St. Honoré pastry and its noble patron saint

May 16, 2013

bakery

Anyone who does much baking has had mishaps and for most of us they are very frustrating. Some even give up on the recipe involved, as if it were to blame, not our involuntary lapse.

Yet while to err is human, to take a deep breath and try again, armed with prayer aforethought, is Christian. The sufferings and love of Our Lord on the Cross, the tears of Mary, everything in our faith tells us we should never give up, no matter what. We should always try again.

A window of the famous pastry shop E. Ladurée in France. Photo by Laktatjakka

When faced with their own vexations centuries ago, Catholic French bakers and pastry chefs sought solace in their faith. In praying for inspiration, strength, and spiritual help, they looked around for a patron, a saint with a special understanding of their troubles, who would intercede for them more earnestly before the Blessed Mother and the Christ Child. They chose St. Honoré of Amiens.

Legend tells us that the woman who had been the governess of St. Honoré during his childhood was a doubting Thomas and she laughed when told that he had been chosen to shepherd the city’s faithful. She had been doing some baking, and in a gesture of disbelief, tossed aside her peel, saying: “It’s easier for this peel to spring back to life, than for Honoré to become bishop.” We can only imagine her surprise the next morning, seeing that her baker’s peel had turned into a vigorous blackberry bush.

Storefront of pastry shop L. Bourbon, in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France. By Le grand Cricri

Bakers can certainly relate to her bread baking and peel and pastry chefs know very well what to do with blackberries. Both professional groups made St. Honoré their patron, prayed to him, and France soon became famous and unmatched for the superior quality of its breads and pastries.
Do you bake? Turn to St. Honoré in prayer. And, as Sir Winston Churchill would say, “never, never, never give up!” Keep on trying, striving always for ever greater excellence, beauty, and culinary perfection.
Wouldn’t you like to try this pastry recipe named in honor of St. Honoré?
Fleur-de-lys divider

Gâteau St. Honoré

 

Base

½ lb Puff Pastry

 

Crown and Puffs (Choux Pastry)

5 Tbsp. Butter

½ C Water

½ C Milk

½ tsp. Salt

1 tsp. Sugar

1 C Flour

4 Eeggs

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Egg Wash

1 Egg Yolk

1 Tbsp. Milk

 

Pastry Cream (Fillings)

3 Eggs

4 Tbsp. Sugar

6 Tbsp Flour

4 Tbsp. Cornstarch

1¼ C Milk

¼ tsp. Vanilla

½ C Whipping Cream, for filling puffs

 

Caramel

½ C Sugar

2 Tbsp. Butter

3 Tbsp. Water

 

To make the base, roll out the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and make a circle 10 inches in diameter. Brush a baking sheet with a bit of water and transfer pastry circle to it.

To make the choux pastry, dice the butter and put butter, water, milk, salt and sugar in a saucepan, set on high heat and boil for 1 minute while stirring. Take the pan off the heat and quickly add the sifted flour and stir. When the mixture is very smooth, return the pan to the heat and stir for one minute to dry out the dough a bit. Transfer paste into a bowl. Immediately beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, until the mixture is very smooth. Spoon the choux pastry into a piping bag with a wide nozzle, ½ inch wide.

cake

Next prepare the egg wash by mixing the egg yolk with the milk. With the egg wash, brush a ring on the outside of the pastry circle about 1 inch wide. On top of the egg wash, pipe a border around the outside of the pastry ring.

Whip the cream. To make the caramel, cook the sugar in a saucepan with the butter and water until it turns golden amber.

On another lightly buttered baking tray, pipe 18 small puffs about ¾ inch in diameter. Brush with egg wash and press lightly with the back of a fork. Preheat oven to 425°F. Bake the puffs and base for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 400°F and cook the puffs for 10 minutes more and the base for a further 15 minutes. When the puffs come out of the oven, cut a hole in the bottom of each puff to let the steam escape. Dip the top of each puffball into the caramel and set aside to cool. When cool, fill each puff through the hole in the bottom with whipped cream. Attach each puff onto the outside of the base with a little bit of caramel.

An individual Saint-Honoré pastry by Chatsam.

To make the pastry cream, beat together 2 egg yolks, 1 whole egg and the sugar. Reserve egg whites. Stir in the flour, cornstarch and the vanilla. Heat the milk gently and gradually beat in the egg mixture. Return the mixture to the pan, bring to a boil, stirring all the time, and boil for two minutes. Cover the buttered paper and cool.

Whip the 2 egg whites until stiff and fold together egg whites, any remaining whipped cream and pastry cream. Fill the center of the cake with the mixture. Drizzle remaining caramel over the cream and decorate with candied flowers, strawberries or even candied fruit. Or pipe several whipped cream rosettes on top and place one maraschino cherry in the center of each whipped cream rosette. If possible, whatever decorations you decide to use should be added shortly before serving.

Serves 6 to 8.

  Recipe taken from Cooking with the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf

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