Oh my my my. If Christmas isn't a time to get your fancy on I don't know when is. And no one does fancy baking like the French. To use a cliche they have it down to a fine art, an art of shiny glazes, intricate pastries and light as a feather cakes. The Gateau San Honore is an essential part of any French pastry shop window display and apparently every good French pastry chef has his own version. Every gateau must have a puff pastry base and caramel covered choux pastry buns. The typical fillings include cream, chantilly cream, creme patissiere and sometimes fruit.
For this particular gateau I used creme patissiere and vanilla bean chantilly cream and I have to say it is definitely one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. The choux and puff pastries were light and fluffy and the vanilla beans brought a beautiful depth to the cream. The caramel gave the choux buns a lovely sweet crunch. I could have coloured my caramel a bit darker but it smelled and tasted beautifully sweet and I didn't want to be too ambitious and end up with a bitter burnt caramel as can so easily happen in a few short seconds. My relationship with making caramel is still in its tentative stages. If you love eclairs or profiteroles you will go mad for this gateaux. It is not whipped up in a hurry but well worth the effort!
For the choux pastry
See recipe here!
For the puff pastry
Either buy a good quality puff pastry or use my rough puff recipe here!
For the chantilly cream
one vanilla bean scraped
5 tablespoons of icing sugar sifted
For the creme pattisiere
seeds from half vanilla pod
2 egg yolks
25g caster sugar
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp cornflour
For the caramel
200g caster sugar
1/2 tablespoon of glucose (optional)
2. Heat the milk and vanilla in a pan until just at boiling point. Take off the heat immediately and pour onto the egg mixture beating continuously. Pour back into the pan at a low heat and beat until thickened, like shop bought custard. Don't stop beating until you take it off the heat. Allow to cool.
3. Make the choux pastry according to link above and pipe 10-12 small profiteroles. Bear in mind that they will puff up bigger so pipe small. I would make mine smaller next time.
4. Bake for 15 minutes at 220oC then reduce and bake for 10-15 at 190oC. Take out of oven and allow to cool.
5. Roll out puff pastry into a 10 inch circle. Use a plate or the insert of a cheesecake pan. Prick with a fork and put in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill. Otherwise it will shrink.
6. Take out and pipe a swirl of choux on the puff pastry leaving a 5mm border because the choux will rise and fill the gap. This video by Michel Roux is great for giving you the idea of assembly. I just copied him really!
7. Bake the puff pastry at 180oC for 25 minutes until risen and golden. Allow to cool in a turned off oven for 10 minutes. Take out and cool completely.
8. Beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat until stiff. Fill the profiteroles with the cream.
9. Make the caramel. Put water, sugar and glucose in a heavy based (not non-stick pan). Give it a good stir so that the water and sugar are incorporated and bring to a medium heat until it starts to bubble. Do not stir once the sugar has dissolved. Cook to 176oC or until it smells sweet and is amber coloured.
10. Spoon the creme pat around the puff pastry base in an even layer leaving the very outside clean.
11. Being very careful dip the profiteroles in the caramel and then place in a circle around the puff pastry circle on the creme pat. The caramel is very hot, run your fingers under cold water immediately if you are burned.
11. When the profiteroles are finished filling the circle, pipe the chantilly cream into the centre hole on top of the creme pat until full.
12. Decorated with angel hair/spun sugar from the rest of the caramel.