Black Sesame Craquelin Top Cream Puffs

Hello, it's me (again)! Back to share these little cuties before Stephanie and Lyndsay's  #totoroweek ends. Did you catch all the adorableness happening on the interwebs this week? Here's a snapshot of what you missed if you somehow blinked and missed it: buttermilk Totoro pancakes, a Totoro cake tutorial, Totoro ice cream cookies, Totoro cronuts (!!!), and Totoro Black sesame shortbread. Basically a whole lotta cute. If you're thinking, "ok, cute but who or what is Totoro," I strongly recommend you watch Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro. It's a game changer. Also, be sure to head to iamafoodblog for a recap of all the Totoro magic that happened this week!

For my contribution to #totoroweek, I decided to go with something I've been wanting to share for a while, craquelin top cream puffs!! I love that magic combo of sweet, crunchy, and yes, crackly, you get with the craquelin (cookie) tops!! And the fact that the puffs come out perfectly round is a mega bonus. If you're like me and prefer your puffs extra crispy, you can definitely achieve that with this method. You'll notice mine are a little darker on the bottoms than you might be used to but it gives them an extra crunch that I just can't resist. By all means, you can avoid this by turning the heat down halfway through your baking time, but honestly I recommend you don't! As for the black sesame component in these puffs, it's there and it's nutty and lovely but it's also pretty subtle. Black sesame has the ability to be very overpowering, so I took that into account when making these cuties. If you're a huge fan, feel free to add an extra tablespoon or two to the cream!

A couple quick notes before I go and wish you a very happy but safe Halloween! The pastry cream can absolutely be made a day in advance. Actually, I'd recommend doing so, as it will allow the flavor to come out in full force when you're ready to fill your puffs and it will help to break up some of the work. When you scroll down to the recipe, don't be intimated!! While there are a few components, each one is simple, so deep breaths, it's doable as long as you plan ahead! Last but not least, if you make your puffs ahead of time and find they're a little soft or squishy the next day, don't fret. Just preheat your oven to 350 - 375 °F and pop them in on a baking sheet for about 5 minutes, let the cool, and voila! Good as new! Ok, ok, I realize it's Friday, and you've got costumes to square away, so I'll let you get to it! Happy Friday and happy end of #totoroweek.

Black Sesame Craquelin Top Cream Puffs

Barely adapted from David Lebovitz's Ready for Dessert; My Best Recipes, The Sweet Life in Paris, and davidlebovitz.com

Makes 30-40 cream puffs

INGREDIENTS

BLACK SESAME PASTRY CREAM

  • 2 c. (500 ml) whole milk
  • 6 Tbps. (60 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. (100 g) granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 2 Tbsp. (1 ounce/30 g) salted or unsalted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. black sesame paste
  • 4 Tbsp. heavy cream

CRAQUELIN

  • 3 oz. (85g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c. (100g) packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. (100g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. black sesame paste

CHOUX

  • 1 c. (250ml) water
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 6 Tbsp. (90g) unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 c. (135g) flour
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature

ASSEMBLY

  • 4 oz. marzipan
  • matcha green tea powder
  • black sesame paste

TOOLS

  • Heavy bottomed saucepan
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Whisk
  • Sharp knife
  • Ladle
  • Mesh strainer
  • Plastic wrap
  • Wooden spoon
  • Pastry bag + plain tip
  • Stand mixer
  • Rolling pin
  • Round cookie cutters
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheet lined with silpat mats

FIX

BLACK SESAME PASTRY CREAM

  1. Whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  Lightly whisk egg yolks together in a small bowl.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it begins to steam.  Slowly add the flour mixture, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, until the mixture begins to bubble and is thickened.  This takes about 2 minutes.
  3. Take about a ladle of the hot milk mixture and whisk it into the egg yolks to bring their temperature up a little.  Then pour the warmed yolk mixture into the rest of the thickened milk.  Continue to cook, again whisking constantly, until the pastry cream starts to come to a boil.
  4. Take the pan off the heat and add the butter and black sesame paste.  Whisk together until butter is melted and black sesame paste is evenly incorporated.  Strain the pastry cream through a mesh strainer and into a bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap directly touching the surface of the pastry cream and chill, preferably overnight.  Before using, whisk in heavy whipping cream, a tablespoon at a time until the cream reaches desired consistency. The pastry cream can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

CRAQUELIN

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment, then add the flour and black sesame paste and continue to mix the dough until it’s smooth.
  2. Put the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and roll the dough until it’s about 13-inches (33cm) round. Slide the dough on a baking sheet and freeze the dough for at least 10 minutes.

CHOUX

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (220 C.) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. (Depending on the size of your baking sheets, it may take two.)
  2. Heat the water, salt, sugar, and butter in a small saucepan, stirring, until the butter is melted. Remove from heat and dump all the flour in at once. Stir rapidly until the mixture is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the pan.
  3. Allow dough to cool for two minutes, then briskly beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth and shiny.
  4. Using a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip, pipe 1 Tbsp. sized rounds down onto silpat mat allowing at least an inch of space between each round as rounds will puff/expand.
  5. Remove the craquelin dough from the freezer and let it stand a minute or so, until it’s defrosted just enough to cut. Using a round cookie cutter about the same diameter of the puffs, cut out circles of the dough and set them on top of the puffs. 
  6. Bake the cream puffs until puffed and well-browned, about 25 to 30 minutes. If they get too dark midway through baking, lower the heat of the oven to 375ºF (190ºC) and continue baking.

ASSEMBLY

  1. When puffs have cooled, use a sharp knife to poke a hole into the bottom of each puff. Pipe pastry cream using a pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip. Be careful not to overfill, as puff will burst!
  2. To make marzipan Totoro, divide your marzipan into four equal parts. Leave one part plain, color two parts grey, using black sesame paste, and color half of the last part green with matcha green tea powder and the other half black with black sesame paste. Knead in ingredients with your hands for the colored parts. Place the plain, uncolored parts between two pieces of parchment and into an oval that's about 1/16-inch thick. Do the same with the grey part and green parts. Using a knife and a round cookie cutter that's approximately the same diameter as your puffs, cut out your Totoro body. Next cut out the belly and eyes from the plain, uncolored part, and cut out leaves from the green part. Roll out thin pieces of black marzipan for the stripes, whiskers, and eye-balls. 
  3. Secure on the top of your puff with a dallop of pastry cream.
  4. Serve and enjoy!

Note: f you want to make them crispier, you can poke a hole in the side with a knife after you take them out of the oven to let the steam escape.

Storage: The cream puffs are best eaten the same day they’re made. Once cooled, they can be frozen in a zip-top freezer bag for up to one month. Defrost at room temperature, then warm briefly on a baking sheet in a moderate oven, until crisp.