flour and salt. Stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until combined and dough is formed. Put the pan back on the heat and continue stirring, until the dough leaves the sides of the pan. Take off the heat and transfer the dough to a stand mixer bowl. Leave the dough to cool for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Using a paddle attachment, gradually add the eggs on low-medium speed, waiting until the previous addition is fully incorporated before adding more. Continue to mix the dough on medium speed until the mixture is smooth, shiny and the mixture drops off the spatula, leaving a v shape, about 3 minutes. The final mixture should be sticky and thick enough to hold its shape. Spoon into piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle and pipe onto prepared trays, leaving at least 2cm between chouxs. Take the craquelin out of the freezer, and using a 4cm round cutter, cut out discs of craquelin and place one disc on top of each piped choux. Use a small offset spatula to help lift each disc off the baking paper. If the craquelin becomes too soft to handle, put it back in the freezer for 10 minutes before continuing. Bake chouxs on 200°C (fan forced, 220°C if using conventional) for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C (fan forced, 200°C if using conventional) and bake for 8-10 minutes, until chouxs are puffed and golden-dark brown. Do not open the oven door at least for the first 15 minutes or risk them collapsing. Ideally, don't open the door at all until they are close to being done.
- To assemble. Make a small incision at the bottom of each choux with a small knife. Heat the caramel in the microwave for 10 seconds on high so it softens slightly. Spoon caramel into piping bag fitted with a very small tip (I used Wilton 3). Spoon the creme patissiere into another piping bag fitted with a small plain tip (I used Wilton 12). Fill each choux with creme patissiere and caramel, alternating between each one (i.e., fill half of each choux with creme patissiere, then some caramel, then fill the rest the choux up with creme patissiere). Once all the chouxs are filled, then it's time to decorate. Take the chocolate ganache out of the fridge and whip on medium until stiff peaks. Spoon into piping bag fitted with star tip (I used Wilton 1M). Pipe a rosette of the ganache on top of each choux, drizzle with salted caramel, top with a piece of chocolate and sprinkle crushed peanuts on top.
You can use vanilla bean instead if vanilla bean paste if you have them. I usually use organic vanilla bean paste instead of the bean because it is a much cheaper alternative and still tastes pretty good. If using the bean, split and seed the pod and bring to boil with the milk. Remove the pod when pouring milk into the egg mixture.
Chouxs are always best eaten on the day it is made, as the craquelin topping is still crunchy. It will still taste good the next day, but just won't be as crunchy on the outside.
Don't be afraid to keep baking the chouxs until they're a bit more brown than golden brown. You want them to be crispy on the outside and hollow on the inside.
If the milk chocolate ganache is too runny after whipping it, put it back in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up then whip again. It should stay firm enough to pipe if you keep it cold.
You will probably have leftover choux buns. Fill with some whipped cream and dip the tops in melted dark chocolate to make profiteroles or cut them open and sandwich with ice cream and chocolate fudge sauce for a quick weeknight dessert. If you want to eat the chouxs warm, you can reheat/recrisp the choux buns by putting them in a hot oven for about 5 minutes.