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
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.
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.