If you made a cake equal in weight to Bouchon Bakery (Artisan Books, October 2012) by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel, it would have to be a piece montee.
Alernatively book could be used as a blunt instrument, not that I recommend that use.
From Witches Hats to Nougat, Hot Cross Buns to Financiers, Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel take you on a full course to bread and pastry making from basic techniques and tricks to finished products.
As a first illustration here's a pate a choux recipe chosen for its cream and its elegance. Recipe is quite extensive as it gives you a choice of small, medium or large batch for some elements and 2 options for the cream.
Swans, Cygnes a la Chantilly
Makes 8 Swans
Pâte à Choux for Eclairs
½ cup + 2 ½ tablespoons (150 grams) Pastry Cream
¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (150 grams) Basic Buttercream at room temperature
1 small batch Sweetened Whipped Cream
Powdered sugar for dusting
These are very old-fashioned, and I love them for this reason—and also because they remind me of happy days cooking at La Rive, a restaurant in the Hudson Valley, when I was a young chef. They’re a great thing to make with kids and are fun to present at the table. Work carefully when piping the batter so that you have nicely shaped bodies and elegantly curved necks—don’t forget the cute little beaks.
If you have two ovens, use them, as the necks and the bodies bake for different times, and pâte à choux generally bakes best in the center of the oven. You will have extra batter, but it’s a good idea to pipe extra bodies and heads/necks so you can use the best ones—or pipe and freeze the extras to bake another time.
You’ll need a spray bottle and three pastry bags: one with a ¼-inch plain tip, one with an Ateco #829 star tip, and one with an Ateco #867 French star tip.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F (standard). Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and pipe a bit of pâte à choux under each corner to attach the paper to the pans. Fill the spray bottle with water.
Fill the pastry bag with the plain tip with about 80 grams/½ cup of the pâte à choux for the heads and necks. Fill the pastry bag with the #829 star tip with the remaining pâte à choux for the bodies.
For the bodies: Use about 50 grams of pâte à choux for each body: Begin by piping the rounded neck end of one body on one of the sheet pans, then continue piping, pulling the bag farther away each time, to narrow the body, and finally twisting the bag to create a tail. Repeat to form a total of 8 bodies.
heads and necks: Use about 5 grams of pâte à choux for each head and neck: Pipe
a head ½ to ¾
inch in diameter on the second baking sheet, then continue piping an S shape,
of completing the final curve of the S. Form a small beak by piping a dab of pâte à choux on the head and pulling the bag away from the head to narrow it and form a point. Repeat to form a total of 8 heads/necks.
Spray the bodies, heads, and necks lightly with water. Place the bodies in the upper third of the oven and the heads/necks in the lower third. Immediately reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. After 15 minutes, turn the heads/necks over and continue to bake for 5 minutes, or until they are golden brown and dry. Because the necks are so thin, it is important to keep a close eye on them. When they are done, remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
Continue baking the bodies, for a total of 40 minutes, at 350°F. Then reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 300°F and bake for 20 minutes longer, or until the bodies are golden brown and thoroughly cooked; they should feel light. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack and cool completely before filling or freezing.
Using a serrated knife, cut off the top third of each body, being careful not to cut off the tails. Set the bottoms aside. Cut the tops lengthwise in half to create the wings; set aside.
For the mousseline: Place the pastry cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until smooth. Add the buttercream and whip until well combined and smooth.
Fill the pastry bag with the #867 tip with the whipped cream. Spoon the mousseline into the bodies. Beginning at the back end, pipe a spiral of the whipped cream over the mousseline in each body. Arrange the wings on the swans, gently pushing the cut sides of the wings into the whipped cream, just to anchor them, Do the same with the heads/necks.
Dust the swans with powdered sugar and serve immediately.
Pâte à Choux for Eclairs
Makes 785 grams/28 ounces
1 ¼ cups (175 grams) All-purpose flour
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons (33 grams) Granulated sugar
1 cup (240 grams) Water
4.2 ounces (120 grams) Unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ + 1/8 teaspoons (2.5 grams) Kosher salt
1 cup (250 grams) Eggs
This pâte à choux dough is a little stiffer than the version we use for the cream puffs. Because the cream puffs are molded, the dough can be fairly loose. The éclair dough is piped onto sheet pans, so it needs extra body to hold up.
