Petits choux et poupelains

I was intrigued by the name of this delicacy fit for a king:"poupoulains." From the brief description it appeared to be an early version of profiteroles or eclairs. The recipe called for only four ingredients: eggs;  fleur de pur froment, which I found to be a fine cake flour; formage mol; and salt to taste. I wasn't sure by what he meant by formage mol. Did he mean cheese or was he referring to a specific shape? Thankfully, I no longer had to wonder as a French friend informed me that it is a very creamy cheese. I used mascarpone to good effect.

Nicolas de Bonnefons began with the eggs from which half the whites need to be removed. Since he provided no exact quantities, I went to my Larousse Gastronomique, a book that I have owned since I was a student, simply titled "French Cooking" by Eileen Reece (Park Lane Press, 1978) and used the recipe for Pâte à chou (p.197) for reference.

 I used five eggs and removed the whites of two before adding them one by one into the pan. In both of these sources, the choux pastry begins with the butter or cheese melted into water.  I decided it was necessary to follow one of these, so used Reece's quantities, which used 5 eggs rather than the sixteen called for in Larousse!

The recipes follows:

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stir together with a wooden spoon:
275 ml. / 1 C. + cold water
120 ml. / 4 oz. unsalted butter or mascarpone, see above)
a pinch of salt

Continue stirring until the butter or cheese has just melted.

Take off the heat, then all at once add:
150 g / 5 oz. cake flour, sifted.

Beat well and return to the heat briefly until the mixture begins to come off the sides of the pan.
Add 5 eggs one at a time, reserving the whites of the last two.

The mixture will turn quite yellow as the yolks are added.

Beat further until it glistens. Spoon into a piping bag with a wide nozzle, (or a heavy duty freezer bag from which you cut one corner to force the dough). Pipe into 1" x 3" lengths on parchment paper and place in a preheated oven at 425F for 10 a 15 min. until just starting to turn brown. Let them rest a few minutes, then slice horizontally and baste with melted butter, en donnant autant qu'il peuvent boire, as much as they can drink (which I thought a little too much).

Return them to the oven to dry them out a little, 4 or 5 minutes.
Now roll them in powdered sugar and drip rose water over them. I used a teaspoon  to apply it. Now they can be reassembled, dusted with a little more sugar, and served warm. Delicious!

Incidentally, as de Bonnefons suggests, one can try other flavourings such as orange-blossom water, Amaretto, or pure almond essence. I also tried a little slivered almond to add texture.

It appears that the title character of Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond de Rostand (1897) favoured the little treats:

« CYRANO : Aimez-vous le gâteau qu’on nomme petit chou?
LA DUÈGNE (avec dignité) : Monsieur, j’en fais état, lorsqu’il est à la crème.
CYRANO : J’en plonge six pour vous dans le sein d’un poème
De Saint-Amant! Et dans ces vers de Chapelain
Je dépose un fragment, moins lourd, de poupelin.
Ah! Vous aimez les gâteaux frais? »

- Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte II, scène V.
(for more information see:

(post by: Alison Sorbie)