Thursday, 9 February 2012

Trop choux

I owe you a fuller explanation of the religieuse making. This post and the process of making religieuses have something in common, which is that they are both outlandishly long, and by the end, you will be wondering why you bothered. This post will not be surprisingly tasty for breakfast, however. Let us plough on, regardless.

Are you ready to make religieuses, people? That rather depends how you feel about weighing water. How do you feel about the weighing of water? I was a water-weighing sceptic, but that was before we got to the weighing of egg yolks. Anyway. If Pierre says we weigh water, we weigh water. He knows.


Choux pastry ingredients: 280g of water. 1/2 tbsp of caster sugar. A pinch of salt. 130g of softened butter. 160g flour (I love how he doesn't give a shit what kind of flour you use. He's terse. 'Flour. From a shop'.) 5 eggs. An egg for .. what do you call that? When you brush the top of something with an egg wash? Doesn't much matter, I totally forgot about it.

Here's the water and the butter and the sugar and the salt. It was all going ok at this stage.

You heat it to boiling point, then you put the flour in. Then you're supposed to "dry the dough" with a spatula, to "roast the dough". No, me neither. How would that work exactly? I moved it around a bit.

Then you put it in your mixer at the slowest possible speed to cool it down.

Once it's cool you shove 5 eggs in one by one until your dough is "smooth and supple". This is slightly tense because of eggs being unpredictable little shits. It went fine though. I was feeling superhuman at this point.

Obviously, I do not have a "poche à douille unie" (piping bag with, uh, a plain tip. Like a normal circle one, I suppose). I have a freezer bag. An honest, sturdy freezer bag.

Slightly too sturdy. This was the first bad moment, when I had to shout Lashes for some scissors, because someone had taken the kitchen scissors and in their place were some kind of round tipped infant scissors that could not cut the bag.


"SCISSORS! You must have some in your school bag?"





I tore the corner off somehow with a blunt knife and the infant scissors. Then I was supposed to put 6 centimetre blobs and 3 centimetre blobs on a baking tray. Oh yes, this is the bit I forgot. "Dorer le dessus des choux avec l'oeuf battu". I didn't bother with that. It didn't seem to matter unduly. I put them in at 190°C NON FAN ASSISTED. This seemed to be important. Are you bored yet?

(yes, I made some eclair shapes too. The less said about those the better)

Around now the children materialised in the kitchen.

"What are you doing?"

"Making religieuses".


"I have, quite literally, no idea any more. It seemed like a good idea".

"Can we have some breakfast?"

"Must you? Can't you just forage for twigs or something?"

By the time I had ungraciously fed my children, the choux buns were all risen and puffy and gratifying. This was the best bit of the whole process.

I stroked them lovingly.

After that there was a lengthy break for cooling, as instructed by Pierre. He probably goes off to compose a symphony or make love to a dozen beautiful women. We went to the park where the children frightened me by walking on the pond, like the "before" shot in a doom-laden seventies safety information video.

"But, mum, it's only 5 centimetres deep. And it's frozen solid".

"It doesn't matter! Terrible things might happen! I HAVE SEEN THE FILM ABOUT THE BUILDING SITE".

It was a relief to get home until I remembered I had to tackle the incredibly terse instructions on the religieuse filling.

Filling ingredients: 140g cream, 1 Nespresso "Dulsao do Brasil" coffee capsule (it's a Nespresso tie in book, the one I got the recipe from. "83 astonishing ways with a used Nespresso capsule", if you will), 35g of egg yolk, 25g caster sugar, 1 sheet of gelatine, 90g of cream beaten 3/4.

First, I was supposed to open a Nespresso capsule and put the granule bits with some cream. Obviously I did not do that, (a) because it sounds weird, and (b) because the children would not eat coffee eclairs, which would potentially leave me with twelve to eat. Feasible but unwise.

I did not understand the next instruction. "Make a custard with the cream and the coffee", it said. "Réaliser une crème anglaise". There was no further or clarificatory instruction for that bit, but then it said "Add the beaten egg yolks, and the sugar". Add them to what? Also, 35g of egg yolk is a puzzling instruction, but someone helpful on Twitter indicated that an egg yolk is approximately 17g, so I used three. Yes, I know that doesn't actually make 35g. Or anywhere near. And that 2 would have been more accurate. I don't really know what to say, I was working on the "more is more" principle, I suppose.

It was getting a bit desperate at this point. I consulted Trish, who gave me wise advice I was slightly too late to use but would totally follow if I ever did this again (ha), so I ploughed on.

Using my excellent knowledge of basic culinary techniques, hem hem, I tried to make a normal custard by, like, heating the cream I had not added the coffee granules to, then adding the egg yolk and sugar mixture. I used more sugar than Pierre. It was a mistake.

"Chauffer à 84°C" said the instructions. Without a thermometer or indeed any information or experience at my disposal, I decided 84°C was probably somewhere just around unbearable to touch, so I kept putting my finger in to test the temperature. Extremely accurate. It did not curdle anyway, and I did as instructed and sieved it into a cold bowl. It was far, far too sweet, but at least looked a bit like custard.

