Making the Miraculous Cake of the Patron Saint of Bakers


Saint Honoré was a sixth-century French bishop who earned his standing as patron of bakers and pastry cooks by way of a number of alleged bread-related miracles. Legends inform of baking implements magically remodeling into bushes, divine eucharist-distributing arms showing at mass, and saintly relics ending droughts that had impacted wheat crops. For newbie pastry cooks, these miraculous acts could seem extra possible than making the advanced cake that carries St. Honoré’s title.

A conventional gâteau St. Honoré consists of a spherical puff pastry base that will get encircled with a hoop of choux pastry and caramel-topped choux pastry puffs, then crammed with Chiboust or Chantilly cream (or each). The result’s a heavenly halo of decadence. That’s, when it’s executed completely. When it’s not, it may possibly appear to be a deflated, cream-filled kiddie pool. On The Nice British Baking Present, the place making gâteau St. Honoré was a semi-final technical problem, Prue Leith warned contestants, “That is very tough to make look good.”

Because it assembles a number of constructing blocks of French pastry, akin to puff and choux, making a wonderful gâteau St. Honoré is a positive showcase for a patissier’s abilities. Though the cake will not be well-known outdoors of France, it’s an old school favourite in its homeland. Patisserie cabinets boast conventional variations, single-serving mini gâteaus, and staggeringly creative interpretations that play with form, taste, and toppings.

I like a cooking problem. I’ve made 5,000-year-old energy bars, tested an archaeologist’s ancient Pompeii recipes, and sculpted marzipan in the shape of St. Agatha’s breasts. However I’ve no formal pastry coaching and, like many others, I’ve been postpone by the intimidating world of French desserts. However within the spirit of St. Honoré’s feast day, which is Could 16, I made a decision to present his namesake cake a shot. And so started what I dubbed “The Nice Beatific Bake-Off.”

St. Honoré is often depicted with bakers and bread.
St. Honoré is usually depicted with bakers and bread. Public Domain

Earlier than I launched into my quest, I wished to grasp the person behind the cake. How did a bishop with no obvious baking expertise change into related to a basic cake? Steven Laurence Kaplan, a historian of French baking, says the legends surrounding the saint definitely performed a component, however it was actually French baking guilds that cemented the saint’s standing. Within the 1700s, when guilds strictly regulated the craft, a chapel devoted to St. Honoré served because the headquarters of a Parisian baking fraternity, giving the saint critical title recognition amongst bakers.

However Honoré’s recognition declined after guilds had been abolished throughout the French Revolution in 1791. Though there are remnants of the saint’s symbolic energy in some iconography (he’s usually depicted holding a baker’s peel or loaves of bread), Honoré has largely light as a revered determine amongst pastry makers and bakers. “At present, bakers don’t give a rattling about St. Honoré. And the overwhelming majority of bakers have little concept of who he was and who he may be.”

Kaplan factors out that some would possibly vaguely know of Honoré by way of his connection to La Fête du Ache, a bread pageant that begins on the saint’s feast day. Nonetheless, on Could 16, he says it’s the bread, not the saint, that’s the star.

The ruins of the St. Honore chapel in Paris, which is now gone.
The ruins of the St. Honore chapel in Paris, which is now gone. Public Domain

The opposite manner St. Honoré stays related is, after all, his namesake cake. The earliest recorded recipe for gâteau St. Honoré is from 1873’s Le Livre de Pâtisserie by the famend French pastissier Jules Gouffé. Like most culinary origin tales, the precise historical past surrounding the creation of gâteau St. Honoré is murky, however most accounts middle the cake’s creation across the mid-1800s. Based on Larousse Gastronomique, an encyclopedia of French delicacies, gâteau St. Honoré was invented in 1846 by a pastry chef named Chiboust who labored on Paris’s Rue St. Honoré, a avenue named for the saint that was identified for its many patisseries and bakeries. (That is additionally the origin of the title of the Chiboust cream that seems in gâteau St. Honoré, a mix of conventional pastry cream and Italian meringue.)

