Pâte à choux, or choux pastry (so named because when baked in rounds, it resembles small cabbages, “choux” in French), is something I make when I need a nice dessert but don’t have much time. The dough is fast and easy to mix, and versatile: depending on what shape it’s piped into and how it is cooked, it can be used to make chouquettes, beignets soufflés, churros, profiteroles, eclairs and cream puffs, as well as gougères, if you want something savoury.

Cream puffs with maple-sugar craquelin and chocolate-maple mousse

Make the craquelin topping first, because it needs to be rolled out then chilled (I freeze it) so it can be cut into tidy circles. Then make and bake the cream puffs, and finally the chocolate-maple mousse.

The puffs can be baked in advance. When cool, pack them into an airtight container. If they soften too much, bake for about five minutes at 180 degrees Celsius, then let them cool before filling them just before serving.

The mousse recipe (which I’ve given before) is easy to follow, and the result is delicious.

For the craquelin:
45 grams unsalted butter, slightly softened
¼ tsp fine sea salt
50 grams maple sugar
50 grams plain (all-purpose) flour

For the cream puffs:
120ml water
60 grams unsalted butter
¼ tsp fine sea salt
65 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
2-3 large eggs, at room temperature

For the chocolate-maple mousse:
100 grams bittersweet chocolate, with a cacao content of about 75 per cent
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
¼ tsp fine sea salt
100 grams maple syrup
140ml cream, chilled

For the craquelin, put the butter in a medium-sized mixing bowl and add the salt and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then stir in the flour. Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it is 3mm thick. Slide the dough – still between the pieces of parchment paper – onto a flat sheet and freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees before making the cream puff dough. Put the water, butter and salt into a medium-sized saucepan and place over a medium flame. Cook until the butter is melted and the water comes to a full rolling boil. Turn the heat to low, add the flour all at once, then stir immediately with a wooden spoon so that the flour is moistened evenly. Mix vigorously until the ingredients form a ball around the edges of the pan, then continue to stir over a low flame for about a minute – this slightly dries out the mixture, so more egg can be stirred in later (which makes the puffs lighter).

Transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl and stir with an electric mixer on low speed for several minutes to dissipate the steam (you can use a wooden spoon and mix by hand, although it takes quite a lot of strength).

With the mixer speed on low add two eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Whisk the third egg and add it in a little at a time. You need to add just enough egg: if you mix in too much, the dough won’t puff. It’s ready when the dough is smooth and glossy, and forms a soft peak when you touch it with your fingertip.

Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper. Fit a piping bag with an 8mm plain tip. Put the dough into the piping bag and pipe 3cm rounds onto the baking sheet, leaving about a centimetre between each one. You should have about 35 puffs.

Take the tray with the craquelin from the freezer. Slide the dough – still in the parch­ment – onto a cutting board, and peel away the top layer of paper. Use a 2cm round cutter to cut out rounds of craquelin – as many as you have puffs. (The excess craquelin can be wrapped and frozen for several weeks.) Place one craquelin round on top of each puff.

Put the baking sheet holding the puffs into the oven and bake at 200 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn the tray around in the oven, then reduce the heat to 180 degrees and bake for about five more minutes, or until the puffs are firm (check with your fingertips by squeezing gently on the sides) and lift easily from the silicon mat or baking paper. Take the tray from the oven and leave at room temperature while making the mousse.

To make the mousse, chop the chocolate into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Microwave for about two minutes, or until the chocolate is about 80 per cent melted, stirring every 30 seconds. Stir until the residual heat melts the rest of the chocolate.

Put the maple syrup into a small pan and bring to the boil. While the syrup is heating, use an electric mixer to start whipping the egg yolks with the salt until pale yellow. With the mixer speed on low, drizzle in the maple syrup. Once all has been added, turn the mixer speed to high and continue to beat until the mixture is cool, pale and thick. Add the chocolate and mix on high speed until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, use the electric mixer (no need to wash the beaters) to whip the chilled cream until it forms soft peaks. Add one-third of the cream to the chocolate-maple mixture, and use a rubber spatula to mix it in. Add the remaining cream in two additions, folding it in gently.

Fill a piping bag, fitted with a 4mm plain tip, with the chocolate-maple mixture. Use the tip of a paring knife to poke 4mm holes into the sides of each puff. Pipe the mousse into the puffs. Lay them on a serving platter (or board) and serve immediately.