Will Torrent’s ‘Patisserie at home’ has been my definitive guide to learning how to create simple French Patisserie for years now. His step-by-step guide makes it simple for a novice and most ingredients are readily available (or easy to make). I have also gotten to a stage where I’m slightly more confident when it comes to baking (out of my comfort zone). The result, less than 2 hours of baking and assembling both desserts (excluding the cooling time).
I wanted to make something that I felt comfortable with. Having made all of the elements on a Gateau Saint-Honore before, I felt confident in making and assembling this within a short time (I tried to recreate and share what would be easy for you the reader, and without having to source any unattainable ingredients).
I needed to break this into stages to better understand it:
- The Creme Diplomat needed to be made first to allow to cool.
- The Choux needed to be baked and allowed sufficient time to cool to ensure crispy, firm choux.
- The caramel would be done last before assembly.
For the Creme Diplomat, I followed Chef Torrent’s recipe. Because I shared the Creme Patisserie between 2 desserts, the quantity was sufficient. I planned towards using my own Choux recipe because I felt comfortable with it and I’ve made it many times before. In the end, I piped all the remaining Creme Diplomat into my left-over choux with no wastage.
To start, you would require a Crème Patisserie as a ‘base’.
- Split a vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into a pan with 2 cups of milk (500ml). Allow to come to a boil over low heat.
- In a seperate bowl, whisk 4 egg yolks, half a cup of sugar, 3 tablespoons of maizena, 3 tbl of custard powder until it is creamy.
- Start pouring the milk a little at a time into the bowl with the egg mixture and whisk well. Pour the balance of what’s left in the egg mixture bowl back into the pan and whisk over a low heat until it starts to bubble.
- After a few minutes the mixture would have gotten thick and silky. If at all it appears lumpy, whisk and pass through a sieve.
- Add 2 tbl butter to give the crème a gloss and to enrich the flavour.
- Empty into a glass bowl and place a layer of cling wrap over, getting into the edges. This prevents the layer forming over the top part of the Creme.
Once the Creme Pat is done, you need to move onto making the Diplomat (it sounds complicated but I can assure you, this is really simple if done systematically.
Now that your Crème Pat is cooled, make the Diplomat.
- Add 1 tub of Woolworths whipping cream and 1 tub of Woolworths Double thick cream into a bowl.
- Whisk it until thick, large peaks form.
- Fold the whipped creams into half the Crème Pat quantity gently.
At this stage it can be used to fill your choux or even on vanilla sponge. It’s light and airy but also holds well for piping.
Now to make the Choux.
I really love the recipe that I have for making Choux (because it’s tried and tested). Feel free to use your own if you’ve been making it for some time.
If you’re making a smaller Gateau, you can actually have some choux over to pipe and dip into chocolate for the kids. How did I get my choux so perfect? I piped it into a Cake pop pan! I used the bottom part to dip into my caramel so it hid the uneven bottom – genius! Right, onto the choux.
In a pot, add 250ml water with 100g butter and 5ml of vanilla extract.
Bring this to the boil.
On a sheet of paper, sift 1 cup of flour with 1 level tsp of baking powder. Make sure the paper is folded horizontally (meaning the long side).
Chute it into the melted liquid and use a large whisk to bring it all together. It should start moving away from the sides of the pot.
Remove it from the heat and in the same pot, add one egg at a time and whisk using an electric beater. (I break all 4 eggs into a seperate bowl so it’s easier to drop one in a time). Once all 4 eggs have been mixed in, the result should be smooth, glossy ad thick enough to pipe.
Fill a piping bag with a round nozzle (no pattern).
Dampen your tary by sprinkling water over it (this helps the Choux rise).
Reserve enough dough that needs to go around the base of your Gateau – I’d say half a cup worth.
Pipe the rounds into or onto your tray. They should be small and neat.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees and when you see them begin to rise, drop the temperature down to 160 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until it is browned but crispy. I usually leave the door ajar and switch the stove off to continue crispening.
Once these are done, remove them and allow it to cool while you prepare the base.
I used a smaller base so I could get 2 Gateau’s out of one quantity. If you are feeding a crown, go with a larger size to use up all the crème and the choux buns.
Cut a circle out of a sheet of store-bought puff pastry. Lay this onto some baking paper.
Pipe (using the round nozzle) around the edge of the pastry. Brush over beaten egg and bake on 160 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden and crisp.
Allow everything to cool until you are ready to assemble.
Prepare the caramel by melting 1 and a quarter cup of sugar to 3 tbl water. Don’t stir, allow it to come to a slow bubble and thicken and darken. Once thick, dip the Choux buns into the caramel and set aside to harden.
Once hardened and cooled, poke a small hole at the bottom of the choux bun and fill with the crème diplomat from earlier. Don’t overfill. You are now ready to assemble your Gateau.
Begin by lifting the base onto your serving platter or tray (I used an Artesa stand from Premier Home).
Using a large patterned nozzle, pipe roses all along the edge (on top of the Choux ring). Swop nozzles and pipe little rounds in the middle.
Top the roses with the caramel choux buns.
Finally, add some chopped fruit for decoration. This doesn’t need to be served immediately (especially if you dried out your choux properly). It was magnificent served as is – it’s light and creamy but not overly sweet. Don’t feel intimated – do it in stages and assemble gently.
If you want to bake the choux into eclairs, slice them open, lay them onto a baking tray, switch your oven to 70 degrees and allow them to dry out for 15 minutes then fill with the Diplomat. Drizzle melted milk chocolate over and serve.