Maryann Tebben, a meals historian at Bard School at Simon’s Rock in Nice Barrington, Massachusetts, has totally investigated the story of Mr. Chiboust. “I couldn’t discover a lot else about him and I actually appeared. He most likely was a pastry chef and he most likely labored on that avenue, however that’s the lifeless finish. He’s not named wherever else, together with his first title. It’s simply his final title, which is suspicious.”

When assembled correctly, the pastry has a bright and elegant design.
When assembled appropriately, the pastry has a vibrant and stylish design. Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

However Tebben factors out that even when the origin story is apocryphal, it’s nonetheless vital. “To me, the legends are nearly as essential as the true story, as a result of the French actually sit on that, they take pleasure in it they usually promote the parable. It’s essential for desserts and different meals too.” And the intimidating status of gâteau St. Honoré is a giant a part of its mythology. “That’s the genius of French desserts,” she says.” They make it sound so difficult and also you assume, ‘Oh, I may by no means make it, it should be so essential and exhausting.’”

Armed with an understanding of how this cake got here to be, I used to be able to sort out the problem of creating it. For recommendation, I consulted somebody who’d just lately skilled within the artwork of French pastry. Brigitte Malivert studied on the Ferrandi College in Paris and was poised to begin working in an area patisserie when COVID-19 hit France final yr. She returned to New Jersey, the place she runs a non-public pastry enterprise. Based on Malivert, the infamous gâteau is way extra accessible than its status suggests.

Brigitte Malivert's mini gâteaus St. Honoré.
Brigitte Malivert’s mini gâteaus St. Honoré. Courtesy of Brigitte Malivert

“I actually assume they over-emphasize that it’s so tough. Actually when you observe instructions, most recipes do job.” She notes that it’s actually only a matter of assembling the essential constructing blocks of French pastry—akin to puff and choux—into a brand new and stylish kind. “For those who break the method down into these smaller items, it’s doable.”

With the recipe under, I tried to just do that. It’s damaged into 4 components: One for puff pastry (which you may also purchase premade), one for choux pastry, one for Chiboust cream, and one for meeting. A couple of deep breaths wouldn’t damage, both. Malivert says that ranging from a spot of hysteria is particularly unhealthy for pastry-making: “I at all times say if you’re working with puff pastry that it senses if you’re nervous. For those who’re sweating or sizzling, it impacts the layers.”

Recipe for Gâteau St. Honoré

Step 1: Pâte à Choux

Tailored from The Flavor Bender (whose detailed information on choux pastry is extremely useful)

Substances:
8 ounces chilly water
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
4.7 ounces all-purpose flour, sifted
8 ounces eggs (that is often about 3 to 4 giant eggs)

Particular Tools:
Piping luggage and ideas (or a Ziplock-type bag with a nook minimize off)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  2. Add the butter, water, milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan over medium warmth. Stir regularly, because you wish to be sure that the butter has melted and the sugar and salt have dissolved earlier than it’s begun to boil.
  3. When it begins to boil, take away the saucepan from the warmth and stir in all of the flour with a rubber spatula or wood spoon. Maintain stirring till the flour has absorbed the water and there aren’t any lumps. When it’s beginning to change into a dough, transfer the saucepan again to the warmth.
  4. Prepare dinner the dough over medium warmth for 1 to three minutes. You’ll realize it’s prepared when you’ll be able to stand a spoon upright in it.
  5. Transfer the dough to a bowl to chill down for a couple of minutes. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs. As soon as the dough has cooled, use a stand-mixer (on a really low velocity), hand-held mixer, or whisk to combine within the eggs, one by one (one egg is a few ¼ cup as soon as crushed). You’ll know the dough is prepared when it’s shiny, thick, and clean. This would possibly occur earlier than you’ve used all of the eggs. To check, run your finger by way of the dough. If the path holds and the dough doesn’t collapse into it, it’s prepared
  6. Add the dough to a piping bag with a ½ inch tip (many recipes use a Wilton 1A piping tip). Pipe 2-inch discs about 3 inches aside on the baking sheet. Moist the again of a spoon or your finger, then clean over any peaks, then spray or brush the parchment paper with water (it will improve humidity and assist the pastries puff up).
  7. Save a little bit of the dough within the piping bag and place within the fridge. You’ll want it later.
  8. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes within the oven’s middle. After 25 minutes, open the oven and pierce every pastry with a toothpick to permit the humid air inside to flee (in any other case it’d trigger them to break down). Don’t open the oven earlier than then! The cool air may forestall the shells from correctly puffing up. After 5 to 10 extra minutes within the oven, or when the shells are golden brown, take away from the oven and permit to chill in a heat space. Retailer them in an hermetic container for as much as 24 hours or freeze.
My choux puffs, which I made the night before the rest of my recipe.
My choux puffs, which I made the evening earlier than the remainder of my recipe. Sam O’Brien for Gastro Obscura

