Sunday, May 27, 2007

St. Honore' Gateau

Each month, as the time approaches for the Daring Bakers to find out what the challenge will be for the next month, the agony of anticipation is tremendous. Will the recipe be a good one, will the skills needed be extraordinary, will I hate one of the flavors or components, will the aggregate butterfat finally cause a heart attack?
For the month of May the answers are yes, maybe, no, and maybe. In honor of the patron saint of bakers, whose feast day fell earlier in the month of May, the Daring Bakers are making Gateau St. Honore', a confection of puff pastry, cream puffs, chibost pastry cream, caramel and whipped cream.

The recipe provide by Helene and Anita was comprehensive and well written.
The fact that it was four pages long was cause for a little apprehension. It can also be found at the bottom of this post.

I learned new skills as I worked with the puff pastry and, for the first time, made cream puff paste. The first cream puffs I made were too tiny, so I made another batch of larger ones. It was so easy that I hope to make eclairs next. I burned my thumb while coating the tiny extra puffs with caramel, but that was because I used a reflex reaction to one falling toward the floor and grabbed it, still very hot with molten sugar, instead of letting it fall. When the next one did hit the floor, I had to keep the dog away or he would have eaten it and burned his tongue. I would never make it as a professional pastry chef. Every bit of counter space was occupied by the end. My kitchen was a mess. Thank you Babs for the Silpat was perfect with all that super hot sugar.

The taste of the St. Honore' cake was sublime. The richness was evident, but the flavors were nicely subtle.The pastry cream especially was delightful. I flavored mine with rum.
As for the heart attack, there certainly was a lot of butter fat once you added the puff pastry to the butter in the puffs, the whole milk and whipping cream in the pastry cream and then the additional whipped heavy cream on top. My solution was to give a piece to Sweetie, eat a piece myself, then take all the rest of it to the wonderful folks at our local library. For months they have been commenting on all of the baking books I've been checking out, especially those with yummy cakes as the front photo. They had a booksale the next day, so I knew that a treat was in order. My heart, to say nothing of my thighs, benefited, too.

As fate would have it, no sooner had I returned home from the library than I received a phone call from my oldest friend. She needed me to drive to Richmond and meet her in the Kaiser ER. We spent over 7 hours, well into the wee hours, but she is doing better, so it was worth it. I was so glad that I had finished the challenge first and had all that fun in the kitchen.

For the recipe, go to Helen's site here. It may look daunting, but it can be done in stages. I made the puff pastry ring and cream puffs a day before I made the pastry cream and caramel and put it all together. You could also make the pastry cream first a day in advance.

When you are finished, you have a delicious, impressive looking cake. I'm sure that St. Honore' is pleased with the Daring Bakers and will be pleased if you make it, too.

This recipe starts with some comments by Helene who is the hostess for this month along with Anita. The group is growing so quickly that I've stopped counting how many members there are.

"Turns out that May 16th is Saint Honore (pronounced o-no-ray) Day, patron Saint of pastry chefs and bakers. It also turns out that there is a very traditional cake named after him: Gateau Saint Honore. It is the “must pass” element of pastry school students and it is a cake that includes several elements and techniques that bakers should try at least once: puff pastry, cream puff dough, caramel and pastry filling. There are many fillings as they are bakeries: chiboust cream, pastry cream, Bavarian cream (aka Diplomat cream).

The cake building goes like this:
- base of puff pastry
- rings of cream dough baked on top (so that the cream sticks)
- cream puffs set on the pastry filling or hooked to the base with hot caramel
- cream filling to fill everything

I compiled recipes from Bo Friberg’s books “The Professional Pastry Chef” editions 3rd and 4th, and "The Advanced Pastry Chef". It is straightforward and very close to what you would find nowadays walking on the streets of Paris and popping into a bakery (close our eyes, you’re there).

I realize it calls for time consuming puff pastry so you can use store bought that is totally fine, but if you have never made it why not try. It is just a long process, but the recipe given below makes more than you need so you can freeze it and use it later for something else.

The recipe for the Saint Honore cream is flavored with rum and that may not appeal to you, so substitute an alcohol that you like more (Grand Marnier, White Godiva, Kirsch,…), or use vanilla, without changing the filling altogether.

Make them round, square, oblong, heart shaped…your call.. Have fun!

