Great British Bake Off: Kate has to set aside a whole day to create Prue’s fiendishly difficult technical challenge
- Credit: C) Kate Royall
Kate bakes along with Bake Off: Gâteau Saint Honoré took five hours to make and five minutes to demolish, but was it worth it?
It was the semi final - things were getting serious.
Surely this week's technical challenge would be a stinker? And, true to form, Prue threw in a smoking grenade - a gâteau Saint Honoré. Her words of wisdom? "This is very difficult to make look good, good luck." WHAT?!
Naturally, Saint Honoré is the French patron Saint of baking. A total of 28 choux balls, evenly round in shape, should sit atop two trimmed layers of puff pastry. The choux balls are dipped in caramel and filled with crème Chiboust. The same crème is spread between the choux palls, on the puff pastry, before crème Chantilly is lovingly piped on top.
Prue then said: "This is really difficult to make and not make a mess." Ok, Prue we get it - it's going to be hard.
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Paul said it was worth every single calorie - I would need to get friends round to eat it.
I did something I'd never done before in the technical challenges - I read the recipe through fully.
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I tallied up the time it would take - with resting, chilling, mixing and baking I figured it would take about five hours. I set aside a day purely for the gâteau Saint Honoré - what was happening to me?
Half an hour in I was at the end of step four - the puff pastry had been the centre of my attention but it still needed another 90 minutes of chilling in between folds so I jumped to step nine - the crème Chiboust (essentially crème pâtissière lightened with stiffly beaten egg whites).
I ploughed on.
I made the crème Chiboust and left it to chill in the fridge, all ready to go in two piping bags - one fitted with a jam nozzle for filling the choux balls and one fitted with a Saint Honoré nozzle to pipe onto the puff pastry.
I had ten steps left after 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Three and a half hours in I wanted to give up (it probably didn't help that I was tired from a late night the night before).
I wondered why the hell I was doing this - I just couldn't see the home straight.
I'd made the puff pastry (butter had oozed out of the layers causing the fire alarm to go off - on the plus side the lamination was still ok) and I was halfway through making the choux pastry.
I still had to pipe and bake the choux, let it cool, fill them with crème Chiboust, make the caramel, dip the choux in caramel, make the crème Chantilly and assemble the finished dish.
There was only two of us at home to eat it and it was gigantic - what was I doing? I sat down for five minutes and wondered if I could pause the challenge and pick it back up the next day.
Pleased with the crème Chiboust I'd made, I didn't feel confident that it would keep overnight without losing air: there was only one thing for it - I had to continue.
I was on a journey and it was the penultimate technical challenge in my baking masterclass.
The choux went into a piping bag and was piped onto two baking sheets lined with paper that had been pre-marked with 2.5cm circles.I delicately placed them in to the oven.
If these worked it might save my day and buoy my spirits. After 20 minutes, some had risen, some hadn't. I knew exactly why this wasn't working - my heart was no longer in it.
I know I probably sounds ridiculous, but getting things right really matters to me and this wasn't going right.
But I figured I didn't need to conform to presenting something exactly the same as we saw on the show - as long as what I did had all the elements.
By the time it came to making the caramel, I was back in it for the long run. I made the caramel, dipped the choux in it and burnt my finger (note to self, caramel is blooming hot).
I had one more element to make - the crème Chantilly and do you know what, I cheated, I simply whipped some cream, time was running out.
Assembly time. I'd decided to cut the size of the final gâteau Saint Honoré down so it was more manageable for two people.
First up it was a trimmed rectangle of puff pastry with a ribbon of crème Chiboust piped down the centre. Either side of this I placed four choux balls - all secured in placed with a dot of crème Chiboust.
The layers were then repeated before crème Chantilly was pipped on top of the crème Chiboust.The end I thought I'd never see was here.
Assembled it looked OK, I'd used a Honoré nozzle to pipe the cream but I'd rushed it and had left my finesse in the other room. But that was fine, I had a form of gâteau Saint Honoré to serve.
I plated up and immediately cut a slice: I stood where I cut it and sunk my teeth into it. The texture was crisp and soft. It was creamy and buttery. It tasted like French patisserie. It tasted good.
But is good really enough when it's taken you five hours to make - yes, it look five hours.
Is anything worth taking five hours over - unless of course it's beef cheeks or short ribs? Yes, maybe if it's patisserie for a special occasion or for the semi final of a competition you're actually a competitor in!
Yes, it pushed me.
Yes, I learnt a lot.
Yes, I tried new things.
Would I make it again - maybe, if I used pre-made puff pastry (that in itself took about two hours to make). Buying it would save a lot of time. Am I looking forward to the final - not right now but I know that will change. As I sit in a darkened room with a gin and tonic I've decided that I'm more of a home cook rather than a home baker - it's a much more versatile title.
I'm now gearing myself back up to make a Goan fish curry for supper - using my favourite fish to curry, dogfish. That's if I can bring myself to head back into the kitchen…
* Read more of Kate's baking exploits at www.diaryofacountrygirl.com
Prue Leith's Gâteau Saint Honoré
For the puff pastry:
75g strong white bread flour, chilled
75g plain flour, chilled
pinch of salt
1 large egg
50ml water, chilled
125g unsalted butter, chilled
For the crème Chiboust:
3 platinum-grade gelatine leaves
250ml whole milk
1 vanilla pod, split
4 large eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
For the choux pastry:
80g plain flour
40g salted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
For the caramel:
200g caster sugar
40g liquid glucose
For the crème Chantilly:
200ml double cream, chilled
100ml whipping cream, chilled
25g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
You will need:
2 baking trays lined with baking paper
large piping bag fitted with a jam nozzle
2 large piping bags, each fitted with a Saint Honoré nozzle
2.5cm round cutter or any piping nozzle
2 baking sheets lined with baking paper
large piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle
Step 1: For the puff pastry, put both flours as well as the salt, egg and water into a bowl and use your fingers to gently mix to an even dough. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes, until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film and chill for 20 minutes.
