During my junior year of college, I spent a semester studying in Toulouse, France. There were a few Canadian students in our study abroad group, and with the advantage of French as their first language, they seemed to figure out the city much quicker than we did.
It took us three days to get our French bank accounts set up; it took them 30 minutes. They understood the school schedule and easily got accepted into their desired classes. They knew where all of the happy hours and parties were happening across town. Meanwhile, we were trying to figure out how the washing machines worked at the laundromat. We hung out together at first but eventually they were too cool for us and only hung out with the French and German kids.
One afternoon on the bus, I saw one of the Canadian students snacking on a bag of little puffs covered with sugar. Intrigued, I asked her what they were. Veronique replied, “Umm Chouquettes,” in a way that expressed her complete disbelief that I was unfamiliar with the pastry.
I don’t like being ‘big-leagued’ when it comes to pastries, so as soon as we got back to the bus stop, I made a mad dash to the closest bakery and got acquainted with chouquettes.
Chouquettes, also known as sugar puffs, are found in bakeries all over France, usually in a basket on top of the pastry case. Sold by weight, the baker will scoop your desired amount into a small bag and send you on your way. For whatever reason, chouquettes are not that well known in the US.
Chouquettes have a hollow and slightly eggy inside and a crisp shell outside. Pearl sugar gives the puffs a delicate sweetness and crunch. They are a perfect, delicious snack that isn’t heavy but is completely satisfying.
I’m not sure if there’s a pastry that’s easier to make. Chouquettes are simply pâte à choux (the dough used to make éclair and cream puff shells) sprinkled with pearl sugar and baked until puffed and golden brown. Pâte à choux may seem a bit complicated when you read the recipe, but I promise it comes together quickly and easily. If you have leftover choux dough from something else or want to practice piping skills, chouquettes are a great option. They also freeze well so you could keep them frozen and unbaked and pop them in the oven when the occasion arises.
I don’t keep in touch with the Canadian students, but I’m sure happy that they introduced me to chouquettes.
Helpful Tools and Ingredients
Pearl Sugar – These make the chouquettes! You can buy Swedish (smaller) or Danish (larger) pearl sugar based on your preferences.
18-inch Pastry Bags – I always buy 16- or 18-inch pastry bags. These come in a roll or easy storage and are much less expensive than what you can buy in stores.
1/2 inch Pastry Tip – My favorite size for piping chouquettes. It can be hard to find in stores.
Parchment Paper – Pre-cut parchment sheets make baking so much easier.
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