Verb: Patisserie crawl
An activity in which a group of people will try to visit as many patisseries as possible in one day, consuming at least one item from each destination.
Yeah, you heard that right. Like a pub crawl, but subbing the beer for cake. Genius idea, you say? You saw it here first. After inventing the concept earlier this year I’ve indulged in two so far, in London and Paris, and they have by far exceeded the hype I created in my head. How have you not been on one yet?!
We consumed macarons in an array of flavours and colours (butter caramel was my personal favourite, although my friend’s melon one was mighty fine), visited Maison Bertaux for chocolate mousse cake, stopped off at Konditor and Cook for a flamingo cake, went to Patisserie Belle-Epoque, had a white chocolate and raspberry mousse and meringue cake at Angelina’s (Paris’s answer to the Ritz), scoffed pastries at Paul’s, dined on rose-brioche, ate a passion fruit cheesecake bombe and a large raspberry macaron sitting outside the Louvre. And then there was Ladurée… Oh, Ladurée… Where do I start?! It’s not just a patisserie, it’s an experience. They manufacture a buzz by having queues out of the doors, fancy décor and beautiful packaging. But amongst all this hype, their cakes still shine through . We ate our London purchases sitting on the pavement with a plastic fork (classy, I know) and they were still incredible.
On top of the extraordinary number of calories gained, belts loosened and glasses of water drunk, I gathered a HUGE amount of inspiration and ideas to try out. This Saint Honoré is inspired by the classic Ladurée version I ate in Paris.
Wikipedia is pleased to tell you that the cake’s named after the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs – you’ll never guess what his name was. It usually consists of a puff pastry base, covered in hard caramel and topped with choux buns, also dipped in caramel. The gaps between the buns are then filled with ‘Honoré cream’ – crème pat with added cream or egg whites.
I’ve added coffee and walnuts because, well, I thought it would be really nice. Sorry, there’s no fun story behind that but we’re honest around here. Like how we’re honest about eating 6 pieces of cake for lunch yesterday. Or that the reason the ratio of granola to raisins in the cereal box is 1:6 is because for the past 5 days we’ve picked out all the raisins from our bowl and put them back in the box. Well, if you will insist on buying the one with raisins…
Coffee and walnut Saint Honoré
60g (about 2 eggs worth) “aged” egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar, lemon juice or white vinegar
12g caster sugar
60g ground almonds
120g icing/powdered sugar
2 tsp. cooled espresso
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tbsp. caster sugar
75g plain flour
80g caster sugar
1½ tbsp. cold water
Coffee Chantilly cream
300ml double cream
3 tsp. cooled espresso
2 tbsp. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
50g chopped walnuts
First make the macarons: Take a sheet of baking paper large enough to fit your baking tray and, using a pencil, draw four 10cm circles 5cm apart across the sheet.
Place the walnuts on a baking tray and roast for around 10 minutes on Gas mark 3.
Using an electric whisk (or a conventional whisk if you really fancy a workout), whisk the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar/lemon juice/white vinegar and continue to whisk until they hold really stiff peaks but don’t ‘break’. Whisk in the caster sugar to make a stiff peaked meringue, then in three additions gently fold in the icing sugar and ground almonds, using careful cutting motions to ensure most of the air’s kept in. Follow this by folding in the cold espresso.
Take a piping bag with a 1/2 inch nozzle and fill it with the mixture. Using your circles as a guide, pipe 10cm wide circles onto the baking paper, piping in a spiral from the outside in. Gently tap each tray on your work surface to release any air bubbles that can ruin the final appearance. Leave your macarons on a flat surface for 40-60 minutes until their surfaces have formed a tacky skin. Preheat your oven to gas mark 4/180°C. Place each tray into the oven to bake for about 16-20 minutes or until you can just about separate the macarons from the baking paper. If they leave behind their middles they’re not yet ready. Leave them to cool on the trays and then remove to a cooling rack using a spatula.
For the choux buns preheat the oven to Gas mark 4/180º and place a baking pan ½ filled with hot water in the bottom of the oven. Place the milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat. Add the butter, 125ml water, salt and sugar, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, ‘shoot’ in all the flour at once and mix quickly with a wooden spoon until all the flour’s disappeared and the pastry leaves the sides of the pan. Take off the heat and leave to cool for a minute, continuing to stir. Whisk the eggs together in a separate bowl and then beat them into the batter a little at a time until the paste becomes smooth and shiny. Spoon the choux pastry into a piping bag with a large, plain nozzle and pipe into 2.5cm wide rounds onto a greased baking tray. Smooth the tops of the buns with a wet finger and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Once cooked, remove them from the oven and, using a knife or skewer, poke a hole in the bottom of each bun (this releases the steam trapped inside that can cause them to go soggy) and leave to cool on a drying rack.
For the caramel, place the sugar and cold water in a heavy bottomed pan over a low heat. Melt gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once no granules remain, increase the temperature and simmer, without stirring, until a golden amber colour – watch it like a hawk as it will turn from a nice amber to a burnt dark brown very quickly. Lay a piece of baking paper on a surface and, being very careful not to get any caramel on your fingers, dip the top of each choux bun into the caramel. Place the caramel covered top directly onto the baking paper and leave to cool. Once cooled, peel the choux buns off the paper and set aside. Pour the additional caramel onto the bottom of each macaron and spread evenly (you may need to reheat the caramel over a gentle heat if it’s started to set). Take the roasted walnut pieces and tip into any remaining caramel in the saucepan, stir and spoon out onto a piece of greaseproof paper to cool.
For the Chantilly cream, tip the double cream, icing sugar, coffee and vanilla into a bowl and whisk to soft peaks. Using a small, plain nozzle pipe the cream into the middle of each choux bun through the hole you created earlier.
To assemble your Saint Honoré, place each macaron, bottom up, on a plate and top with 4-5 choux buns arranged in a circle on the outer edge, caramel side up. Using a large star nozzle, pipe the remaining cream between each choux bun from the outer edge to the middle, adding a swirl on the top. Break up the walnut praline into small pieces and scatter over the top of your creation. Voilà. You, my friend, are basically a Parisian patissier.