It’s peach season!
Few things in the world smell as good as a ripe peach (in my opinion), and I just want to put them in everything. They go well with so many summer desserts, and I often pair them with the loads of berries we’ve got on hand. One classic combination I love is peach melba. Peach melba consists of peaches with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream, and it’s basically summer in a bowl. Since peaches are in season, I’m looking for ways to use all of the peaches I’ve impulse-bought out of local fruit excitement. I’ve also got a bunch of eggs due to some poorly planned groceries on my part and have been thinking about making cream puffs with them for a while.
This dessert is a mix of two traditional dishes- peach melba and choux au craquelin. Choux au craquelin are cream puffs with a crunchy, cookie-like topping- they’re made with a paste that’s somewhere between a batter and a dough. To make the dough, the liquid (plus most of the fat) is heated up on the stove, and then the flour is added. Like in hot water doughs (eg. scallion pancakes), the heat denatures some of the gluten (reducing elasticity) and gelatinizes the starch, which allows the flour to hold on to more water than it otherwise could. When the paste is baked, that water turns to vapour and leavens the dough. Eggs are beaten in and the dough becomes rich and sticky. They’re baked at a high temperature, which sets the outside crust before the inside, squeezing the inner bubbles together into one big bubble (or a couple of large ones). The craquelin topping also forces the dough to rise symmetrically, and the result is a delicately crisp, crunchy-topped pastry balloon that’s almost impossibly light for its size.
For the peach melba-inspired filling, the peaches are reduced in a quick compote, the vanilla ice cream is replaced with a vanilla diplomat cream, and the raspberries are turned into a curd (basically a fruit custard). Diplomat cream is made from a custard called pastry cream, lightened up with some whipped cream- sometimes it’s stabilized with gelatin, but since these are meant to be eaten right away I don’t bother with it. I love raspberry curd and could eat it with a spoon, it’s rich but has my ideal tart-sweet balance, so it doesn’t feel heavy. These changes make the cream puffs a little more resistant to melting or sogging out since the liquid doesn’t soak into the cream puffs as readily, something you’d get if you just used the classic components unchanged.
Most of the components can be made ahead of time and just assembled when you intend to serve. If it sounds like more prep than you care to do, you can make a simpler version by filling them with diced peaches and raspberry sauce (see the peach compote directions, or just use fresh raspberries) and either vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (instructions below). Just know that if you sub the components out, you should assemble them immediately before serving so those liquids don’t have a chance to melt or make the choux soggy. I’d also advise filling my version right before serving, but you can do it anytime the same day (or overnight if you really need to) and keep them refrigerated.
For the “puff” part of these cream puffs, I used a recipe by Erin at Cloudy Kitchen. Her recipe is great- it’s worked every time I’ve tried it, and the craquelin is probably my favourite part. The recipe on her site makes about twice as many puffs as you’ll need for this recipe. I’ve listed it halved but if you want, you can make the full recipe and freeze the choux either piped out, unbaked (and unadorned with the craquelin), or fully baked with the craquelin. Instead of dark brown sugar, I blended light brown and muscovado sugars for flavour. It’s important to keep the craquelin top frozen until it goes into the oven, so if you can only bake one tray of choux at a time, don’t top the second tray until it’s about to go in the oven.
Peach Melba Choux au Craquelin
- 50g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 60g all-purpose flour
- 30g light brown sugar
- 30g muscovado sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
- 62g whole milk
- 62g water
- 55g unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
- 8g sugar
- 82g all-purpose flour
- 120g eggs, beaten (about 2 and a half eggs, keep the other half in case it’s too thick)
- 175g raspberries
- 55g butter
- 75g sugar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 3 yolks from large eggs (about 55g)
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 340g peaches, peeled and diced (about 3-4, depending on size)
- 40g sugar
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 3 egg yolks from large eggs (about 55g)
- 100g sugar
- 22g cornstarch
- 250g whole milk
- 2 tsp vanilla paste, divided
- 250g 35% cream (aka heavy/whipping cream), cold from the fridge
Optional sub for diplomat cream:
- 470g 35% cream (aka heavy/whipping cream), cold from the fridge
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
- 25g sugar
To make the craquelin:
- Mix all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, and beat until combined.
- Turn the bowl out onto a sheet of parchment paper, and lay another sheet of parchment paper over top.
- Roll the dough flat, about 2-3mm thick.
- Freeze flat for at least 1 hour, sandwiched between parchment sheets.
- Can be made ahead.
To make the raspberry curd:
- In a medium saucepan, combine the raspberries, lemon juice, kosher salt, and half of the sugar over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining half of the sugar and the egg yolks.
