Recipe: Courtesan au Chocolat



I love a culinary challenge. Macarons? Tick. Chocolate honeycomb? Tick. Rhubarb and vanilla jam? Tick. But patisserie? Tricky.

I attempted choux buns once. Let's just say that the end result didn't make the blog. But if anyone can persuade me to give it another go it's Wes Anderson (I think he could persuade me to anything).

If you've seen The Grand Budapest Hotel you'll know that an extraordinary cake features heavily: the Courtesan au Chocolat. Created by fictional bakery, Mendl's, the Courtesan au Chocolat is modelled heavily on the Religeuse, a classic French pastry. And for the curious bakers in the audience, Wes Anderson made the short instructional film below:



A few weeks back I made a batch of Courtesans - partly to see if I could do it, and partly because it's about as close as I'll get to the Republic of Zubrowka and that big old beautiful hotel on the side of a snowy mountain.

Courtesan au Chocolat

For the choux buns:
1 cup plain flour
1 cup water
1/4 lb butter
4 eggs, beaten
A pinch of salt
A larger pinch of sugar

Bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to the boil. Remove from the heat and mix in the sifted flour. Return to the heat for a few minutes, quickly stirring and cook until the dough forms a single lump.
Allow to cool enough to keep the eggs from cooking, and stir them in gradually using a strong wooden spoon.
Transfer the dough to a piping bag and pipe into dollops, in three sizes - tablespoon, teaspoon, hazelnut - a dozen of each.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25-35 minutes (the smaller buns will cook more quickly so check).
Remove from the oven, make a small piercing in the bottom of each bun to allow steam to escape.

For the chocolate creme patissiere:
1.5 cups milk
Several large pieces dark chocolate (I used about 100g)
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 spoons cocoa powder
1tbsp flour
Cornstarch, to thicken

Heat the milk and add the chocolate, stir to melt.
Whisk the egg yolks, flour, sugar, cocoa and cornstarch to a smooth mixture.
Add half the hot chocolate to the bowl, a bit at a time, stirring all the time.
Add this back to the rest of the hot milk, stirring over a gentle heat for a few minutes until thickened to a custard.
Remove from heat and chill.
Once cooled, spoon into a pastry bag and pipe into the centre of the large and medium pastry balls.

To decorate:
Icing sugar
A dash of vanilla
Milk, to thin
White chocolate, melted
Pale blue icing, to use as glue
Cocoa beans, to decorate

Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl, adding the vanilla and milk until you reach the desired consistency.
Separate into three small bowls, and add food colouring: lavender (large buns), pale green (medium buns), and pink (small buns).
Dip each pastry into the icing to its midline. Place on a tray and leave to dry.
Decorate with filigree of white chocolate.
Place a dollop of pale blue icing atop the large ball, place the medium on top and press to stick in place.
Repeat with the small ball.
Make a small buttercream star on top and place a single cocoa bean onto the star as a garnish.

................

As you can see, it's not a recipe for the fainthearted. But the end result? Not bad. The choux buns were light and crisp; the chocolate creme patissiere, dense and dark; and the sweet icing may have been teeth-hurty but these are not your everyday snack, after all. Just be careful when you bite in - as dainty as they are, you may struggle to look quite so chic as they collapse, conveniently, into your mouth.

10 comments:

  1. oooh these looks so good! I may have to attempt them soon!

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  2. wow well done, the recipe sounds very daunting but they look wonderful! x

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  3. Oh boy, it makes me hungry!

    Well done x

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  4. Wow! Well done on making these and I'm a bit jealous I didn't get to try them ;) xx

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  5. I WISH I could even think I could attempt something like this!! Love the photo!

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  6. Wow. Love the idea of them collapsing conveniently (or is that accidentally) into your mouth

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  7. Love the film and loved that you went out and made it - looks lovely and like you said not for the faint hearted

    Laura x

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  8. I've not seen the film but these look amazing - so impressed! Think it's slightly beyond my cooking skills though...but one day :-)

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  9. I've never seen the film, but on the strength of this glorious pastry, I am totally putting it on my Lovefilm list! I love making food from movies--I had serious amounts of fun after watching Chocolat!

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Thanks for taking the time to comment - I love hearing what you've got to say, and do my best to reply <3

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