These choux have a lovely exterior with a hint of orange coming from the craquelin, paired with the silky almond creme mousseline. You may not want to eat these because they look too cute, but once you devour one you will just have to pander to your cravings.
For the craquelin
40g salted butter*
40g light brown sugar
40g plain flour
Zest of one orange
For the choux
55g salted butter*
35g plain flour
35g strong white flour
For the creme mousseline
360ml whole milk
3 egg yolks
65g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla bean paste
1/4tsp almond extract
60g salted butter*
Additional 60g salted butter*
*Or use unsalted butter and add salt to taste
For the icing
300g icing sugar
White food dye (optional)
Black food dye
Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/475F/gas 9. Prepare a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper or a silicone mat.
Make the choux pastry. Chop the butter and add it to a small saucepan with the water and a pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter). Heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is starting to bubble. Weigh the strong and plain white flour in a separate bowl. When the butter mixture is bubbling, remove it from the heat and add the flour all in one go. Stir with a wooden spoon until it forms a smooth ball that pulls away from the sides very easily – this is called a panada.
Transfer the panada to a metal stand mixer bowl with paddle attachment. Leave to cool for 10 minutes or so, or until no longer steaming when mixed on low speed.
Meanwhile, make the craquelin for the choux. Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the flour and orange zest. Combine using a spoon, and then using your hands to form a ball. Roll out thinly between two sheets of clingfilm and transfer to the freezer.
Add the first egg to the panada, mixing on slow speed. Whisk the second egg in a separate bowl and add gradually, a tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition. You are looking for a glossy consistency, which leaves a “v” shape when a spoon is lifted out of the dough. You may not need the whole egg.
Transfer to a piping bag and cut a medium tip. Pipe 10 to 12 circles on to the baking tray. Remove the craquelin from the freezer, and cut similar sized circles and place these on top of each choux bun.
Place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 200C (180C fan)/400F/gas 6. Bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes. Don’t open the oven until at least 25 minutes have passed, to avoid the choux pastry deflating.
While the choux are baking, make the almond creme mousseline. Add the milk to a pan and stir over a low to medium heat until just starting to bubble. In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornflour and mix until just combined. When the milk is bubbling, pour a small amount (about a third) into the egg yolk mixture, while whisking constantly. When combined, add the rest of the milk while still continuously whisking. Then pour it all back into the saucepan.
Put the pan back on a medium heat and whisk by hand until the mixture is very thick. Then stir in the amaretto, vanilla bean paste and almond extract. Next add the butter a few chunks at a time, stirring over the heat until melted evenly. Then spoon into a bowl, cover with clingfilm (making sure it touches the surface) and leave to cool in the fridge.
When the choux are baked, immediately turn them over and use a knife to pierce the base.
When the creme mousseline is completely cool, whisk again just to loosen it a bit. Then add the extra softened butter in, a few chunks at a time. Whisk well until completely smooth.
Pipe the creme mousseline into the cooled choux buns through the hole created earlier, making sure each one is filled completely.
Next, make the icing. Whisk together the icing sugar and enough water to make an icing that is thick but will still form a smooth coating (you can test this on a spare choux, then adjust the consistency if needed). You can also add white food dye which will make the icing more opaque, although this is optional. Place the choux buns on a wire rack, and then spoon over the icing so that it evenly covers the sides.
Add the panda ears using chocolate buttons. And then leave to semi set before adding the eyes – you can either use chocolate buttons using a little extra icing to stick them on, or pipe these on. To pipe on the eyes and mouth, add black food dye to the remaining icing, plus extra icing sugar to achieve a more pipeable consistency. Then transfer to a piping bag, cut the tip and pipe the details.