Dominique and Me: Salt Caramel Popcorn Chouquettes

Note to self: MUST refrain from eating the popcorn before it is needed ;)

It has recently occurred to me that, I might be a little bit obsessed with choux pastry. In college this week we were covering ‘paste products’, and therefore looked at choux products in quite some detail. It wasn’t until we were looking at a worksheet that included different uses of choux pastry that I realised: choux pastry should be my mastermind subject ;). In a completely safe/non-pervy way, I actually think my lecturer fell in love with me as I explained what Gateau Religeus, Paris Brest and (the most spectacular) Gateau St. Honore are. So the point of this was to point out that I am QUITE the fan of choux and in a new, blossoming relationship with my college lecturer (NO SERIOUSLY, IM JOKING- please don’t call safeguarding ;)).

When referring to ‘choux’, I do of course mean the wonder of ‘pate a choux’ (choux pastry in English). It is a pastry that is SIGNIFICANTLY different from every other pastry (shortcrust, puff etc.), mostly due to it mainly being made over heat and the high moisture content (the moisture evaporates in the oven causing the pastry to puff up/expand into crisp shells). Before this recipe, I would’ve considered choux pastry nothing but a carrier for far more delicious fillings (crème patisserie etc.), HOWEVER, this recipe has no filling whatsoever (the French are I N S A N E).

The recipe begins with popping some popcorn kernels and making a salt caramel. I hate to say it but, I actually had to remake my caramel because I burnt it (I’m not very patient and got distracted just as it was beginning to colour). Needless to say, once the (remade) caramel and popcorn were mixed together, BOY IT TASTED GOOD. Me and my mum were wolfing it down before I was even onto the next step of the recipe!

Then you come to actually making the choux. Choux uses very basic ingredients including; water, butter, salt, flour and eggs (Ansel adds milk and sugar I assume to enrich, although its probably just him being boujee ;)). You begin by boiling together the water, butter, sugar and salt, before ‘shooting’ in the flour and mixing intensely until it forms a smooth ball, comes away from the sides of the pan and leaves a skin on the surface of the pan. At this stage, you transfer the mix to a stand mixer and gradually add the eggs until it reaches the desired ‘V’ consistency (hangs off a spatula in a V-shape, before falling back into the bowl after a few seconds).

I’m gonna hit you with another college anecdote (two in one post, BLIMEY). A month or two ago we were doing a mock test and one of the questions asked us to ‘describe the method when making choux pastry blah-blah-blah’, WELL. I would like to re-iterate that, IT IS NOT A ROUX ;). After multiple discussions/heated arguments/death threats ;) on my course after my peers all tried to convince me that I was ‘wrong’ and choux is in fact a roux, we finally got the results back MUCH to my pleasure, and found out that it is NOT a roux ;). I’m not overly sure why exactly I felt the need to include this but, here it is ;). And, if you ever get asked if choux is made with a roux, I now hope you know the answer. ;)

Now that we’ve got that rather pointless and laborious story out of the way, we can move onto the shaping/assembly. They get piped in dots (like profiteroles), before receiving an egg wash and being coated in the crushed popcorn and pearl sugar (an item I had to order off of eBay, which looked suspiciously like drugs). The chouquettes went into the oven, and in true Dominique Ansel fashion, he instructs to turn the tray painfully often (I swear this man is gonna give me carpal tunnel).

Removing them from the oven, I wasn’t overly optimistic. Sure, they looked attractive. They were golden brown with visible spikes of popcorn and pearl sugar, but I could hardly believe that they weren’t going to be filled, it felt crazy! Who would want to eat a dry piece of choux pastry? Obviously, there is a story behind why they are left empty; chouqettes are the curly-wurly’s of French patisseries. They are solely made to quickly use up any remanding choux pastry (from more elaborate/popular eclairs and paris brest etc.). Therefore, filling them would be a waste of time and ingredients! This, of course, makes perfect sense, but I still couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy.

Spoiler Alert: I WAS WRONG, Chouquettes are great. Sure, they will never compare to an éclair but for what they are they’re absolutely delicious! Ansel’s addition of salt caramel popcorn really adds to the eating experience and takes them to the next level. Its always a good sign when they’ve all been eaten after just a couple of hours. ;)

NEXT UP: MARSHMALLOW CHICKS (I’m gonna be honest with you, I’ve been dreading this recipe more than some of the advanced ones, who sterilises egg shells??)

Thanks for reading this! Knowing that people are going out of their way to read whatever I have to say for whatever reason is the best feeling in the world, and I’m crazy grateful (trust me). PLEASEEE keep reading, the blog posts are only going to keep getting better, more interesting and more dramatic (by dramatic I mean tears that will be shed while trying to make the advanced recipes ;)). Also, if you haven’t read the previous posts, TREAT YOURSELF ;).

I would be incredibly grateful if you could give me some feedback on this post. This is my first ever blog series and some of you are probably reading this like ‘YIKES, what is he doing??’. Think of these first posts as the previews for a Broadway show, anything is currently capable of changing if need be. Alternatively, if you think this blog is the bomb (firstly, I will marry you), secondly interact with me in the comments below. If you have any questions or tips, I would love to hear and will always respond!

Obviously, it’d be awesome if you could share this with your friends (or foes, I don’t mind which ;)). There are links to share to Facebook and Twitter below (I couldn’t make it easier ;)), alternatively just copy/paste the URL wherever you want (Instagram stories etc.). I’ve just begun a new Instagram (@woodywenmanhyde) where I post frequent updates throughout the production of each recipe, as well as plenty of other baking and more personal posts. Make sure you don’t forget to subscribe to my email newsletter below either, this way you will ALWAYS be the first to know when a new blog is shared.

Kind Regards,

Woody ✨

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