I’ll start off for April! Thanks for your vote of confidence about our March bake-off, Silke. I wasn’t able to get to my challenge project then, but luckily it also fits in with April’s theme. I wanted to try my hand at the Gateau St. Honor?, which I understand is often used as a presentation piece for bakers and pastry chefs since it involves so many different skills.
The puff pastry base is what qualifies it for our April bake-off. Indeed, the G St.-H originated as a way for bakers to use up good quality puff pastry scraps, perhaps left over after making patty shells, cream horns, sausage rolls or strudel. Choux paste is then used to pipe a “halo” around the outside edge of the puff pastry base and a spiral of choux paste inside that circle. Additional choux paste is baked off as cream puffs, which are attached to the halo later (often with caramel which is what I used). Since I did a 6” St. Honor?, I used two rows of half-inch round choux instead of the usual single row of 1 to 1.5” puffs. I thought it would look more to scale for the smaller cake, which proved to be the case. I did do one larger one that sat atop the filling.
I used Rose’s pear Bavarian cream in place of the usual St. Honor? filling. My own home-made liqueur flavoured the cream, made last Fall with BC pears with the idea of making this very cake early in the New Year. Talk about mise en place! I had family visiting this weekend, so I saved it for this month and got to share the calories too!
The St. Honor? has many interpretations. Julia Child did it with a pie pastry base. Other chefs use a sweet short paste, though the result is then more properly called a flan. Sponge cake is sometimes used in place of the inner spiral of choux atop the puff pastry base. The filling can be a mousse or any pastry cream with sufficient density and stability to slice nicely. Rose’s Pear Bavarian Cream from TCB is perfect! Having both meringue and gelatine, it has excellent stabillity and the most amazing taste. Her Pie and Pastry Bible has recipes for all the pastry components, a more typical filling and the caramel glue.
I look forward to your April projects. Let the lamination begin!!!
That looks good, Carolita! I hope you and your visiting family enjoyed it. I have never made this particular confection but have made all the components over the years for other desserts, such as profiteroles, eclairs with choux pastry and puff pastry items , like sausage rolls , cream slices, cream cornets etc. I must make the effort and put them together to make G-St. Honore and treat the family!!!
Carol, what a gorgeous Gateau St. Honore. I love pate-a-choux and puff pastry. I want to reach through the computer screen and grab one of those round goodness! You are starting our April Bake-Off excellently. I was just thinking about this bake-off this morning and trying to decide what to make. The challenge is indeed on!
Thanks, you two! I’ve made a ton of puff pastry in recent years, so that turned out fine. Not much experience with choux paste though. The little ones were tasty and crunchy, but they didn’t behave right. Poor volume, misshapened and not hollow. The larger one turned out fine, so I wondered if the problem was because the others were so small.
I’d love to hear tips from those with more experience of making cream puffs and other choux pastries. The dough seemed a little greasy, though it held its shape when I could get it to stop sliding. I probably needed more flour because I inadvertently used the lightly spooned instead of the dip and sweep amount recommended in the Pie and Pastry Bible. That is, I weighed the flour but used the gram/cup amount from my head instead of looking more closely at the recipe. Anything else strike you, Jeannette? Others?
Wish that I’d had time to pipe that wonderful pear filling, but it was a busy weekend. I was glad to get the cake done at all! Probably wouldn’t have, except for not wanting to miss the bake-off this month. Thanks for being part of my inspiration!
Carolita - beautiful! And totally sounds like a challenge, both laminated dough and choux (thanks for teaching me another English word - the direct translation from German is burnt dough, which isn’t so far from the truth - lol)
And pear flavored Bavarian cream - oh yum! With your own pear liquor! I’m with Jenn, I want to reach into the screen and get some!
Oh, forgot to say, I’ve made tiny little choux balls and never had a problem with them not having holes. I’m not using Rose’s recipe, but one from an old German cookbook. I remember the dough being fairly stiff, and yes, fairly greasy. The cookbook is packed away for the kitchen remodel but once I unearth it I can look it up and we can compare notes.
Thanks, Silke. Would love to compare notes, when you find your cookbook. I noticed online that the Daring Kitchen people did vol-au-vents for a challenge a few months back. Amazing how many things you can do with choux paste, both sweet and savoury!
Happy to share about making liqueur, Matthew. I must give credit to Hector, whose loose recipe for fruit liqueur (lichee, peaches, etc.) was my model. I wanted to find a use for the prolific production from my golden plum tree. The price of pear liqueur from the store was another motivation, but in the end I think the cost is about the same. It’s easy enough to find inexpensive fruit, but another story with 100 proof vodka. Anyway it was fun to try.
