These apple cream puffs are made with choux au craquelin pastry filled with cinnamon apple whipped cream. They're topped with a cute little white chocolate stem and leaf. These cream puffs are coloured red and styled like actual apples to make them extra fun. The crunchy craquelin cookie topping helps the cream puffs hold their rounded shape. The crunchiness is also a nice contrast to the creamy filling.
I always thought the round puffy shape of cream puffs were super cute. Cream puffs are always so much fun to decorate in creative ways. Inspired by Cedric Grolet's hyper-realistic desserts that look like real fruits, I decided to make these cinnamon apple cream puffs look like the apples that they taste like. While I'm not nearly as skilled as Cedric, this is a fun way to make a dessert look like a fruit in a fun way with much less effort.
The filling of these apple cream puffs is a light and creamy cinnamon apple whipped cream. Cooking the apples brings out the flavour and juiciness of the apples. When paired with the whipped cream, you get bites of bursting flavour from the apples through the creaminess.
I actually tested this filing twice and the second iteration tasted the best and it's what this recipe makes. For my first try, I made the filling with a pastry cream base but the texture needed work and it was also harder to make. The photos you see here were taken of the first version of the cinnamon apple filling. The version that this recipe below makes looks and tastes better than the photos. Trust me!
How to make cinnamon apple cream puffs
Make the craquelin cookie topping
In a small bowl, use a spatula to cream together softened butter, granulated sugar, and red gel food colouring until creamy and evenly coloured. Mix in the flour until it becomes a smooth and soft dough.
Sandwich the dough in between two sheets of plastic wrap (or one sheet folded in half). Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to about ⅛" thick. Fold over the remaining edges of plastic wrap and freeze until it becomes a solid and flat sheet, about 1 hour.
Note: These process photos show adding the red gel food colouring after mixing in the flour. But I found that it is much easier to mix if you add the colouring to the softened butter first.
Make the choux pastry
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small pot on medium heat, bring the butter, water, milk, and red gel food colouring to a simmer. It is at the right temperature when small bubbles start coming to the surface.
Add in all of the flour at once and quickly stir together until it becomes a soft dough.
Keep cooking the dough on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes to dry it out. Use a spatula to stir it around, break it apart, and reform it into a dough. It should look like dry mashed potatoes.
Let the dough cool in the pot or transfer to a bowl for faster cooling until warm to the touch.
Add the egg to the dough in three parts, stirring thoroughly after each addition until the egg has been “absorbed” by the dough. It might look like it’s curdling at first but just keep stirring.
The dough is right the right consistency when it’s smooth and glossy. Scoop up some dough with your spatula and let it drop back into the bowl. The dough should leave a V-shaped triangle of dough hanging off the spatula.
Use a 2” cookie scooper to scoop mounds of dough and place them on the lined baking sheet leaving at least 2” in between each mound.
Take the craquelin out of the freezer. Use a 2” round cutter to cut rounds out of the craquelin sheet. Place the rounds on top of each mound of choux dough.
Bake at 400°F for 5 minutes then turn down the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking for another 25-30 minutes until the walls are stiff. A few minutes before they’re finished baking, use a chopstick to poke a small hole in the top of each puff to let the steam out. This will also be the hole to insert the chocolate stems later. Let cool completely before filling.
Make the cinnamon apple whipped cream
In a small pot, stir together chopped apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Cover and bring to a boil on medium heat. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the juices are released from the apples.
Quickly stir in the cornstarch until the juices thicken into a jelly-like sauce consistency. If it's too dry, you can add a tablespoon or two of water. Transfer to a small bowl to cool completely either on the counter or in the fridge.
In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer or whisk to whip the cream until it thickens and becomes soft peaks.
Add the cooled apple compote to the whipped cream and use a spatula to fold together until thoroughly combined.
Transfer the whipped cream to a piping bag fitted with a round tip that is big enough for the chopped apple pieces to pass through.
Use another piping tip or chopstick to poke a hole in the bottom of each choux puff. Insert the nozzle of the piping bag into the hole and pipe the cream into the pastry until you can feel the walls slightly expand and when you remove the piping tip, the filling should ooze back out slightly. Use a clean finger to wipe away any excess that comes out.
Make the chocolate stems
In a small pan or bowl, melt the white chocolate on the stovetop on low heat or in the microwave, heating in 15 second increments.
Divide the melted chocolate into two small bowls and add brown gel food colouring to one bowl and green gel food colouring to the other. Stir well to mix.
Transfer the chocolate into two tiny piping bags and cut off the tip of each bag.
Line a small cutting board with a sheet of wax paper. Use the brown chocolate to pipe straight lines about 2” long for the stems.
Use the green chocolate to pipe a round dollop about ⅓ from the end of each stem, right on top of the stem. With a small offset spatula, press down on the dollop to flatten and then gently pull away from the stem at an angle to smear the chocolate. Use the side of your finger to shape the smear into a point for the leaf.
Chill these stems in the fridge for about 15 minutes until hardened. Gently peel off them off the wax paper and insert into the holes on the top of each cream puffs where you poked them to release stem during baking.
Frequently asked questions
Filled cream puffs should be eaten right away or on the same day but leftovers can be stored wrapped in the fridge for 1-2 days.
You can freeze filled cream puffs but they will no longer be crunchy after thawing. Frozen unfilled choux pastries can be wrapped and frozen for up to 3 months. They can be thawed in the fridge overnight and baked again at 350°F for about 10 minutes to crisp them up again.
To keep craquelin crunchy, make sure you bake the choux for enough time. They should be golden brown and walls should be stiff straight out of the oven. Poke a hole in the choux a few minutes before they finish baking to let the steam out and dry out the inside walls of the puffs. Cream puffs should only be filled right before eating.
The choux pastry dough can be make ahead and stored in the fridge or frozen. The craquelin cookie sheet can be frozen for even longer. Baked and unfilled choux puffs can be stored in the fridge or frozen - just bake them again to crisp them up.