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It was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time before the Daring Bakers adopted a patron saint.

Saint Honoratus of Amiens was a bishop of the town of Amiens, located in the North of France. He is believed to have died on May 16th, 600 A.D. While it doesn’t appear that Saint Honoratus was into making panna cottas and baking pavlovas, those that followed him did build a church in his name. In 1400, the bakers of Paris created a guild based in the church named after Saint Honoratus. Every May 16th, a feast was held in his honour and to this day, May 16th remains Saint Honoré Day. But perhaps even more than the day, Saint Honoré is known for the cake named for him: Gâteau St. Honoré.

After last month’s crepe cake, the hosting duties for the Daring Baker monthly challenge fell to Helene of Tartelette and Anita of Dessert First, both very accomplished followers of St. Honoré. Accordingly, they chose to challenge the Daring Bakers to bake the very famous gâteau.

When I first learned of the challenge for May, I ran to my room, hid under the covers and immediately began praying to St. Honoré himself for strength. This cake, you must understand, is made of some very lofty elements. To begin with, you have puff pastry.

That’s homemade puff pastry.

The puff pastry is followed by a pastry cream, which is then followed by cream puffs. While pastry cream and cream puffs may not be so bad, did I mention that there’s homemade puff pastry?

Oh, yes. For good measure, throw in a bit of caramel.

But St. Honoré must have felt that I was worthy because he sent some inspiration. Surely, I can do this. I’ve made croissants from scratch for heaven’s sake! So I printed the recipe, read it through, felt better and then promptly forgot about it for three weeks. But Saturday morning, I awoke and immediately began to worry … and pray. A recipe that had seemed straightforward and manageable three weeks earlier, was suddenly quite daunting.

So let’s begin at the beginning.

I started with the puff pastry, which involved making a dough and then preparing a butter packet. I have decided that I very much like butter packets and that if someone wanted to give me the gift of a butter packet, I would consider it a great gift.

But back to the puff pastry.

After enclosing my butter packet in the dough, I began the process of rolling and turning. Turning the puff pastry dough means rolling it out to a certain length and width (20 inches by 9 inches), and then folding the dough up in thirds, the way you would fold a letter. The seam of the letter will be facing you. After refrigerating the dough to let the butter cool down a bit, you remove the dough and begin rolling it out again with the seam facing to the right. That’s called a turn.

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After repeating that process five times, I had a rather lovely (if I may say so myself) packet of puff pastry, which I left in the refrigerator overnight.

Before going to bed, I also decided to get a start on the cream filling for the gâteau. Helene and Anita chose what is called Rapid Chiboust or Diplomat Cream. I have no idea why it’s called that but I have to say I found the Rapid Chiboust name very entertaining.

Every time someone asked me what I was doing I barked, “Do not bother me! I’m making Rapid Chiboust!” We Daring Bakers have to amuse ourselves somehow!

Any way, the cream was quite easy to pull together. It involved combining sugar, flour, salt, egg yolks, vanilla extract and whipping cream to which was added unflavoured gelatin. Just before filling the cream puffs and spreading the cream on the gâteau, I added stiffly beaten egg whites.

Allow me to say that this cream was divine! I had a lot left over, which I was sorely tempted to eat with a spoon!

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On the morning that I was ready to assemble and bake the gâteau (okay I’m not kidding anyone … it was this morning), I divided my puff pastry packet in half and rolled that half into a 12-inch square. From that 12-inch square I cut out four 6-inch circles. While the circles chilled in the refrigerator, I made the pâte à choux and this is where I encountered my first problem.

Clearly I had angered St. Honoré because I ended up having to throw out my first batch of pâte à choux and make a second one. When I make cream puffs, I’m used to mixing butter, water and salt and letting it come to a boil. I then add flour, all at once, and begin mixing together the ingredients to form the dough. This particular pâte à choux recipe requires that the flour be added slowly. I ended up with a lot of lumps, which I had to try to smush with a wooden spoon.

I hate smushing.

To make matters worse, because the quantity of eggs listed in the ingredients list was shown as “1 cup of eggs or 240 ml of eggs”, against my better judgement I ended up beating eggs and actually measuring out the liquid amount. I was so flustered about this that I didn’t read the instructions properly and poured in all of the liquid at once. The eggs are to be added one at a time, which posed a bit of a problem in that it wasn’t clear how many eggs were required. Needless to say I ended up with a liquidy mushy mess, which I very gladly dumped in the food bin.

