I lost my mother earlier this month. It was by no means a surprise, but it hurt not one bit less.

I’ve been holding up ok, mostly, unless someone really insists on “talking about it”. I’m a crier, always have been, so it’s easy to get the waterworks going, even with the best of intentions. On the other hand, you can’t really say I bottle it up…

And then, there are ambushes. Grief hits at random moments. Last night, I was watching Salvage Hunters, and they found some porcelain eggs for broody hens. I bawled like a baby for 5 minutes because Mum collected decorative eggs.

And again this morning. I got up late to bake the Tuesday office tuck-shop goodies. I made a salted caramel, almond and dark chocolate torte, and realised I was out of double cream to fill profiteroles, so decided to bake plain old “chouquettes”, empty choux topped with a few grains of pearl sugar.

Mum’s favourite treat, one of the only things she would eat outside meal times. There go the waterworks again…


Choux pastry, a sprinkling of sugar... and a lot of air.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Cuisine: French
Keyword: chou, choux, pastry, pâtisserie
Servings: 3 dozen


  • 125 ml water
  • 125 ml semi-skim milk
  • 110 g butter
  • 140 g flour
  • 1 tsp salt level
  • 5 eggs medium
  • pearl sugar to taste


  • In a saucepan, heat up the water, milk and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted.
  • Turn the heat down, dump in the flour and salt, and with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir vigorously. Make sure there are no lumps, and still stirring, let the flour in the dough cook and absorb until the dough forms a ball.
  • Take the pan off the heat and keep stirring for a few minutes, to help the dough cool off a bit.
  • Turn the oven on to 200 degrees, 180 fan. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper.
  • Crack the eggs in a bowl and give them a quick whisk to mix in the yolks. 
  • When the dough (and the pan) has cooled down to hand temperature (so the eggs don't curdle), add about a quarter of the eggs and stir until they are thoroughly mixed in. Add a second quarter, mix, a third, mix. After each mix, the dough must be totally homogeneous.
  • For the last quarter, proceed with caution. The trick now is to add just as much as needed. The finished batter must hang in a V shape from the spoon when you lift it from the bowl (look up videos, there are hundreds of them).
  • Spoon the batter into a piping bag, fitted with a smooth round nozzle (or a star nozzle if you're feeling adventurous).
  • At this stage, it is possible to refrigerate the choux pastry for a while, even overnight. According to Philippe Conticini, this makes for a less bumpy item when the pastry bakes.
  • Pipe the pastry in small rounds, about 4cm in diameter. Tamp down the "nipple" on each chou with wet fingers. Sprinkle with a bit of pearl sugar.
  • Put both baking trays in the oven and let bake for about 30 minutes. DON'T open the oven door until you can see that the chouquettes are well puffed-up and a burnished colour. One of my other indicators is a strong smell of well-cooked egg.
  • Take out of the oven and place on a cooling rack. They should not sag or collapse.
  • If the chouquettes in one of the trays look paler than the others, leave them in until they are done as well.
  • Lovely with a cuppa or the coffee drink of your choice...


After a recipe by Mercotte, who wrote it after Philippe Conticini...


Pour toi, maman.