Before you say “oh my lord is she crazy?!” The only difficult part I could foresee is the cream puff dough, but once again it is a very cool technique to learn if you have never made it before. (just remember the words “thick mayonnaise”!)

The cream filling and the puff pastry (if using)can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.
One more thing: the caramel is necessary to hook the puffs but if you are caramel challenged and don’t feel like using it to decorate the remaining of the cake and do not wish to end up like Jenny perched on high chair spunning sugar you can totally skip it.

Last thing: I liked the idea of co-hosting so new members would not have to wait a year or so to participate and I asked Anita from Dessert First to co-host this month. We are going to do it “round –up” style but modified because of logistics issues. We will divide the DB between our two blogs and list your name –blog- post url on our respective blogs."

Gateau Saint Honore: Components and respective recipes follow:

Puff pastry
Pate a Choux – Cream Puff Dough
Saint Honore Cream
8oz sugar for caramel
1 cup heavy cream + 1 tsp sugar

Pate a Choux – Cream Puffs Dough

4 ¾ oz. all purpose flour (135 gr)
1 cup water ( 240 ml)
2 oz unsalted butter (58 gr)
¼ tsp. salt (1 gr)
1 cup eggs (240 ml)

Sift the flour and set aside.

Heat the water, butter and salt to a full rolling boil, so that the fat is not just floating on the top but is dispersed throughout the liquid.

Stir the flour into the liquid with a heavy wooden spoon, adding it as fast as it can be absorbed. Avoid adding it all at once or it will form clumps.

Cook, stirring constantly and breaking up the lumps if necessary, by pressing them against the side of the pan with the back of the spoon until the mixture comes away from the sides of the pan, about 2-3 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a mixer bowl. Let the paste cool slightly so that the eggs will not cook when they are added. You can add and stir the eggs by hand but it requires some serious elbow grease.

Mix in the eggs, one at a time, using the paddle attachment on low or medium speed. Do not add all the eggs at once. Check after a few, the dough should have the consistency of thick mayonnaise.

Transfer the dough to a piping bag and use as desired.

Pate Feuillete – Puff Pastry:

Makes about 2 1/2 pounds.
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (420 gr)
3/4 cup cake flour (105 gr)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (7 gr)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, well chilled (60 gr)
1 1/4 cups cold water (295.5 ml)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour (14 gr)
1 3/4 cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, well-chilled (405 gr)

1/ Make the dough package: In a large mixing bowl, combine both flours with the salt. Scatter butter pieces over the flour mixture; using your fingers or a pastry cutter, incorporate butter until mixture resembles coarse meal.

2/ Form a well in center of mixture, and pour the water into well. Using your hands, gradually draw flour mixture over the water, covering and gathering until mixture is well blended and begins to come together. Gently knead mixture in the bowl just until it comes together to form a dough, about 15 seconds. Pat dough into a rough ball, and turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Wrap tightly, and place in refrigerator to chill 1 hour.

3/ Make the butter package: Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon flour on a sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Place uncut sticks of butter on top, and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 tablespoon flour. Top with another sheet of paper; using a rolling pin, pound butter to soften and flatten to about 1/2 inch. Remove top sheet of paper, and fold butter package in half onto itself. Replace top sheet of paper, and pound again until butter is about A inch thick.

Repeat process two or three times, or until butter becomes quite pliable. Using your hands, shape butter package into a 6-inch square. Wrap well in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator until it is chilled but not hardened, no more than 10 minutes.

4/ Assemble and roll the dough: Remove dough package from refrigerator, and place on a lightly floured work surface. Using a rolling pin, gently roll dough into a 9-inch round. Remove butter package from refrigerator, and place it in the center of the dough round. Using a paring knife or bench scraper, lightly score the dough to outline the butter square; remove butter, and set it aside. Starting from each side of the center square, gently roll out dough with the rolling pin, forming four flaps, each 4 to 5 inches long; do not touch the raised square in the center of the dough. Replace butter package on the center square. Fold flaps of dough over the butter package so that it is completely enclosed. Press with your hands to seal.

5/ Using the rolling pin, press down on the dough at regular intervals, repeating and covering the entire surface area, until it is about 1 inch thick. Gently roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 9 by 20 inches, with one of the short sides closest to you. Be careful not to press too hard around the edges, and keep the corners even as you roll out the dough by squaring them with the side of the rolling pin or your hands. Brush off any excess flour. Starting at the near end, fold the rectangle in thirds as you would a business letter; this completes the first single turn.Wrap in plastic wrap; place in refrigerator 45 to 60 minutes.

