fat free opinions on a food centric life

How Not to Puff St. Honore Pastry

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Better late than never in getting this post done, I guess.  Since I’ve never done one of the Daring Bakers challenges, the thing I’ve most learned is to plan more effectively.  Like — do it earlier (I was seriously procrastinating because of that darn puff pastry) and post my entry when I’m done, but just don’t publish it.  Sheesh!  Doesn’t sound too complicated, but you’d think I was a walking brain fart or something.  Not rocket science.  Anyhow…being less than satisfied with my results didn’t help.  Why not satisfied?  Although the whole puff pastry experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be because my dough seemed beautiful, it didn’t quite “puff.”  That would be the whole concept behind puffing, right?  To puff?  I mean, it isn’t supposed to be called brick pastry, or leather pastry, or rubber pastry.  You do get the idea, don’t you?

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To ease up on myself a bit, I started making cream puffs when I was in high school.  What this challenge taught me about cream puffs is is to work on the drying part.  In the past, I have not always left the puffs in the oven long enough to sufficiently dry out and they collapse a bit. Oh really!  But I’ve gotten by because putting pastry cream and whipped cream and a strawberry slice always helps fill them out enough for no one to notice.  I know — all of you who are great pastry people are gasping right now.  Still…they always tasted great so no one really cared.  So with this month’s challenge, I was all over stirring the eggs into the batter by hand — in fact, made extra batter to freeze just to see how that turns out after it’s thawed.  I’ll keep you posted on that one.
I made lots of puffs for this challenge.  I read “the size of bing cherries” and thought — right.  But they were so cute and filled up so nicely — even with that number 2 tip that poked right into the bottom and filled up with that delectable Diplomat Creme.  Sweet!  They all sat so beautifully on that Gateau St. Honore. So there was some success.

And the Diplomat Cream came out beautifully as well.  I’d never made that before even though every other kind of pastry cream has been experimented with.  It was very challenging not to keep licking my fingers, the spatula, the side of the pan, the bowl….totally and completely wonderfully decadent cream!

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The burnt sugar?  I’ve had a run in with a crocquembouche before, and that was a serious hoot, so this seemed mild in comparison.  Sheesh!  That’s what I get for feeling all puffy before the end results.  Because I decided to artfully “sling” my melted sugar across the finished gateau, the hot sugar melted the cream, and, well, the finished result was less than artful.  Blobby comes to mind.  I think it wasn’t quite hot enough, and because I was worried that it would burn (and completely wanting to finish the darn thing) I settle for blobbiness instead of “spun sugarness.”  Patience is not something I have at times like this.

And the whipped cream?  Ooooooo…I added banana liquor because after reading the recipe for what seemed like a thousand times, I couldn’t figure out when or where to put the “rum” in the Diplomat Creme.  I saw it on the ingredients list, but never could see where it went in the cream.  Since I had measured it out ahead of time, after the cream was finished, I noticed the liquid sitting there and wondered what the hell had happened.  I read the directions again and just decided I was a dork.  I never have figured out that one.  So what the heck.  I just decided to add it to the cream.  Maybe that’s where it was supposed to go all the time.  Anyway, the results were amazing.  I will totally be doing that again.  YUM!

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But let’s talk about the puff pastry, because that’s what I’m the most bummed about.  Everything seemed to be going so well.  The flipping and turning, and resting, and cooling over and over.  At least six full turns.  I think where the problems began is when we had to go away for the weekend.  So after reading carefully from more than one puff pastry recipe, I decided to freeze my dough until I could tackle it after returning home.  It thawed nicely, rolled nicely.  Everything seemed fine.  Except I think I didn’t roll it thinnly enough when I cut the disk for the St. Honore.  So, picture a thick piece of puff pastry, and then with the Pate a Choux on top in concentric rings.  It was just too dense.  Was it not really thawed out?  Had the freezing done something to the dough?  Had I turned it too much?  Had the butter not been spread throughout the layers like it was supposed to?  Even though I had carefully rolled and folded and turned the dough…who knows, because the result was absolutely NOT puffy.  Sigh.

Img_1778 Look closely…no flaky layers in sight.  None.

So there you have it.  Looks cute, the puffs with the diplomat cream and carmelized sugar were AMAZING, but the whole thing?  Nope.  So I have to say that as much as I’m up for a cooking challenge, I can’t imagine what could be more involved and “challenging” than this.  But whatever it is coming up for next month, I’m planning on getting an early start.  Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.  Right.

Now that I’ve officially survived my first Daring Bakers Challenge, I have to figure out how to get the label in my sidebar.  Easy peasy after this dessert.  In my next life, I will not be a pastry chef.