9 February 2013

Cinnamon Couquettes

It's a good thing that I'm no vlogger; as I have spent the last couple of days with no voice! Luckily it seems to be due to a cold rather than another episode of laryngitis, which is a real pain. My voice has started to come back now though, thanks to spending much of the day alone working. Its funny though; you know how they say that you don't appreciate something until you've lost it? Well until today, I didn't realise how much I sing to myself when nobody is around to hear! Every time I opened my mouth to hum to myself, a sound more like a braying donkey than Beyoncé left my lips, so I soon shut up.

There is only so long that a girl can stay tied to her desk, so after a few hours work I had hit the recipe books. I was tempted by a baked cheesecake, but I still wasn't feeling up to a cold bike ride down the road to our nearest shop to get cream cheese. Instead, I got out my faithful Little Paris Kitchen by Rachel Khoo, and went straight for the chouquettes.
Chouquette, the sweet sister of gougère, is a kind of choux pastry. You'll be more familiar with choux in the form of éclairs, profiteroles and huge caramel-covered croquembouche towers, but chouquettes are lovely too; more of a tasty treat than the full-on indulgence of it's cream-filled cousins.

I've altered the recipe very little; I find it best not to meddle with pastry! My only change is in the choice of flavourings, which I am very pleased with.
 At first I wasn't too worried about this; I've made Rachel's gougère before but in the end I was actually surprised to get any chouquettes at all; I used too large a pan and the mix cooled down before it could be properly beaten, and consequently I had a very runny mix. Undeterred, I slapped the pan back onto the heat, got out an egg whisk to smooth out the inevitable lumps, and beat it all into submission. I was expecting a big sloppy mess, so I couldn't believe my eyes when after a few minutes baking the little balls of dough had tripled in size quite happily. They were all a little wonky, but I was so pleased that I managed to save the pastry that it didn't matter.

Cinnamon Chouquettes
  • 125ml of each milk and water
  • 100g butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 170g strong plain bread flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon and a sprinkle of nutmeg, combined with the flour
  • 4 eggs
  • Icing sugar and cinnamon for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180'C, gas mark 4. Make sure that all your ingredients are weighed out and to hand, and that the flour is in a container that allows it to 'shoot' into the mix in one go. Whenever something is added into the mix it will suddenly look lumpy and unpleasant, but keep beating all the while and it will soon be smoothly incorporated.
First, heat the milk, water, sugar, salt and butter over a high heat in a medium pan.
When the butter has melted, turn the heat down low and quickly tip the flour cinnamon and nutmeg in. With a wooden spoon, beat the mix furiously until the dough comes together cleanly in a smooth ball. Remove from the heat, and continue to beat until cool enough to touch. Now add in the eggs, one at a time. Here you should have a glossy paste that will hold it's shape when piped.

Place a piping bag with a 5mm nozzle into a tall mug to support it, and spoon in the pastry. Hold the piping bag at 90' and squeeze out walnut-sized balls, around 2cm apart. Before you lift the piping bag away to pipe the next chouquette, flick it sideways to avoid tall tips that will burn. According to the recipe you should get 20-30 chouquettes, although I, despite loosing some pastry, got a few more.
Dust with icing sugar and cinnamon -I forgot to do this on my fist batch but it didn't seem to matter -and place in the oven for 20 minutes until risen and golden.
While the chouquettes are baking, you can quickly make up some cinnamon butter. I just keep adding each of the ingredients until I am happy with the balance of sugar butter and cinnamon, but loosly base you amounts on this:
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 50g soft brown sugar
  • 4 tsp cinnamon
Melt the butter and stir in the sugar and cinnamon. That's it!! Spoon this onto the chouquettes once they have started to cool to get a gorgeous, caramel-y topping.
How amazing is the view behind our house? I keep on finding myself working over here instead of in the box-filled study....
These should last a couple of days in an airtight container, but are so light and moreish, I doubt they'll last that long...
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