6/ Remove dough from refrigerator, and repeat process in step 5, giving it five more single turns.Always start with the flap opening on the right as if it were a book. Mark the dough with your knuckle each time you complete a turn to help you keep track. Chill 1 hour between each turn. After the sixth and final turn, wrap dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before using.

Saint Honore Cream (Rapid Chiboust or Diplomat Cream)
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (7 gr.)
1/4 cup cold water (60 ml)
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar (130 gr)
½ cup all-purpose flour (70 gr)
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 egg yolks
2 cups whole milk (500ml)
1 Tb. rum
¼ cup whipping cream (57 gr)
3 egg whites
dash of salt
1/2 cup sugar (105 gr)

Soak the gelatin in the 1/4 cup of cold water.

Put the sugar, flour, and salt into a saucepan and stir together with a whisk. Add the yolks and enough milk to make a paste. Whisk in the remainder of the milk.

Place over low heat and stirring constantly, cook until thick. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and the gelatin. Stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.

Stir in the whipping cream.Set the mixing bowl in cold water and stir until the cream is cool. Place the egg whites in a clean bowl and using clean beaters, whip them with the dash of salt. As soon as the whites begin to stiffen, gradually add the 1/2 cup of sugar and beat until they are very stiff. Fold the egg whites into the cooled cream.

8 oz sugar (240 gr)

Caramelize the 8 oz. of sugar: Fill a bowl that is large enough to hold the pan used for cooking the sugar with enough cold water to reach halfway up the sides of the pan. Set the bowl aside. Place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and cook until the sugar until it has caramelized to just a shade lighter than the desired color. Remove from the heat and immediately place the bottom of the pan in the bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. (See below to see when to do this step)


Roll the puff pastry out to 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick, 12 inch square (30 cm). Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate covered at least 20 minutes.

While the puff pastry is resting, make the pate a choux and place it in a pastry bag with a # 4 (8mm) plain tip. Reserve.

Leaving the puff pastry on the sheet pan, cut a 11 inch (27.5 cm) circle from the dough and remove the scraps. (An easy way to cut it is to use a 11inch tart pan as a “cookie cutter”). Prick the circles lightly with a fork.

Pipe 4 concentric rings of Pate a Choux on the pastry circle. Pipe out 12 cream puffs the size of Bing cherries onto the paper around the cake.

Bake the puff pastry circle and the cream puffs at 400F (205C) until the pate a choux has puffed, about 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375F (190C) and bake until everything is dry enough to hold its shape, about 35 minutes longer for the cake and 8 minutes longer for the cream puffs (just pick them up and take them out as they are done).

Place about 4 oz (114 gr) of the Saint Honore Cream in a pastry bag with a #2 (4mm) plain tip. Use the pastry bag tip or the tip of a paring knife to make a small hole in the bottom of each cream puff. Pipe the cream into the cream puffs to fill them. Refrigerate.

Spread the remaining cream filling on the cake. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours to set the cream.

Caramelize the 8 oz. of sugar:
Fill a bowl that is large enough to hold the pan used for cooking the sugar with enough cold water to reach halfway up the sides of the pan. Set the bowl aside.

Place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and cook until the sugar until it has caramelized to just a shade lighter than the desired color.

Remove from the heat and immediately place the bottom of the pan in the bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.

Dip the cream puffs into the hot caramel, using 2 forks or tongues to avoid burning your fingers.

Place them on a sheet pan. The caramel must be hot enough to go on in a thin layer. Reheat if necessary as you are dipping, stirring constantly to avoid darkening the caramel any more than necessary. Also, avoid any Saint Honore cream to leak out of the puffs and get mixed in with the caramel while dipping as the cream can cause the sugar to recrystallize.

Whip the one cup of heavy cream and teaspoon of sugar to stiff peaks. Place the whipped cream in pastry bag fitted with a #5 (10mm) star tip. Pipe a border of whipped cream around the top of the cake. Arrange the cream puffs, evenly spaced, on top of the filling, next to the cream.

