The first time we visited Japan, we were suprised to see quite how universally loved French style patisserie was. Many menus had cream filled choux buns nestled alongside traditional sweets like wagashi and daifuku mochi, and there were countless little bakeries on street corners selling Mont Blanc cakes and millefeuille. This love of cakes, especially cream puffs, led to the founding of one of Japan’s most popular fast food chains- Beard Papa’s- which has become such a well known brand that their beloved mascot even appeared in the 2012 Disney film, Wreck-it Ralph.
In our homage to this, we’ve combined a classic French craquelin choux bun with a filling made from milk-caramel and matcha green tea to create an understated, elegant tea-time treat with real Japanese flavour. These little morsels have a crisp, crumbly shell on top reminiscent of another of the country’s favourite baked goods, melon-pan, and go perfectly with a cup of tea when you need to recharge towards the end of the day.
Matcha caramel ingredients.
- 1 can/397g sweetened condensed milk
- 4g matcha powder
- Place a metal steaming trivet in a large saucepan, peel the label from the can of condensed milk and place the whole, unpunctured can on the trivet. Pour enough cold water into the pan to entirely cover the can by at least 4-5cm.
- Slowly bring the water to a simmer over a medium heat, let it cook for four hours undisturbed, ensuring that the can remains completely submerged at all times. If the water level starts looking low, top it up with boiling water from a kettle- if you add cold water it could cause the can to rupture. Once the can has cooked for four hours, turn off the heat and allow it to cool fully before removing it.
- Open the can to reveal a rich, thick milk caramel (dulce de leche) and spoon it into a mixing bowl. Dissolve your matcha in a tablespoon of hot water to make a slurry, pass it through a fine strainer to make sure there aren’t any lumps then add it to the caramel, mixing well.
Quite often you can buy tins of condensed milk that have already been boiled and made into caramel, if you can get hold of one of these they work just as well as doing it yourself. In this case just skip steps 1 & 2.
Choux pastry ingredients.
- 140g plain flour
- 125g unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 250ml water
- 250g eggs, beaten
- In a saucepan, combine the butter, salt and water and cook over a gentle heat to melt the butter. Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up and bring the mixture to a simmer. Once it has started to bubble, take the pan off the heat and tip in the flour. Beat the flour into the liquid quickly with a spatula and work out all the lumps until it forms a smooth paste. Return the pan to the heat and cook the paste for two minutes while continuing to beat it constantly with the spatula. When the paste starts to look glossy you are ready to move onto the next step.
- Transfer the flour paste to a food mixer fitted with a beater attachment and beat it for about twenty seconds to loosen the dough. Add a quarter of the eggs and beat the paste until smooth, repeat this process another three times until you have used all of the eggs and the mixture is smooth and shiny. Finally, give the pastry one last beat on a higher speed to make sure it is all thoroughly combined. The pastry will be thick and slightly sticky and it will be able to support itself in small peaks without drooping or flopping much.
- Transfer the choux paste into a piping bag and allow to cool to room temperature. To create perfectly uniform cream puffs we like to pipe our choux paste into a 4cm hemisphere silicon mould, then freeze until solid. At this stage you can pop the frozen domes from the mould and store them in a bag in the freezer until you’re ready to cook.
Cookie topping ingredients.
- 80g unsalted butter, softened
- 100g demerara sugar
- 95g plain flour
- Cream the softened butter and sugar together in a bowl with a spoon until it is evenly blended but still grainy from the sugar crystals. Add the flour and stir until a cohesive mass forms, at first it will seem like the mixture is way too dry but it’ll come together, just keep mixing.
- When a dough has formed, squeeze it together with your hands a couple of times, pat out into a disc and wrap it in cling film. Refrigerate the cookie dough for at least an hour until firm.
Matcha-caramel cookie cream puffs ingredients.
- 1 quantity matcha caramel
- 1 quantity choux pastry, frozen in hemispheres
- 1 quantity cookie topping
- 600ml double cream
- Preheat your oven to 180ºC and line two baking trays with greaseproof paper. Knead the cookie dough slightly to make it more workable, then, in between two sheets of cling film, roll it out to about 2mm thick. If the dough cracks apart, just press it back together and keep going. Cut the dough into 4cm rounds with a cookie cutter and keep to one side.
- Arrange the frozen choux hemispheres on your baking sheets, allowing plenty of room for them to grow (they’ll be around 7cm across when fully cooked) and then place a cookie disc on top of each. If you don’t have access to a hemisphere mould, you can simply pipe your choux paste onto the baking sheets and top with the cookies.
- Put the trays into your preheated oven and cook for around 30 minutes until golden brown, swapping the trays over halfway through. At this point turn down your oven to 165ºC and continue to cook at this lower temperature for another twenty minutes. Turn your oven down again, this time to 150ºC, cook for 15 minutes more to ensure that the cream puffs are completely cooked on the inside of their cavity and form a crisp shell.
- Remove the puffs from the oven, pierce the bottom of each of them with a sharp knife to release the steam and place them upside down on a cooling rack.
- While the puffs are cooling down, make your filling. Whip the cream with a whisk until firm and then fold it into the matcha caramel. Fill a piping bag with the light green cream mixture and pipe it into the cooled cream puffs via the knife hole in their bases. Wipe any excess filling from the bottom of the cream puffs, turn them the right way up and serve.
Makes approximately 30-35 cookie cream puffs.