How Not to Puff St. Honore Pastry

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?

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!


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!


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.

23 thoughts on “How Not to Puff St. Honore Pastry

  1. I was also a procrastinator on this challenge, and it served me right! I was also impatient and slopped the hot caramel right on top of the cake, melting all my cream… So next time I am determined to start on the challenge earlier! Think yours still looks lovely!

  2. Kelly, I had a laugh about the calories – so true! I don’t even know how many pounds of butter I’ve seen so far. 😀
    Your gateau looks amazing – I love the caramel drizzling on the top!

  3. Kelly,
    Just wanted to let you know that your post is linked to my site now. I think your cake looks fabulous – love all the shots of the pate a choux baking in the oven too!

  4. Your gateaux looks great! I think you and I had the same problem with the puff pastry – we actually didn’t put it in a hot enough oven for it to do the initial poof, before turning it down. We had the layers, they just weren’t distinct enough to be countable!
    Good work though!

  5. No worries about the puff pastry not puffing. From a taste perspective it was all about the diplomat’s cream and the cream puffs. Well done!

  6. Kelly, I really like your cake. I think that your cake has been beautifully assembled.I liked Anita’s tip about the oven temperature.As for the early planning, I tell myself to get organized every month. maybe I will succeed in the future.; 0 )

  7. Hi Kelly! Oh I love the sounds of the banana liqueur in your chiboust… I bet that was fantastic! Your gateau is beautiful – I love the contrast of the dabs of caramelized sugar with the light cream and cream puffs!
    PS. I don’t think I made your DB list… 🙂

  8. Ohhh man… you’ve got me drooling again, missie! Banana – pure genius! What liquor did you use? I’ve got Something Cruz Banana Rum in my pantry – wish I would have thought to use that!
    And shush – I think your cake looks divine! I’m seeing layers.. am I crazy? Mine puffed but not as high as some others I’ve seen.. maybe the humidity has something to do with it?
    Anyhoo – I’m TICKLED PINK that you survived your first challenge – and quite brilliantly in my humble opinion. =)

  9. Well done surviving your first challenge. If you hadn’t said about the puff pastry I wouldn’t have noticed – it still looks great!

  10. Yippee! You made it and it looks gorgeous! Don’t fret about the puff pastry, happens to me too and there is no obvious explanation.
    I am really curious about the frozen crem puff dough so keep us posted!

  11. You guys are all so lovely with your supportive comments. It certainly is fun to be involved in such a fun “family” of people who all love to cook. I truly enjoyed being a part of the challenge and can’t wait to see what the next one will be.
    Lisa — the banana liqueur is called 99 Bananas and is absolutely delicious. I found it last year when I was trying to make a cocktail called “Yellow Bird.” Mmmmmm…..You gotta try it.
    And Gilly — Thanks for letting me know you aren’t on my list. I’ll fix that right away. So Sorry!!!!!

  12. As other’s have commented, it really is all about the cream and cream puffs! I think your first challenge looks very nice indeed. And don’t sweat the waiting to the last minute. The last minute group is a laugh-riot on IM/email…trust me. I know…I’m one of the last minute founding members…ask Lis! Welcome on board!

  13. That sucks about the puff pastry not puffing after all of that hard work, but the rest was delicious, and that´s what counts. I´m not on the sidebar either.

  14. You’d think after lookng at thirty-some St. Honore’s, the diplomat cream would loose some of it’s appeal, huh? You’d think wrong. Banana liquor with caramel drizzle… brilliant!

  15. My puff pastry didn’t rise it either, it stayed resolutely flat. Tasted good though and that’s all I care about!
    I think your finished gateau looks awesome!

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