Option: Before filling the cake, take care of the cream puffs, dip them in more caramel, hook them up to the base. Fill with the cream filling and fill the holes with the whipped cream.

To recap:
3 modifications possible:
- puff pastry can be store bought or made follwing the recipe provided
- liqueur in the cream filling can be omitted or changed, oranges or lemons can be used, but no chocolate or coffee,... The idea is to keep the cream white/off white
- shape/size of the cake
- cream puffs set on the cream or dipped in caramel and glued to the base
Anita and Helene (which interestingly enough is pronounced "hell-en") co-hosting.
Stone throwing very optional...
Due date: Sunday May 27th


  1. Yes, this cake is not for those with a cholosterol problem :)
    Beautiful cake.

  2. Anonymous1:26 PM

    oh...elle how wonderfully decadent. I love the look of all those little cream puffs covered in caramel!

  3. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Woah! Check out those perfect, shiny cream puffs. A beautiful gateau!

  4. Ohh, yours looks so yummy and creamy! I was a bit spartan with my cream! Yours looks like a delicious cream tart!!
    p.s. I love your new banner!

  5. A sublime taste for a sublime cake.

  6. OH my now that looks like a cake I could dive into!! Fantastic job!

  7. lovely pictures, your gateau is beautiful!

  8. It's like a luscious banana cream pie without the banana's! And caramel on top! How wonderful!

  9. It is definitely sublime! Those tiny little cream puffs next to the bases are so cute.

  10. Elle! It's so pretty! I love the high and low puffs - too cute! And wow.. your Diplomat cream looks soooooooooo creamy good!

    I'm also very happy to hear your friend is better, that's great!


  11. Elle it looks beautiful. Your Diplomat cream looks delicious and thick. Yum!

  12. Beautiful! You did great! I am so happy to hear ou enjoyed the cake.
    I hope your friend keeps getting better and better!

  13. Anonymous8:55 PM

    mmmm cream (uttered with Homer-like tone). Your cake looks great, Elle! Having made my cake last weeks, all these creamy pictures are killing me:!

  14. Wow, you did a really good job. Your cream puffs are just perfect.

  15. What a lovely sight!

  16. Your cake looks so good and I really like the photo with the whipped egg whites!

  17. A gorgeous gateau! Love how you have done the choux puffs, so pretty :)

  18. Very impressive... It looks so deliciously creamy!

    I'm kinda feeling all guilty now, everyone seems to have made a decent crack at the cake. I'll pay attention next month! :-)

  19. Anonymous5:02 AM

    Wow, Elle! Just amazing! I love how the cream puff were staggered - the ones on the gateau, then the ones on the piled whipped cream! Absolutely gorgeous work!

  20. Anonymous6:55 AM

    The photo of the "slice" is excellent. Your St. Honore turned out very nicely! I just love that cream.

  21. Elle, sinfully delicious - isn't it a shame that all these delicious things are so packed with calories? :S

    It was my first time making cream puffs too and I really had fun with it!

  22. Beautiful gateau - I love your puffs!

  23. Elle, your cake is beautiful. The whipped cream looks like lofty clouds. I want a slice.

  24. Elle, wow all the cream! Makes me want to dive right into the middle and swim around!! Hope your fingers are healing.... Do we get a badge for the "burnt finger club on molten sugar" ala Girl Scouts? A finger perhaps with a flame shooting out the top?

  25. Y'all, thank you for your kind words and appreciation. Could not have made it without the support of you Daring Bakers. Glad to join so many of you in the Molten Sugar Burnt Fingers Club, only because that OW OW OW is such a viscereal shared experience. Your cakes were so, so lovely. Normally I'd answer each of you, but I'm pooped. Had a visit from a grand nephew just a littl over one year old...had forgotten how thos tykes wear you ot. Happy Memorial Day.

  26. Anonymous6:21 PM

    It all looks fantastic, but that cream... oh my!
    I hope your friend is better!

  27. another gorgeous gateau -- it truly *is* an honor and a privilege to be one of you!

  28. Oh, Elle, a beautiful and daring cake. Glad your friend is feeling better.
    The only way to survivie these cakes is to give them away!!

  29. Kristen, thanks, my friend will be having surgery soon and will surely be better after that.

    Dolores, It's lovely being a Daring Baker with you!

    Tanna, Yes, the gift of baking is the best way to go...out of the house :)

  30. looks delishius