Step 2: Using a rolling pin, flatten the butter between 2 sheets of cling film to a rectangle measuring about 18 x 13cm. Place in the fridge to chill with the dough.
Step 3: When ready, roll out the chilled dough to a rectangle measuring about 30 x 15cm. With a short end of the dough closest to you, position the butter so that it covers the bottom two thirds of the dough. Make sure that it is positioned neatly and covers almost to the edges.
Step 4: Lift the exposed dough at the top and fold it down over half of the butter, then fold the butter-covered bottom half of the dough up over the top. You will now have a sandwich of two layers of butter and three of dough. This is called a single turn. Pinch the edges together to seal. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Step 5: Unwrap the dough and, with a short end closest to you, roll out on a lightly floured surface, to a rectangle as before, keeping the edges as even as possible. Fold the top quarter down and the bottom quarter up so they meet neatly in the centre. Then fold the dough in half along the centre line where the edges meet. This is called a book turn. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
Step 6: Unwrap the dough and, with a short end closest to you, roll out on a lightly floured surface to a rectangle as before and fold as in the single turn in step 4. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
Step 7: Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas 7. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry to a 28cm square, then place it on a lined baking tray and freeze for 10 minutes.
Step 8: Place a sheet of baking paper on top of the rolled pastry and place a large (unlined) baking sheet on top of that. Bake the pastry sheet like this for 15-20 minutes, until golden-brown and crisp when you peep beneath the tray. Set aside to cool.
Step 9: For the crème Chiboust, soak the gelatine leaves in a small bowl of cold water until soft. Pour the milk into a pan and scrape in the vanilla seeds (you can put the remaining pod in a jar of caster sugar to make vanilla sugar, if you like). Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 seconds. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and 50g of the caster sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, until pale, then whisk in the cornflour. With the whisk on a slow speed, pour in the hot vanilla milk, whisking continuously until combined, then pour the mixture back into the milk pan.
Step 10: Bring the mixture back to the boil, whisking continuously over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Squeeze the gelatine to remove any excess water, then add to the pan and whisk until smooth. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool to room temperature.
Step 11: Once the crème is cool, tip the egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk and whisk to stiff peaks. Add the remaining 50g of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, whisking continuously until you have a stiff and shiny meringue. Add a large spoonful of the meringue to the cooled crème and whisk until mixed. Fold in the remaining meringue until incorporated. Spoon two thirds of the mixture into the piping bag fitted with the jam nozzle and the remaining one third into a piping bag fitted with a Saint Honoré nozzle. Chill until needed.
Step 12: For the choux pastry, reduce the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/Gas 5. Using the 2.5cm cutter or the large end of a piping nozzle, draw 14 well-spaced circles on the sheets of baking paper. Turn the sheets over, so the ink or pencil is underneath.
Step 13: Sift the flour into a bowl. Put the butter and 100ml of water into a medium pan over a low heat. Allow the butter to melt completely, but don't let the liquid boil.
Step 14: Once the butter has melted, increase the heat, bring to the boil and immediately remove from the heat. Quickly add the sifted flour in one go. Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture to a smooth, glossy dough. Return the pan to the heat and beat for 1 minute, until the dough is very thick and forms a ball that leaves the sides of the pan clean.
Step 15: Tip the dough into a stand mixer fitted with the beater and leave until barely warm, then gradually add the eggs, beating well between each addition, to a dropping consistency.
Step 16: Spoon the dough into the piping bag fitted with the 1.5cm plain nozzle and pipe 28 small circles on the two lined baking sheets, using the drawn circles as a guide. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until puffed, crisp and golden. Turn off the oven and leave the choux buns in the residual heat for 10 minutes to dry out. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Step 17: Once cooled, pierce a hole in the bottom of each choux bun with the tip of a knife and fill with crème Chiboust, using the portion in the piping bag with the jam nozzle. Set aside.
Step 18: For the caramel, melt the sugar and 50ml of water together in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Add the glucose, then cook until the caramel is a deep amber colour. Remove from the heat and plunge the base of the pan into cold water to prevent the caramel burning. Take care: the caramel will be very hot.
Step 19: Using tongs, carefully dip the top half of each filled choux bun into the caramel, then transfer, caramel side upwards, onto the remaining baking tray lined with baking paper. Leave to set. If the caramel in the pan starts to harden, return it to the heat to melt.
Step 20: For the crème Chantilly, whisk the double cream, whipping cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract until just thick enough to pipe. Spoon into the remaining piping bag fitted with a St Honoré nozzle.
Step 21: To assemble, trim the sheet of puff pastry and cut into 2 rectangles, each measuring about 24 x 12cm. Place one of the pastry sheets on a serving plate. Pipe a wide ribbon of crème Chiboust (from the piping bag fitted with the Saint Honoré nozzle) down the middle of the pastry, leaving enough space for a row of choux balls down each side. Pipe a dot of crème Chiboust on the base of each filled choux bun and stick them either side of the piped ribbon, 7 on each side.
Step 22: Place the second sheet of pastry on top of the choux buns and pipe the remaining crème Chiboust down the middle, leaving just enough to stick the last 14 choux buns down the sides (again, 7 on each side). Pipe the crème Chantilly in the middle to decorate.