These choux buns are inspired by my latest obsession: halva! The craquelin topping makes them extra special adding delicious crunch.
It seems the baking world has gone tahini mad and not for no reason – the bitter paste made from sesame seeds is as addictive as peanut butter and has added much-needed balance to loads of too-sweet desserts (check out my recipe for tahini choc chip cookies!). And where you’ll find a tahini obsession, you’ll also find an halva obsession! I decided to merge it with my other latest obsession; craquelin choux buns.
WHAT IS HALVA?
To be clear, we’ve been using the word ‘halva’ wrong this entire time. We think we’re referring to the sweet in the picture on the right, right?! Nope. The world ‘halva’ is derived from the Arabic word meaning ‘sweet’ so the term ‘halva’ actually refers to an entire array of sweets which are popular across Arab nations, the Mediterranean, Central Asia, Algeria and Eastern Europe. And just like any other ‘sweet’ the ingredients and textures vary quite drastically from each other.
What we think of as ‘halva’, also known as halvah, is the Middle Eastern sweetmeat made predominantly from roasted sesame seeds (sunflower seeds can also be used). The seeds are ground into a smooth paste and mixed with boiled sugar. It has a high-fat content and although very sweet has a slightly bitter taste. It’s definitely worth buying the good stuff as the quality can vary but whatever you do, make sure you store it well away from humidity – it reduces a slab of halva into a runny puddle fast! Other types of halva are made with semolina, flour, cornstarch, lentils or vegetables and can range from a pudding-like consistency to set jellies. Interesting right?!
WHAT IS CRAQUELIN?
Craquelin is a super-simple pastry that’s rolled thinly, frozen, cut out and placed on top of choux pastry. The two are baked together and in the oven they create magic! There are four things I LOVE about craquelin:
- It adds a lovely crunchy top to the choux pastry – that texture is EVERYTHING when you fill the choux with soft whipped cream.
- It adds flavour to an otherwise rather bland pastry. Craquelin can be coloured with food colouring and flavoured to compliment your choux buns.
- It helps the choux pastry rise evenly – notice that these choux buns are not wonky or uneven but perfect little rounds. That’s all thanks to the craquelin which weighs it down ever so slightly while it bakes.
- Craquelin is also super easy to make; just mix together 3 ingredients and roll it out.
Sounds simple enough, right? Now go give these choux buns and the craquelin a go! Just remember to buy extra halva – the stuff is addictive and you WILL eat it all!
- 110g cake flour
- 80g salted butter, cut into small blocks
- 1 cup (250ml) water
- 3 extra large eggs, lightly beaten
- 200g halva, plus extra to decorate
- 30ml (2 tbsp) icing sugar, sifted
- 500ml cream
- 40g softened butter
- 45g soft brown sugar
- 40g cake flour
- 10g halva
- 1 tsp sesame seeds, plus extra for sprinkling
- Start by making the craquelin, combine the ingredients together to form a soft dough. Roll out the craquelin between two pieces of cling wrap to 2mm thick. Transfer to a baking tray and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- To make the eclairs, sift the flour and salt together. Heat the butter and water until just melted then bring to a rolling boil. Immediately remove from the heat and add all the flour at once. Mix until a smooth dough forms, place back on the heat and cook for about 1 minute or until the pastry pulls away from the sides of the pot. Allow to cool until lukewarm.
- Beat the eggs into the pastry a little at a time until smooth, shiny and of a piping consistency. Place the pastry in a piping bag fitted with a large fluted nozzle. Pipe small blobs of choux about 4cm in diameter onto a lined baking tray.
- Use a cooking cutter cut out 5cm discs from the cold craquelin then place the craquelin discs on top of each blob. Bake at 180 degrees for about 15 – 20 minutes or until puffed up and golden. Turn off oven, remove the puffs, pierce each with a skewer to allow steam to escape and immediately return to the oven to dry out for 15 minutes.
- Make the filling by crumbling the halva into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Add the sugar and mix well. Add 50ml of cream and mix to form a paste. Gradually add the rest of the cream, a little at a time while whisking until cream reaches stiff peak stage. Place in a piping bag fitted with a star nozzle tip.
- To assemble, slice the tops off the buns and pipe the cream to fill. Sprinkle with halva and sesame seeds then place the top of the bun on top. Repeat with the remaining eclairs. Serve on the same day.