Choux au Craquelin

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RECIPE: My aim was to attempt choux pastry, which meant that I dissected the pear and apple choux recipe for the parts I wanted, namely the choux buns and the crackle finish. I filled it with a basic crème pâtissiére from the croquembouche recipe in the same book. I didn’t have gel colour, so substituted liquid colour. This added more liquid to the recipe, but it didn’t seem to ruin it. I used leftover banana creme to assemble the little lady 🙂

COMPONENTS: First job is the crème pâtissiére, as it needs to cool for a few hours before use. Having curdled custard many times, I stirred this like crazy, not stopping for a second. I didn’t cook it as long as the recipe required because it became thick very fast and I was scared of overcooking it, as it had SOOO many egg yolks in it. I froze the egg whites, as they can still be used in meringues after being frozen. It was a big relief to store my perfect custard in the fridge, ready to add later. The trick with the craquelin is to roll it to the thickness you need at the end before putting it in the fridge to cool. It doesn’t hold together too well when you’re assembling the buns but it didn’t seem to matter that I wasn’t applying perfect discs of even thickness.

I’m not sure how, but my choux pastry worked first time. I liked the tip that it was ready when a spoon will stand in the mix. I piped the choux dough onto the tray and used the method of cooking at high heat initially then reducing the heat of the oven to finish. Baking the choux didn’t go quite so well. There is a reason recipes tell you NOT to open the oven door while the pastry is cooking. I couldn’t resist on one batch because I was worried my old dysfunctional oven was burning the ones at the back. The result can be seen below. The bun on the left was cooked according to instructions; the one on the right was when I opened the oven during the bake!

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Rather than spend a lot of time explaining how to perfect your choux pastry, I suggest you read this page by Dini the Flavor Bender – she does an excellent job.

ASSEMBLY: About three-quarters of my choux buns weren’t flat and were suitable for filling. The craquelin worked well. I put the crème pâtissiére in a piping bag but didn’t have a good-sized nozzle. The one I used put a bigger hole in the bottom than ideal. It piped perfectly, with the custard helping to fill out some of the buns that had collapsed. I used the banana cream to stick the two buns together and then used a star nozzle to pipe some as decoration around the join.

IMPRESSION: I’ve still got work to do with choux pastry, but I’m pretty happy with how most of these turned out. I only had enough suitable buns to make about four little ladies, the rest had visual faults of some sort. They still tasted marvellous.

Recipe from Zumbo by Adriano Zumbo

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Fraisier

RECIPE: This is another pretty cake I had admired from the Great British Bake Off. The recipe for Fraisier seems to vary a bit. The traditional version uses a genoise sponge, an alcohol flavoured syrup, fresh strawberries and crème pâtissiére, topped with almond paste; however, the type of sponge can vary and it can alternatively be topped with meringue and glaze or simply dusted with confectioners’ sugar. My recipe used a ladyfinger sponge cake, but I substituted a spare joconde sponge that I had frozen after making L’Opera. The recipe also used a more complicated mousseline cream, which was delicious: you mix an Italian meringue with an egg yolk buttercream and then blend this combination with a crème pâtissiére. I’ve noticed some recipes use gelatine.

COMPONENTS: I can’t comment on the cake, but otherwise there were a lot of steps, especially compared with other recipes for Fraisier. You had to liquidise the sugar and heat it to 118 degrees Celsius for both the Italian meringue and the egg yolk buttercream, which is a step that requires constant attention and careful timing. It all came together well though. My mousseline cream was soft, even after being in the fridge for an hour or so, and this affects the assembly of the cake. I can see why other recipes use gelatine. I probably should have spread the meringue a little thinner on the top of the cake – the recipe doesn’t say how thick and I realised afterwards it would have been better at 2mm instead of 5mm. It’s a finishing trim rather than a full component of the cake. My apricot glaze needed to be thinner; it sat on top of the cake instead of flowing over it. The recipe said to sprinkle sugar over the strawberries before adding the rest of the cream. The cake was very sweet, so this step really wasn’t necessary.

ASSEMBLY: This was definitely the hardest part of making this cake and can really impact the finished look, which is why mine (above left) is nowhere near as pretty as the picture from the recipe (above right). You really need your sponge to go right to the edges of your tin mould. In hindsight, I wish I had cut smaller cakes and then assembled them in the cutters, just so the cake went right to the edges. The mousseline cream is soft, so even if you line up your strawberries with the edge of the cake, the cream will push them out from between the cakes. I had major overflow issues! I could only get huge strawberries so had to cut them in half. The cake will be flatter and more stable with consistently sized strawberries. See my post on L’Opera for tips on getting flatter cakes.

IMPRESSION: The taste was great, but it didn’t look at all like it was supposed to. I may try this again one day because there were multiple aspects I need to work on, but maybe with a different recipe. I think I’ll try Mary Berry’s, although I’d still use Felder’s finish of the meringue and glaze, which has the potential to look amazing.

Recipe from Patisserie by Christophe Felder.