The semi-final has come and gone, only the final remains and, if we’re honest, we’re all a bit surprised that it’s come to this, right? I sort of lost faith in the show after the Julia – Yan – Liam triple blow eviction debacle. But I continued watching because, really, I have nothing more entertaining to be doing at 8pm on a Tuesday night. Also, there’s the bake off bake along to consider. And I can’t really complain, because I never thought to make berry cheesecake choux buns before this. And I’m really quite glad they exist in my life now.
So I’d never even heard of craquelin before this week. And I did an entire culinary diploma. Also, it looks kind of like an odd skin-complaint, no? Anyway, I did this bake along at 6am on a Saturday morning because that was literally my only free time during the weekend. There was no way in hell I was going to make two different types of choux buns. One type was as much as I could be bothered with. Clearly I was not going to be making Les Miserables cake before sunrise, and I have made my feelings on insane technical challenges that take six hours and look impressive but taste only of sugar perfectly clear. So choux buns it was.
Actually, I’m so used to profiteroles that I’ve never really thought of doing anything different with choux buns. Other than filling them with cream and covering them in chocolate, I mean. Which is a perfectly delicious thing to do, so I shall continue to do it. But now a whole world of choux bun glory is open to me! Why I never thought of filling a choux bun with cheesecake before I do not know. Thank you, bake off bake along, for inspiring me. These were majorly tasty.
I went for a mixed berry cheesecake filling here and topped the buns with raspberries because, er, that’s what they had at the shop. But obviously you can use whatever berries you like or have.
Unfortunately, although these aren’t difficult to make, they don’t keep particularly well. As soon as you’ve filled your choux bun with cheesecake filling (or with anything, really), you’re working against the clock. Your beautiful crispy pastry will start to soften fairly fast. It’ll still taste excellent after a couple of hours even if it’s gone soft, but you won’t really have the textural contrast you’re after.
On the Bake Off they always make out like choux is really hard. I don’t know why, because it’s not. If anything, I actually find it easier than most other pastries, because you don’t have to faff about with resting it. Or keeping it cold. Or worrying about overworking it. Or rolling it out without cracks. Or any of that stuff, really. This recipe looks long but it’s not because it’s complicated. It’s because I am trying to carefully explain how to make choux in case you’ve never done it before.
This recipe will make around 25 choux buns, although obviously it depends wildly on how big you pipe them.
for the choux
85g butter, cubed
105g plain flour
Pinch of salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
for the cheesecake filling
300g full fat cream cheese
50g icing sugar
150ml double cream
150g mixed berries, mashed with a fork
150g icing sugar
juice of a lemon
drop of purple food colouring, if you like
raspberries, or berries of choice, to top choux
around 3 biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs, to top choux
edible glitter, to finish (I did this because I have a cupboard absolutely crammed with baking decorations, but it adds absolutely nothing in terms of taste – I just like shiny things – so do skip it if you want)
- First, make your choux. Preheat your oven to 220C/200C fan/ gas 6 – and you really do need a hot oven to make these puff up properly so if you know yours runs cold then maybe give it an extra 10 degrees. Put your water and your cubed butter into a medium saucepan on a medium heat and cook until the butter has melted, but don’t let it boil. Meanwhile, sieve your flour and salt together.
- When all your butter has melted into your water, turn the heat right up and bring it to a rolling boil – you’ll see the butter solids start to collect in the middle of the pan. Take it off the heat and, as quickly as you can, whack all your flour in at once and beat like mad with a wooden spoon until it’s all incorporated and shiny and pulling away from the sides. It should naturally form a kind of ball of paste. This is called your panade. You need to let the panade cool down a bit now, until it’s about skin temperature, otherwise it won’t absorb the egg properly. I normally move mine into a cold mixing bowl to speed this up.
- While your panade is cooling, crack your eggs into a jug and beat them lightly. When your panade is cool enough, start beating in the egg, a little at a time, until you’ve used 2/3 of it. This is really hard work with a wooden spoon but works completely fine with an electric whisk so that’s what I always do. When you have 2/3 of the egg in, check the consistency. You want a ‘reluctant six second dropping consistency’ (I know it sounds weird, that’s just what we were always taught at culinary school). All it means is that when you take a decent scoop of the mix onto a wooden spoon and hold it up the mixture should fall off, but quite reluctantly. After about six seconds, in fact. If you use large eggs, like I do, you probably won’t end up using them all.
- Pop your choux pastry into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle and pipe it out onto baking trays in rounds. If you have good non-stick trays you don’t have to bother lining them – I never do – but if you’re worried them use baking paper. With a damp finger, press down the peaked tops of the buns (to stop them burning) then put the trays into your hot oven for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, your choux buns should be gloriously brown and puffed up (if they’re not, give them 5 minutes longer). Take out the tray, turn them all over, and use a skewer or a sharp knife to poke a little hole in the bottom of each bun, then put them back in the oven. This is to let the insides dry out a bit. You want to take them to what probably seems a bit darker and firmer than you would naturally. You need them to be crisp and strong because they are going to have a wet filling.
- While your choux is baking, make your cheesecake filling. Beat your cream cheese and icing sugar together briefly until smooth. Add your cream, and beat for a minute until your mixture thickens up a little. You want it firm enough to pipe into the buns. Fold through your berries. You have to mash them to make sure they’re not going to clog your piping bag later. Pop this mixture into the fridge until you need it.
- Prepare your icing. Mix your icing sugar with your lemon juice. You want a fairly thick icing so it doesn’t just fall off the choux buns, but if it looks too thick add a drop of water. Colour it, if you like.
- When your choux are baked, let them cool completely. This should only take ten minutes. When they are cool, put your cheesecake filling into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Using the nozzle to enlarge the steam holes you made in the base of the buns, pipe them full of cheesecake mix.
- Spoon a little icing onto the top of each bun. Finish with a berry, a sprinkling of biscuit crumbs, and glitter if you’re going all out.