Creepy Crusty Cream Puffs For Halloween

It’s a very important time of year. The Great British Bake Off just started Series 11 and it’s Halloween month. The combination of these two wonderful things is exactly how I came up with these ghoulishly decadent Halloween pastries I call ... Creepy Crusty Cream Puffs!

Cream Puffs consist of 2 (or in this case 3) different recipes that end up together to create a single succulent semi-sweet pastry treat! The first recipe is for the choux pastry, which is a type of french pastry that’s cooked twice (once on the stove, once in the oven) and used as the base pastry for cream puffs, eclairs, and gougères. The second recipe is for a crème pâtissière--which is just a fancy way of saying pastry cream--which is a not-fancy way of saying egg custardy pudding stuff. The third recipe for this is the craquelin which sits atop the choux pastry when it cooks in the oven, leaving you with that lovely crackly crusty semi-sweet topping. Sounds like a lot--and honestly, it kind of is, but each of the three recipes are easy and when put together will leave you with the most impressively spooky dessert. 

Now, if you’ve never made any of these recipes in your life don’t panic--they are actually much easier than they look as long as you follow a few simple steps. (That said, I don’t advise this being the first thing you ever bake in your life). 

The 4 KEYS to make these perfect cream puffs:

  1. Make the 3 recipes in this order: 1) craquelin, 2) choux, 3) crème pâtissière
  2. Make sure to properly chill the craquelin before trying to cut it.
  3. Use an instant read thermometer to determine when the choux pastry is done while it's cooking on the stove in the first stage.
  4. Temper your eggs for the crème pâtissière, meaning slowly add them to the hot liquid. Do it too fast and you end up with a scramble.

Ready? Get your witch hat on and let's start making some pastry!

Creepy Crusty Cream Puffs



  • 1/2 cup (115g) packed brown sugar
  • 1 stick (115g) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, and softened to room temp
  • 1 scant cup (115g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt; or 1/16 teaspoon table salt
  • Black gel food coloring (you’ll need a lot!)


  1. Cream the butter and brown sugar together until smooth and creamy - about 2 minutes using an electric or stand mixer or about 5 minutes by hand. 
  2. Add the flour, salt, and gel food coloring and mix until fully incorporated (about 2 minutes). Ideally, you want this to look crumbly (almost like a grey coffee cake topping). (Note: mine refused to get crumbly, but still turned out fine, so don't stress too much!)
  3. Cut two large pieces of parchment paper. Place one on a work surface and set the other one aside. 
  4. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball (it will be a bit sticky but do not add extra flour - the dough has a high moisture content by design). Set the dough on top of the parchment paper and, using your fingers, shape dough into a roughly 6- by 8-inch flat rectangle.
  5. Cover the rectangle with the second sheet of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough into a 1/8-inch-thick rectangle (it should be about 12-by-14 inches in size); Transfer dough (still sandwiched by the parchment paper) to a rimmed baking sheet and freeze until cold, about 5 minutes (or refrigerate until cold, about 15 minutes). Meanwhile, line a second baking sheet with more parchment paper.
  6. After the dough has chilled, remove top sheet of parchment paper. Using a 1½ or 2 inch round cutter, stamp out 25 pieces of craquelin (18 if using 2 inch). Working quickly so the dough doesn't warm, transfer craquelin rounds to another baking sheet lined with parchment paper--in a single layer, and return to freezer; As the dough warms, you may need to slide an offset spatula under the cut-outs to loosen them from the parchment paper. Craquelin is very delicate and some may break, but you should still have enough dough to get 25 perfect circles.

Craquelin dough (pre-dyed)

Choux Pastry

This can be challenging for first timers. If you want, check out this great write-up (by people who do this for a living) on how exactly the process of making a choux works. It might set your minds at ease. You can do this!