After starting again, I decided to add the eggs individually and beat the mixture until it looked like thickened mayonnaise (as the directions indicate). I actually only used 3 eggs and the pâte à choux looked great.

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Moving on to the assembly of the gâteau, I piped four rings of pâte à choux onto the puff pastry circles and used the rest to make little cream puffs. This is where I made my second mistake. The recipe indicated that we should pipe four concentric rings on the puff pastry.

Now when the Cream Puff hears the word “concentric”, for some reason she thinks of math and the Cream Puff was never very good at math. From reading other Daring Bakers’ posts, I gather that what I was supposed to do is pipe four rings with pâte à choux leaving a gap between each ring so that the pastry cream could then fall into the gaps. I didn’t do this.

Hey. I wasn’t good at math alright!

I piped the rings so that they touched each other and was left with a border all around the edge of the puff pastry circle. I didn’t realize my error until after the puff pastry and cream puffs were baked so at that point I realized I’d have to do some improvising with either the pastry cream or some whipped cream.

Mistake aside, I was delighted with how the puff pastry circles baked up as well as the cream puffs. While I think I made my cream puffs a bit too small, they were a lovely colour and the puff pastry was, if I may say so myself, just gorgeous!

After letting everything cool down, I filled my cream puffs with the Rapid Chiboust (never get tired of saying that) and then spread as much of it as I could on the puff pastry rounds. Unfortunately because of the way that I piped the pâte à choux on, I couldn’t get a lot of cream on there or it would fall over the sides. This is likely why I had so much pastry cream left over.

Oh, well. Live and learn!

I placed everything in the refrigerator for a few hours and then finally set about the process of gilding the cream puffs with caramel. I’ve made caramel many times before and I’ve always made it the same way. I’ve cooked a bit of water with sugar until a molten liquid develops and it turns the shade that I’m looking for. In this case, the recipe indicated that we should just cook sugar in a pot.

I had some difficulty with this method as it seemed that the sugar turned dark right away. I frantically started stirring it so that it wouldn’t burn but then it clumped up. I had to add a bit of water to help it along. While this was very quick, I disliked not having the control over how dark the caramel turns as I do when I follow my usual method.

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All in all, though, the caramel worked out well and dipping the cream puffs in the caramel was fun. Once done, I used the extra caramel to drizzle over the cream puffs and to attempt to make some spun sugar.

To assemble, I began by piping whipped cream sweetened with sugar all around the edge of the puff pastry (that had no pâte à choux on it). I followed this by piping larger rosettes on top of the pastry cream. I set one cream puff in each of the large rosettes. I also piped rosettes around the base of the gâteau. I garnished with more cream puffs and also with raspberries. I dropped a few raspberries into the centre of the gâteau (on the pastry cream) and topped with some of the spun sugar.

I was very happy with the end result, my mistakes notwithstanding. I thought my little cakes looked very elegant. As I stood back and surveyed my work, I felt that all the effort was worth it. I’m already looking forward to trying the gâteau again very soon.

I’d like to thank Helene and Anita for pushing the Daring Bakers to even greater heights this month. This challenge was stressful, tiring and complicated. I had to sand blast my kitchen counter to get rid of the hardened caramel and I somehow managed to get pastry cream into every tile groove and cranny. But it was all worth it.

Clearly my prayers were answered.

Ciao!

Note: Helene and Anita have decided to post a round up of the Daring Bakers’ accomplishments this month. They’ve divided the group so that they will each list links to half of the Daring Baker blogs so be sure to check in with them regularly to see what everyone else has done. For the recipe, you can also visit Helene’s blog as she has kindly listed it.

One more thing, membership for the Daring Bakers is closed for the month of June. So many of you have e-mailed us asking to join that we’ve had to close the doors. But for those of you that do want to join, don’t worry, July membership is open. If you’re interested, send an e-mail to my lovely co-founder Lisa (tesla67@roadrunner.com) of La Mia Cucina or to me (imellozzi@sympatico.ca).

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