Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Best of the Brest

Wow…I can certainly feel another wave of inspiration coming over me after this morning’s demonstration!

Despite my fatigue from the TGV, I watched in awe as Chef Cotte created two masterful creations from choux pastry: the Paris-Brest and the St. Honore. It was like a giant cream puff fantasy come to life!! I kept thinking to myself...why haven’t I ever tried this before?!

Actually I have tried it before....yet for whatever reason choux just has not become part of my regular baking repertoire. Mom & I used to make cream puffs when I was a kid…and I’ve had the random encounter with cheese gougere and profiteroles for dinner parties over the past 10 years…not to mention a near-miss with a mini croquembouche in Melbourne!! Yet, it just isn’t a type of pastry I do often. Having seen today’s demo, I think that is about to change!!

Whilst I am not a huge fan of whipped cream, the finished cakes were stunning and very flavorful, with a simple but elegant presentation. The St. Honore, with its domes of choux pastry enrobed in a light caramel glaze and filled with beautifully piped crème Chantilly and scattered almonds was particularly breathtaking. Vaguely like the Kremlin on a plate....he he!

The Paris-Brest was a bit more rustic in appearance but had amazing qualities on the palette. Chef Cotte's was a giant ring of light choux pastry, filled with a satiny crème pralinee and smothered in sliced almonds. The lack of caramel glaze made it appear somewhat less regal, but the flavor was even more complex & satisfying than the St. Honore. A touch of shaved chocolate or crushed toffee on this one would have certainly defied pastry traditions but made it taste even more amazing! An equally inspired class mate was bold enough to ask the chef about using Nutella...a man after my own heart!! :-)

In ‘honor’ of two birthdays this week I’ll make the St. Honore on Thursday morning as part of my practical class….and will attempt a second, more creative interpretation of this on Saturday when I am back in Geneva. I can see so much potential in playing more creatively with the caramel presentation on this cake…something to give it even more height and a bit more texture for the degustation experience. And strawberries....I think this creation needs strawberries!

Of course, my inspiration doesn't end with the garnishing but extends to working with the choux pastry!! The fact that I can pipe this choux dough into virtually any shape, then build these shapes up using hard caramel & whipped cream is very inspiring. It's like edible building material...I can construct all sorts of wild cakes!! And of course all sorts of presentation ideas come to mind…sorry it’s my design background starting to kick in!

I leave you with perfect photos from today’s Chef demo until I can share some of my own…have pastry bag, will travel! ;-)

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