Sunday, May 27, 2007

Holy Puff Pastry Batman!

DB Logo

Quick!! Cue the spy thriller music! Start the fog and wind machines! Turn on the Klieg lights and scan the sky because the Daring Bakers are back and they are packing puff pastry!

This month our challenge was to make that classic test of all good pastry chefs, the incomparable Gateau St. Honore as suggested by our two daring hostess, Helene and Anita.

Basically, this dessert is an excuse to make puff pastry (pate feuillete), cream puffs (pate a choux) , diplomat cream (Bavarian cream), and stick them together using caramel and whipped cream! Oh darn...whipped and Bavarian cream all on the same dessert...

I was pretty excited about this challenge because I had always wanted to make cream puffs and puff pastry. I was also a bit nervous about this month's challenge as I had always heard how much work making your own puff pastry was and after last month's challenge, I wasn't sure I was up for hard and fussy work.

Boy was I wrong! Making puff pastry is actually pretty easy!! Yes, it takes a bit of time but you don't have to work much during most of that time and best of all, almost every step calls for you to play with your food! Basically all you do is make the dough (get to make mud with flour and water), make a butter brick (get to use butter as a sculpting medium; which I always got yelled at the dinner table for doing when I was kid) and then fold the dough over the butter brick and pound on it for a bit with your rolling pin (fantastic upper arm/tricep workout to minimize "bat wings"), fold it over some more and "turn it" (Does my butter package look fat from this angle?), and then, the best part is you get to poke at it with your fingers ala Moe to Curly's eyes to leave a mark so you don't forget which turn you are on! All this is kind of like finger painting for grown-ups! Great Fun!! After you are done mean making the dough package, you stick it in the fridge for about an hour and repeat! Six or seven hours later you have puff pastry! Which after resting for at least four hours in the fridge, you can use it to make the round bottom of your Gateau St. Honore.

Besides the time it takes to get the puff pastry made, the rest of this incredible dessert goes to together faster than you can slide down your superhero pole and jump into your wiz-bang car to save Metropolis. Like the puff pastry dough, at first I wasn't sure about the cream puff dough(You want me to boil my flour with my liquids? Is this suppose to be glue consistancy? Boy, does this dry hard to a pan. Guess I should have put water in it when I was done making the dough instead of waiting until the next morning but next time I have to hang some wallpaper...) It all turned out OK, and the little cream puffs got well...puffy in the oven; just like Helene and Anita said they would.

Not everything went as smoothly for me as the making of the puff pastry and cream puff doughs. When it came time to make my round bottoms (I made mini cakes) I got, well, got a bit nervous about my puff pastry and worried it wouldn't puff up or be flaky enough. So, yes, the recipe said roll it out to about 1/8" thick, but I was pretty sure mine wouldn't puff up so I folded it over and cut it out. Then, I was worried my cream puff circle on top of the puff pastry circle wouldn't bake right, bake too fast, bake too slow, so I made sure I had a lot of it on top because more is better right?


Um...guess I shouldn't have worried huh?

At this stage of the challenge, my cake began to take on a personality of it's own. While the puff pastry circles and baby cream puffs were baking I made the Diplomat cream. I had never made anything like this before. Ok, I made Bird's Custard before (there really is an entry for everything on Wikipedia) but it comes in a can and you just add milk and stir for a really long time over a slow flame. I got all excited when the cream, egg yolks, unflavoured gelatine, and milk all started to thicken and I think I started jumping up and down a bit too much because the downstairs neighbors pounded on the ceiling. I also got so excited it actually thickened that I pulled it off the heat too fast and was left with Bavarian cream soup (nope, that isn't going into a pastry bag). Second time was a charm though. I cooked it until it was stove-top pudding thick, let it cool a bit before finishing it and let is sit in the fridge for about 4o minutes to finish thickening/cooling. Then I filled the cute little cream puffs...

Honestly, I only tried one or two or maybe three of them! They were just too perfect not to just pop in your mouth (One for the cake, one for me, two for the cake, two for me...) Besides, I had to find out what the Amaretto I used instead of rum in the cream filling tasted like...

To say that hot sugar and I hate each other would be an understatement. So far, two of my three Daring Baker Challenges have now involved caramelizing sugar. I'm not sure what my problem is but I just can't seem to get it right the first time. I think it is a conspiracy between the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Staypuff Marshmallow Man because I've crystalized at least 5lbs of sugar in the last two months. Not to mention, I've burnt my fingers on the @##%! stuff at least once during the past two challenges (Ok, so sticking my finger in it while it was still on the stove to taste the caramel flavour was probably a really dorky thing to do). But, after tries, I finally had caramel, sorta. What I really meant to say is I had something that looked like caramel sugar, burned my finger like caramel sugar, and oh yea, got all spun sugar like but NOT when I wanted it to get all artsy-fartsy looking; just when I was trying to dip the cream puff bottoms in it so I could glue them onto top of Mt. Puff Pastry. So, it must have been caramel.

In the end, I had just enough extra cream puffs to put a ring around the base of my too tall puff pastry bottom.

Yum...extra cream puffs...

To see how all my fellow Daring Bakers fared with this month's challenge visit their links over on my sidebar! Get out a bunch of napkins first because I guarantee you will be drooling and laughing your way through all 40+ posts.