Step 2: Puff Pastry

Tailored from Baking a Moment

(For those who’re overwhelmed, don’t stress and simply purchase premade puff pastry dough.)

Substances
9 ounces all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
10 ounces unsalted butter (2 1/2 sticks), chilly
1/2 cup chilly water

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  2. Sift the flour and salt right into a bowl and whisk till mixed.
  3. Slice the butter into 1/4-inch items and toss with the flour combination.
  4. Add chilly water and stir till it takes on a doughy consistency.
  5. Ball the dough, then flatten it right into a disc, and wrap it up. Chill for 20 minutes within the freezer.
  6. On a floured floor, roll the chilled disc of dough right into a rectangle then fold it into thirds.
  7. Rotate the folded dough 90 levels, then roll and fold once more. Repeat this course of yet one more time.
  8. Chill the dough within the fridge for at the very least 2 hours earlier than utilizing.
  9. Take away the dough from the fridge and roll into an 8-inch disc about 1/8-inch thick (that is the equal of two stacked American quarters).
  10. Prick the dough with a fork a couple of instances to ensure it doesn’t puff up an excessive amount of.
  11. Do not forget that choux pastry within the piping bag? Seize it and pipe a hoop across the fringe of the puff pastry.
  12. Bake for 25-Half-hour, checking till it reaches a golden brown.

Step 3: Chiboust Cream

1. Make an ordinary crème pâtissière recipe, akin to those from Joe Pastry or The Flavor Bender.
2. Make no matter Italian meringue recipe you like.
3. Mix them at a 2:1 ratio of Italian meringue to crème pâtissière, and, voilà, you could have crème Chiboust.

Step 4: Construct Your Gâteau

  1. Fill a piping bag with Chiboust cream. For those who’re feeling formidable, minimize a small gap within the backside of every choux pastry ball and pipe within the cream. In any other case, set it apart for later.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat up some caramel. You may make this your self or just purchase some caramel.
  3. Take your choux pastry balls and dip every into the nice and cozy caramel to coat its backside. Use this as your glue to stay every ball in a hoop round your puff pastry. Drizzle caramel excessive of every ball.
  4. As soon as the choux ring has been assembled, pipe your Chiboust cream into the middle. Fancy cooks use a particular St. Honoré piping tip for this, however you should utilize no matter form you want.
  5. Congratulations, you could have completed your first gâteau St. Honoré! If, like me, your first try was a far cry from the stuff Paul Hollywood handshakes are fabricated from, don’t fret. It’ll nonetheless be scrumptious and that is simply an excuse to make one other.
My Chiboust came out a bit runny (next time, I'll try adding in gelatin, as some recipes do), so I topped the cake with whipped cream.
My Chiboust got here out a bit runny (subsequent time, I’ll strive including in gelatin, as some recipes do), so I topped the cake with whipped cream. Sam O’Brien for Gastro Obscura

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