While classic cream puffs are delicious, there’s just something about a professional’s touch that makes them extraordinary. Take Natasha Pickowicz’s version here from her stunning new book More Than Cake. While they take a bit more effort to make, the end result is well worth it! Here’s what the chef has to say about this recipe:

For a recipe that triples as a breakfast treat, an afternoon snack, or an elegant dessert, pâte à choux is the perfect place to start. I love these puffs for breakfast, as the buckwheat’s earthy scent snuggles right up to the warming, roasted fragrance of coffee, maple syrup, and pecans.

Makes 12 to 15 puffs


Mocha Craquelin

  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60 grams) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons (75 grams) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (75 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (5 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon (6 grams) ground espresso or instant coffee
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Maple Pecans

  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) maple sugar
  • Flaky sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons (40 grams) maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon (½ ounce/15 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon rum or bourbon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup (75 grams) pecan pieces, toasted

Mocha Latte Puffs

  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60 grams) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) water
  • ¼ cup (60 grams) whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) maple sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (60 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons buckwheat flour
  • 3 eggs (150 grams), whisked together
  • Mocha Craquelin, frozen
  • 1½ cups (360 grams) cold heavy cream
  • ½ cup (110 grams) mascarpone, well chilled
  • 1 tablespoon (6 grams) instant coffee
  • 1 tablespoon (7 grams) powdered sugar, plus more for dusting
  • ½ cup (65 grams) Maple Pecans, roughly chopped


Make the Craquelin 

  1. Mix the craquelin. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar together for 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl well. Add the vanilla and paddle to combine, about 5 seconds. Add the all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, ground espresso, and salt and paddle on low speed until just combined, about 15 seconds.
  1. Roll out the craquelin. Transfer the dough to a 12-by-16-inch sheet of parchment paper and press another piece of parchment paper on top. Use a rolling pin to firmly press the dough down, sandwiching it in between the sheets of parchment. Roll the dough out very thin, to about the dimensions of the parchment paper. Transfer the parchment pack to the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  1. Portion the craquelin. Remove the dough sheet from the refrigerator. Carefully peel the top piece of parchment off. Using a 3-inch round cookie cutter, punch out 12 rounds. If the craquelin begins to smear, return to the fridge before attempting to punch more. Let the rounds freeze fully on a parchment-lined sheet before stacking in a container. Store frozen until ready to use.

Make Maple Pecans 

  1. In a small bowl, combine the maple sugar and a big pinch of flaky salt. In a small pot, bring the maple syrup, butter, rum, and vanilla to a boil over medium heat. Whisk well. Let reduce by half, swirling the pot occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes. The sauce should look thick and golden brown and bubble evenly. Add the pecans and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to simmer until the syrup tightly clings to the nuts and the pot is beginning to dry out, another 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the hot nuts to the bowl of maple sugar and toss to coat. Spread the nuts on a sheet pan covered in parchment paper and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Make the Puffs 

  1. Start to make the dough. In a medium pot, combine the butter, water, milk, vanilla, maple sugar, and salt and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, about 3 minutes. Add the all-purpose and buckwheat flours and vigorously beat the mixture with a wooden spoon or spatula until a ball of dough forms, pressing down with the spoon to work out any lumps.
  1. Cook the flour paste. Continue to push, smear, and move the dough ball around, releasing steam from the paste. After 3 to 4 minutes, a gummy layer of starch should form on the bottom of the pot. Do not scrape this mixture up; let it build! Lift up the side of the dough with your spatula and let it drop back into the pot; it should feel supple and emulsified and pull cleanly away from the pot. Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (or to a large bowl if using a handheld mixer). Let the mixture cool for at least 15 to 20 minutes. (Ideally, the batter should be completely cool before adding the eggs, which will result in a stronger and better rise in the oven.)
  1. Meanwhile, preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
  1. Stream in the eggs. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs. With the mixer running on medium-low speed, stream in 3 tablespoons of the whisked egg and paddle until combined. Turn off the mixer, scrape the bottom of the bowl well, and mix again. Add another 3 tablespoons of whisked egg and repeat. The mixture will gradually loosen and increase in shine. Stream in the remaining whisked egg just a tablespoon at a time, until the dough appears golden and glossy and spools easily around the paddle. (If you turn the mixer off, the ribbon of dough should cling to the paddle for one beat and then slowly slump away.) You may not need all of the whisked egg.
  1. Portion the puffs. To bake in batches, top two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Transfer the dough to a piping bag or zip-seal bag, cut an opening ½ inch (1.25 cm) wide in the tip or a bottom corner, and portion 2 heaping tablespoons of dough onto the prepared sheet pans, staggering the puffs 3 inches (7.5 cm) apart. (Or use a spoon to portion the dough.) You should be able to fit 6 to 8 puffs on each half-sheet pan.
  1. Top with craquelin and bake. Place a frozen round of craquelin on top of each puff. Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans front to back and reduce the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C). Bake until the puffs feel hollow when picked up and have crisp bottoms, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and use a small paring knife or cake tester to prick a small hole on the base of each puff, allowing the steam to escape. Lean each puff on the rim of the baking sheet and let cool completely.
  1. Meanwhile, make the cream filling. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk (or in a large bowl using a handheld mixer), whip the chilled heavy cream, mascarpone, instant coffee, and powdered sugar on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.
  1. Fill the puffs. Slice the puffs in half crosswise, like you’d slice a hamburger bun, and pipe a thick ring of cream on each bottom half. Sprinkle the maple pecan pieces in the center and place the top halves of the choux on top, like a jaunty hat. Serve immediately.

Excerpted from More Than Cake by Natasha Pickowicz (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2023. Photographs by Graydon Herriot.


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