- When the raspberries reach a simmer, turn the heat off and pour about 1/2 cup into the egg mixture (just eyeball it), and whisk immediately until combined.
- Pour the egg mixture back into the raspberry pot and bring up to a simmer over low-medium heat, whisking constantly.
- When the mixture has simmered for about 1 minute, pour into a fine mesh strainer set over a medium bowl, pushing the mixture through with a spatula.
- Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly into the top of the curd, and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
- Can be made a day or two ahead (keep covered in plastic in the fridge).
To make the diplomat cream:
- Bring the milk and a teaspoon of the vanilla to a simmer on the stove on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl, then add the egg yolks and whisk to combine.
- When the milk reaches a simmer, turn off the heat and pour about 1/2 cup of the milk into the egg mixture, whisking immediately to combine.
- Add the egg yolk mixture back into the pot with the rest of the milk and turn to low-medium, whisking constantly.
- The mixture should start to bubble slowly and suddenly thicken- allow it to bubble for a minute, whisking constantly.
- Pour into a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl to strain out any lumps, then cover with plastic wrap pressed directly onto the surface of the custard and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
- When you’re ready to assemble the cream puffs, whip the cream with the remaining vanilla with a whisk until you get firm peaks.
- Using the whisk, mix up the custard to loosen it up, just until smooth.
- Add the custard to the whipped cream and gently fold it together with a spatula (avoid deflating the whipped cream), mixing just until no streaks of custard remain.
- Transfer to a large piping bag fitted with the tip of your choice. I opted for an open star tip, but you can use whatever you’d like. If you don’t have one, you can use a freezer bag with one of the corners snipped about 1cm up, or just fill the puffs using a spoon.
- The pastry cream can be made the day before (keep tightly covered with plastic wrap in the fridge).
To make the choux:
- Prepare your trays- cut out parchment paper to fit them and use a pencil or pen to trace 1.5 inch (38mm) circles using a cookie cutter, at least 2 inches apart from each other. Flip the paper over so the side you’ve written on is on the bottom.
- Turn your oven on to 400°F and fit a large piping bag with a round tip (you can do this in a freezer bag in a pinch but it may be more difficult to pipe).
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk, water, butter, salt, sugar, vanilla paste and bring to a simmer over medium heat. When it reaches a simmer, remove from the heat.
- Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously- it should combine into a cohesive ball.
- Return the pan to the stove and continue cooking on medium for about 2 minutes, stirring constantly- by the end of the two minutes, there should be a film on the bottom of the pot.
- Add the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer and beat using the paddle attachment for about a minute on medium to cool the mixture down.
- Slowly stream in the beaten eggs with the mixer turned to low, turn the mixer back up to medium, and continue until combined.
- The paste should be able to more or less hold its shape- when you pull the beater out of the paste, some of the paste should hang off the beater in a “V” shape. If it’s too thick to do that, add the remaining half of the reserved egg and beat until combined.
- Transfer the paste to the prepared piping bag.
- One tray at a time, pipe little mounds of choux paste onto your parchment, using the circles you traced as a size guide.
- Remove the craquelin dough sheet from the freezer. Using the cookie cutter you traced earlier, cut out little rounds and place them on top of the choux mounds like little hats. Return the craquelin sheet to the freezer until you’re ready to bake the next tray.
- Bake the choux at 400°F for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to 350°F and bake for another 15-20 minutes until brown. While you’re waiting for them to bake, prepare the next tray but don’t top them with craquelin until they’re ready to bake (keep it frozen).
- Transfer to a cooling rack and using a paring knife or toothpick, poke a hole in an inconspicuous part on the side to allow steam to escape while the puffs cool.
- Return the oven to 400°F and repeat with the remaining trays.
To make the peach compote:
- In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue simmering for about 30 minutes, until most of the liquid is reduced and it has the texture of a runny jam.
- Can be made a day or two in advance, stored in the refrigerator.
- If you want to make the raspberry sauce option instead of the curd, follow this recipe but sub raspberries for the peaches and strain in a fine mesh sieve after cooking to remove the seeds.
- Using your sharpest serrated knife, cut off the top 1/3 of the choux puffs.
- Add about 1-2 teaspoons of the raspberry curd to the bottom of the puff, followed by the same amount of peach compote.
- Pipe a generous amount of the diplomat cream (or vanilla whipped cream, or ice cream) over the base, and cover with the top 1/3 of the puff.
- Serve immediately. Can be stored in the refrigerator up to 1-2 days, but they’re best fresh.