"Blend with the gelatine leaf, that you have previously softened by soaking in water".

Now. The obvious problem here would have been forgetting to soak the gelatine. But I totally ACED that, despite the instruction appearing far, far down the page in an act of culinary trickery. I added the gelatine and blended, not wholly assisted by a series of ill-timed phone calls and interventions from the children inconsiderately demanding food, again.

There are no photos of the following phases because I was getting cross by this point.

I put the bowl in the fridge to set. I whipped my cream"3/4". I was ready.

I allowed several hours to elapse, as instructed. Boring, twitchy hours during which I cut all the choux buns in half, and still had time to watch several episodes of Inazuma Eleven. There is no excuse for this.

Finally, I went to poke my custard. It was almost entirely liquid.

I waited another hour. It was still largely liquid. I decided to whip the cream I was supposed to whip "3/4" all the way to the full 4/4 whipped. Then I took my eye off it momentarily to resolve an argument about the full moon and it turned into cheese. I started again. During all this time the custard remained stubbornly liquid.

I made some royal icing. It was no time for fancy. In a fit of defiance, I tried to make a small subset of the icing coffee flavoured by putting a teaspoon of coffee granules into the already mixed up icing sugar and water. It did not go well.

I gave up and mixed the second lot of 4/4 whipped cream with the runny custard and shoved it in the choux buns. With a spoon. I only did 6 in total because I was heartily sick of the whole process by then, and I was not sure whether the extremely volatile cream/custard mixture would stay in them.

Then I put some royal icing to sandwich them together, and an inelegant blob of icing on the top. I added hundreds and thousands, to distract the eye, and attract the magpie attention of the children.

In fairness both to M. Marcolini and to me, the children really enjoyed them, which was a good thing since I was far too broken to make any kind of decent dinner. But then they enjoy paprika crisps and Knacki hot dogs, so I wouldn't call them high priests of culinary discernment.

Finally, when I had chased the children up to bed with sticks and fallen over the dog and had a small gin, I cleaned up the kitchen and found, stuck to the bottom of the my bowl of water where I had been soaking the gelatine, approximately 9/10s of the gelatine sheet. Which explained a lot.

So there you have it: Pierre Marcolini's Religieuses aux Café sans café. Lacking some .. gelatinousness. Even so, and astonishing to me, I could probably be convinced to make them again.


Patience_Crabstick said...

I think I just injured myself from laughing so hard.

Rosie Redfield said...

Make the puffs (indeed a joy to see such goop rise up), and fill them with any kind of pudding (in the American sense), bought ready-made or cooked up from a packet, or with whipped cream from one of those spray cans. Looks and tastes just as good, with about 10% of the fuss.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this will really help - but your comment about cavorting on pond ice being like Part 1 of a safety video reminded me of THIS safety video;

Warning; extreme black humour + instruction + gore!
The patisserie looks delicious by the way. Next stage, get the boys involved and then they can make them for you. My kids (admittedly a little older), make tiramisu only loosely based on a recipe, but very indulgently delicious!
Heather (in NZ)

paola said...

You could bring some over on Friday?

Mrs Jones said...

But at least you now know how to make decent choux pastry which you can use for other things, like gougere-type stuff or, indeed, filling the cracks in the wall.

mountainear said...

They look pretty good to me.

Experience has taught me not to bother with creme patisserie for choux buns/profiteroles. Whipped cream will suffice...and chocolate sauce. If you MUST make it then thick Birds custard is a pretty good substitute.

Z said...

Whenever possible, I use two spoons to shape choux pastry rather than a piping bag. And I hate leaf gelatine, it never dissolves, so use powder. But your religieuses look pretty damn good to me.

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes said...

Oh they look tasty.

The Reluctant Launderer said...

I had the most delicious cake at a friend's house recently. She is American, corporate, two small children, and, I assumed, little regard for baking of any sort. I was about to apologise mid scoff for this very very unfair judgment of her when I spotted the Betty Crocker box on the shelf. But what REALLY made the cake was the ready-made from-a-tub Betty Crocker icing. The whole thing was better than home made. I will never bake a cake again. (Nor will I look at any of the ingredients in the Betty Crocker range because it is slightly horrifying and reminds me of 0-Level science.) Anyway. Just in case the urge to spend the day baking grabs you again - there are alternatives...

Becca said...

This seem a good taste pastry..i would like to try your recipe.

ptooie said...

Yay you for trying!
When I tried a similar recipe I was very pleased with how easy the puffs were and then I believe I got to cheat and use vanilla pudding for my filling.
That method is heartily endorsed if you do give it another attempt.

BDM said...

Five stars to Waffle. Hysterically funny. Momentarily disrupted by NON FAN ASSISTED which must be Belgian? Brit? code for what?
- Brenda in Toronto

vivien y said...

Choux pastry + piping bags = marriage made in hell. I have a silcone piping bag which looks like a surgical appliance and is even more unspeakable when filled with choux pastry. Also, it turns whipped cream into cheese instantly as described.
Cracking blog!

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