  • 1 cup (235g) water
  • 6 tablespoons (84g) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2g) kosher salt or 1/4 (2g) teaspoon table salt 
  • 1 cup (128g) all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 4 large eggs (200g)
  • Orange gel food coloring


  1. In a 3-quart sauce pan, combine water, butter, and salt. Heat over high until the water comes to a boil and the butter has completely melted (about 2 minutes). [Note: you don’t want it to take much longer than this, because you don’t want too much water to evaporate while boiling]
  2. Remove from heat and add flour all at once. Using a wooden spoon, thoroughly mix in flour until no lumps remain. It will start to form into a squishy dough ball, and you shouldn’t see any remaining flour on the sides or corners of the pot. 
  3. Return saucepan to medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until dough registers 175°F (80°C) on an instant-read thermometer. [Note: if you don't have a thermometer, look for a thin starchy film that will begin to form all over the inside of the sauce pan--usually around the 2-3 minute mark]
  4. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and stir it until the temperature comes down to 145°F. 
  5. Add orange food coloring. Then add each egg to the dough ONE AT A TIME making sure to thoroughly mix the dough between each addition. [Note: If possible use an electric or stand mixer for this part.] Once all eggs have been added, it should look like a shiny, pasty batter-like dough. 
  6. Place dough into a large piping bag (or gallon size ziplock) and snip the corner about a ½ inch up and set aside. 
  7. Adjust your oven racks so that one is in upper-middle position, the other is in lower-middle position, and preheat oven to 375°F. Line two aluminum baking sheets with parchment paper. Pipe a small amount of choux paste under each corner of parchment paper (the dough acts as a glue and keeps the paper in place as you pipe).
  8. Cut two large sheets of parchment paper and draw 12 - 1½  inch (or 18-2 inch if that matches your craquelin cutouts) circles on each piece of parchment about 2-3 inches apart from one another. Flip the parchment paper upside down (so you can still see the circles but you won't get marker on your dough), and place each on separate cookie sheets. This is your piping template. Pipe a small amount of choux paste under each corner of parchment paper (the dough acts as a glue and keeps the paper in place as you pipe).
  9. Pipe the choux pastry into each circle. Start in the center of the circle with the piping bag perpendicular to the sheet with the tip barely touching it. Then, press the bag, lifting it up, until you have a ball of dough that fits snuggly in the circle. Repeat until all circles on each cookie sheet is filled.
  10. Top each choux ball with a craquelin cut-out. You want it to look like a table top, so make sure it’s as flat and straight as possible, then press down slightly to ensure it adheres to the choux.
  11. Bake both trays, switching racks and rotating trays front to back after 20 minutes, until the choux balls are puffed and feel hollow when lifted, about 30 minutes total. The craquelin should have formed to the surface of the choux ball, and cracked, exposing the orange underside through the dark surface!
  12. Working quickly, while choux balls are still hot, gently insert the tip of a paring knife (or small end of a chopstick) into the underside of each choux and rotate in a circular motion to create a small hole about 1/4 inch in size, then return to cookie sheet. Set both sheets in the turned-off but still warm oven with the door partially open for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely, about 15 minutes. This dries the inside of the pastry and creates the perfect environment for the pastry cream filling!

Butter and water just melted and just boiling
choux circle template

Choux balls with craquelin on top

Crème Pâtissière (AKA Pastry Cream)

  • 1 ⅛ c. (9fl oz) full-fat milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 medium egg yolks
  • 3 ¼ tbsp (40g) sugar
  • 1 ⅓ tbsp (10g) cornstarch
  • 1 ¼ tbsp (10g) plain flour
  • Green and yellow food colouring
  • ½ tbsp butter 

  1. Combine milk and vanilla extract in a sauce pan and with heat on medium, slowly bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 seconds.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until pale, then whisk in the cornstarch and flour. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture over the egg mixture, whisking continuously, then pour everything back into the sauce pan.
  3. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly over a medium heat and cook for one minute, or until thickened. Turn off heat and add butter and the green and yellow food colouring (in small amounts--it’s easy to add color, impossible to take away) and stir thoroughly until butter has melted and the creme has an even, slime-like colour. Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to cool for a few minutes, then transfer to the fridge to chill.

Pastry Cream on heat, stirring constantly

Putting it all Together! 

  1. Fill a piping bag (or ziplock) with the cooled pastry cream. Snip a small hole in the corner of the bag. 
  2. One at a time, carefully pick up a choux ball, turn it upside down so you can see the small hole you made. Stick the piping bag hole into the choux ball hole and squeeze slowly filling the choux ball with the pastry cream. Keep doing this until you finish (or run out of pastry cream). [Note: I did run out of pastry cream, so I had a few choux balls left over with no cream--but they still tasted great!]
  3. Put them on a plate, take a pic for instagram and show them off to all your friends!

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