Basic instructions: Measure out about 2 1/3 cups of fresh pears or any other fruit (peeled, pitted and very coarsely chopped). Pack loosely in a wide-mouthed jar. I used a mason jar. Fill with 80 or 100 proof vodka to at least 1” above the fruit. I believe I used half a 750 ml bottle of vodka per batch. Seal jar tightly and store in dark, cool cupboard for two weeks.
Strain twice, first with a sieve or colander and then with something finer. I tried a coffee filter for the second strain of a batch of plum liqueur and lost so much precious juice to the filter itself, that I decided to experiment. In the end, was most satisfied with pouring the once-filtered juice very slowly through natural paper towelling placed inside my sieve.
Measure your liquid and mix with simple syrup, one part syrup to 3 parts strained liquid. I had about 2 cups of juice and added 2/3 cup of simple syrup. Again, seal tightly and store in a cool dark cupboard for three months. I did a third and final strain at this point to get rid of the very fine, cloudy sediment that had settled. Then put it into the bottle in which it would be stored.
This summer, I’ll make more plum liqueur which was especially glorious. But I’ll look for another option to strain out the sediment. Even though the towelling was natural paper, I’m uncomfortable using a product that’s not designated “food safe.” I’m wondering if the strainer I use to make yoghurt cheese might be the answer. It’s very fine!
Perhaps a jelly bag? or perhaps don’t disturb it as you pour, and just leave the bit with the sediment behind (although you could probably never tell in baked goods). How was the pear flavor? I’ve tried homemade extraction before and thought the flavor was weaker than the commercial kind, but haven’t given up hope entirely.
Wowie wow wow, Carol! Lovely St Honore! I especially like your idea of using the pear bavarian, I bet that was delicious with the caramel and pastry. And thanks for detailing your liqueur method, very interesting and tempting.
Sorry, Matthew. Forgot to answer your question about the taste. I found the plum better - richer and sweeter - I think because the fruit was riper. The pear was more subtle, but still very good. Another time, I’d let the fruit ripen longer to get more strength of flavour. This is a factor for enjoying it as a drink and probably for flavouring buttercream, custards and such. But in the Pear Bavarian, most of the flavour seems to come from the pear poaching liquid.
Yesterday, an uncle arrived to visit who has a lot of experience making wine, beer and spirits, so I picked his brains. He said the regular coffee filters would work better than the Melita cone filter I used (too thick). He also told me about a product that’s available to those of you in the US that would make the project more economical. Something called EverClear (spelling?) in place of the 100 proof vodka. I think he said it’s 150 or 180 proof and quite reasonably priced. He dilutes it 1:3 and flavours it different ways. He also described many different methods for purifying, straining, siphoning, decanting etc. It sounded quite involved to me, but easy for him.
Thanks for the lovely compliment, Julie. I don’t think I ever had a chance to comment on your beautiful barquettes. I’ve been reading all the new posts, but haven’t had much time to write replies. My mother’s been poorly for several weeks, which is why I’m having a lot of visitors. She’s stabilized now for the time being.
Here’s my April project, a Peach Tart Tatin made with puff pastry, from the Pie & Pastry Bible.
This was my first time making puff pastry, I enjoyed it and didn’t find it too tricky, as the Tatin only calls for 4 turns instead of the full 7. I did find shaping the dough a little challenging- I tried to make a strip out of trimmings from the tart, and although the base worked well, the edges twisted and fell off the top in places, so I pulled them off and trimmed the sides of the strip with some whipped cream.
I did have some problems with the peaches, which are baked separately and then placed on the finished puff pastry base. First issue was that the syrup never seemed to caramelize at the temperature indicated. I even went a little higher, but still it wasn’t darkening. The other problem I had was that the peaches took much longer to bake than the recipe indicated, but that may have been due to my oven. I used frozen sliced peaches, thawed.
All in, it was delicious and well-recieved by the group I brought it to. I’ll make it again sometime, as it’s great to have a fruit pie that works with frozen fruit and isn’t dependent on the growing season.
I want to reach through the computer screen again! I love pastries with fruit. It looks very pretty and delicious Julie. I’ve made puff pastry once and I found it a little easier to work with (during rolling and folding etc) than croissant/danish. Don’t know if it’s just my luck that one time. We’ll find out soon though, I’m planning on making puff pastry as well for this bake-off.
Jenn, I agree, it is easier to roll/turn puff pastry than croissant. And if you can do it when the kitchen is quite cool, you buy yourself a little extra time to roll/turn/shape. Looking forward to seeing your project!