I’ve been sitting on this idea for a few years. Over time I’ve obviously collected a lot of recipe books and most of which I’ve probably not even baked a single thing from. So I put word out on my Facebook and corresponded a number to each one of the recipe books I’ve managed to acquire in the 12 months I’ve been living in Australia, the first person to comment a number 1-10 (without knowing which book) would determine which book the recipe would be rouletted from. A second Facebook post would then give me the page.
So out went the Facebook post, round the roulette wheel went and in came the result.
The book I feared the most; Step by Step Cooking Course (Margaret Wade 1977). I bought this book from an op-shop (like most of my books) because I find it really interesting to see how differently people ate, cooked and prepared food in previous decades. The different methods and old fashioned pictures of food.
Thankfully the page number was towards the end of the book and the recipe was in the desserts section (ease me into this roulette with something I know).
Gáteau St Honoré.
Traditionally this dessert has a puff pastry base decorated with filled choux in a ring then finished with crème pâtissière and chant illy cream. The main difference with the recipe I attempted was a base of sweet shortcrust instead of the puff pastry.
Had someone placed this dish in front of me and asked me to guess I could have easily pointed towards traditional French patisserie. Choux, custard and cream. Of course, no brainer.
I followed the recipe as closely as I could with a few exceptions. I had only a couple of major issues ultimately down to the simplicity of the instructions. Saying that I was also surprised at times that some of the steps worked out as well as they did. (I’ve copied the recipe word-for-word including spelling to this blog post)
Id be happy to make this dessert again, following my own instincts more and reinventing the dated design. Overall you can’t go wrong when custard and cream are both involved.
For sweet shortcrust pastry
1lb 2oz (500g) plain flour
11oz (300g) butter
2oz (50g) sifted icing sugar
1 lightly beaten egg
1/4pt (150ml) cold water (which I’ve just realised I used milk having accidentally looked towards the choux recipe)
For sweet choux paste
1oz (25g) unsalted butter
1/4 pt (150ml) milk
1 sugar lump (I know… Just you wait)
3oz (75g) plain flour
2&1/2 eggs (yep! I know 2&1/2! Well I just used 3 medium eggs)
3oz (75g) castor sugar
3tbsp (45ml) water
1/2pt (300ml) confectioners’ custard*
1/2pt (300ml) chantilly cream*
(*the recipes for both of these ingredients are earlier on in the book)
1/2 pt (300ml) milk (I used cream)
1 vanilla pod (I only used the seeds and put the pod in my box of caster sugar for later)
1oz (25g) plain flour
3 egg yolks (I added an extra yolk)
4oz (100g) castor sugar
1. Gently heat the milk with the vanilla pod in a pan over a very low heat, until tiny bubbles just start to rise to the surface. Do not allow to boil. Immediately take the pan off the heat, remove the vanilla pod, and reserve for future use.
2. Sift the flour. Whisk together the egg yolks, flour and sugar. Stir in the vanilla flavoured milk. Pour the mixture into a Bain Marie or into a basin standing in a pan of hot water over a gentle heat. Using a wooden spoon stir custard until it becomes thick and creamy and evenly coats the back of the spoon. Remove from the heat at once and use hot or cold according to recipe.
Firstly with this custard recipe it doesn’t seem to really thicken much so after 15 minutes or so using the double boiler method I put the custard straight into the pan for some direct contact with the heat to speed up the process. Secondly in terms of the Gáteau st Honoré I needed twice the amount that the recipe called for.
1/4 pt (150ml) double cream
2tsp (10g) castor sugar
1/2 tsp (2.50ml) vanilla essence
1. Whisk the chilled cream until just thick- don’t over whip or it will become too firm to use properly. Stir in the sugar and vanilla essence.
2. In another bowl, stiffly whip the egg white and lightly fold into the whipped cream mixture. Use immediately according to recipe.
So as the Gâteau st Honorè recipe called for 300ml I doubled this recipe which was a mistake as once the egg is airated and combined with the cream you end up with enough by following the single recipe. My second mistake was being so concerned with not over whipping the cream that I don’t think I whipped enough. This resulted in a cream that didn’t hold the rosette shapes very well.
Now those two elements are out of the way (baring in mind the cream should be made after assembling the structure of the dessert) onto the grand finale!
1. Set oven at 350f (180c) or Mark 4.
2. Make the shortcrust pastry. Sift the flour and a pinch of salt onto your work surface, make a well in the centre and into this put the butter, sugar and egg. Using 2 knives, gradually blend the flour into the other ingredients, adding a little water from time to time, until a soft but not sticky dough is formed. Wrap in greased grease proof paper and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before rolling out to 8 inch (20 cm) diameter, 1/2 inch (12mm) thick, round. Put on a greased and floured baking sheet and bake in the preset oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Take out and cool.
I guess I should have attempted to do this step exactly to the recipes instructions but instinct compelled me to rub the butter into the dry ingredients and then add the liquid to bind the two. The amount of pastry dough I ended up with far exceeded what I needed. My 8″ round 1/2″ thick was more like 10″ 1″. It spent a long time in the oven I wasn’t timing but I would say between 35 and 50 minutes.
3. Increase the oven temperature to 400f (200c) or Mark 6. Make the sweet chorus pastry. In a heavy based pan over a low heat melt the butter in the milk and heat until the milk starts to bubble. At once add the sugar and stir until it is dissolved. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to the boil, then stir in the flour at once and let the mixture bubble up quickly. Take off the heat immediately and beat in the egg until a smooth paste is formed and it comes away cleanly from the sides of the pan. Set aside to cool.
To say I was dubious that this recipe and method would provide anything remotely successful was an understatement but I followed the method to a t.
4. When cold, fill the choux paste into a piping bag fitted with a medium or small plain round nozzle and pipe about 16-18 choux buns onto a greased and floured baking sheet, spacing them wide apart. Bake in the preset oven for 10-15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Take out and cool on a wire rack. Split in half when cold and fill with a little confectioners custard. To finish the cake, place pastry base on a serving dish. In a heavy based pan over a low heat dissolve the sugar into the water, then bring to the boil and boil until the syrup starts to go straw coloured at the edges. Remove from the heat at once.
To my surprise the choux came out of the oven looking wonderful! I won’t say they were perfect.
5. Dip the choux buns into the syrup, using a pair of kitchen tongs, and arrange in 2 circles small, one on top of the other, around the pastry base. Use the syrup to anchor them in position. Spoon the confectioners custard into the center of the cake, then cover with about two thirds of the chantilly cream. Fill the remaining chantilly cream into a piping bag fitted with a rosette nozzle and pipe rosettes on top and over the cake.
I was impressed that the sugar syrup measurements produced the PERFECT amount of caramelised sugar and the method resulted in a caramel that didn’t boil too far. The remaining issues I had with assembly of this extravagant dessert have already been mentioned (the first attempt at chantilly cream for instance)
Overall this is a really impressive dessert one which experienced cooks (amateurs and professionals) could complete to relative success. And as the saying goes ‘the proof is in the pudding’ which was light, creamy, crunchy and crumbly. I’d like to do it all over again adding my own twists!