You’ll need a pastry bag with an Ateco #867 French star tip.
Combine the flour and sugar in a small bowl. Using the proportions above, make the dough as directed in the cream puff recipe (page 160), adding the flour and sugar mixture in the same way and adding all the eggs.
Transfer the dough to the pastry bag and refrigerate until cold before using.
Note on Freezing: Pâte à Choux for Eclairs (used for éclairs, Paris–New York, and Swans) is not ideal for freezing before baking because the lines created by using the French star tip can be compromised when you wrap or cover the dough in order to freeze it.
Small batch: Makes 680 grams/3 cups
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (132 grams) Egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (110 grams) Granulated sugar
½ cup + 1 ½ tablespoons (83 grams) Custard powder or all-purpose flour (see Note on Custard Powder)
2 cups + 3 tablespoons (550 grams) Whole milk
1 ounce (27 grams) Unsalted butter, cut into K-inch pieces, at room temperature
Large batch: Makes 810 grams/3 2⁄3 cups
½ cup + 2 ½ tablespoons (160 grams) Egg yolks
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
½ cup + 2 ½ tablespoons (133 grams) Granulated sugar
½ cup + 3 ½ tablespoons (100 grams) Custard powder or all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups + 2 ½ tablespoons (666 grams) Whole milk
1.2 ounces (33 grams) Unsalted butter, cut into K-inch pieces, at room temperature
For this recipe, we use Bird’s custard powder.
Set up an ice bath. Place a medium bowl in the ice water and set a fine-mesh strainer over the bowl.
yolks in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Scrape the
seeds from the vanilla bean, add them to the yolks, and mix on medium-low speed
for about 30 seconds. Reduce the speed to low and slowly pour in the sugar,
then whisk on medium speed until lighter in color, about 1H minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the
bowl, then whisk on medium-high speed for about
3 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and thick. When the whisk
is lifted, the mixture should form a slowly dissolving ribbon.
Reduce the speed to low, add the custard powder or flour, and mix for 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. With the mixer running on the lowest speed, slowly pour in the milk. Scrape the bowl again and mix on low speed for another minute, or until combined.
Pour the mixture into a large saucepan, set over medium heat, and stir gently until it begins to thicken. Switch to a whisk and whisk as the cream comes to a simmer, rotating the whisk around the bottom to keep the cream from scorching. Once you see bubbles breaking the surface, cook for about 5 minutes longer, whisking constantly, until the pastry cream has thickened.
Pour the pastry cream through the strainer, pressing gently on it to push the thickened cream through. Whisk for about 1 minute to cool slightly, then whisk in the butter in 2 additions.
Pour into a covered container and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. The cream can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.
When ready to use the cream, transfer to a bowl and stir gently until it has a creamy consistency.
Note on Custard Powder: We like to use Bird’s custard powder instead of the flour for a richer pastry cream with a brighter color.
Makes 450 grams/3 cups
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon (75 grams) Egg whites
¾ cup (150 grams) Granulated sugar
2 tablespoons + 2 ¼ teaspoons (33 grams) Granulated Sugar
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon (42 grams) Water
8 ounces (227 grams) Unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces, at room temperature
Buttercream is one of the most important basics in the pastry kitchen. It’s not essential that you use a high-fat butter, just the best quality butter you have access to.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.
Place the 150 grams/3/4 cup sugar in a small saucepan, add the water, and stir to moisten the sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, and simmer until the syrup reaches 230°/100°C.
Letting the syrup continue to cook, turn the mixer to medium speed, gradually pour in the remaining 33 grams/2 tablespoons plus 2G teaspoons sugar into the whites, and whip until the whites are beginning to form very loose peaks. If the whites are ready before the syrup reaches 248°F/120°C, turn the mixer to the lowest setting just to keep them moving.
When the syrup reaches 248°F/120°C, remove the pan from the heat. Turn the mixer to medium-low speed and slowly add the syrup to the whites, pouring it between the side of the bowl and the whisk. Increase the speed to medium-high and whisk for 15 minutes, or until the bottom of the bowl is at room temperature and the whites hold stiff peaks. (If the mixture is warm, it will melt the butter.)
Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, a few pieces at a time. If at any point the mixture looks broken, increase the speed and beat to re-emulsify it, then reduce the speed and continue adding the butter. Check the consistency: if the buttercream is too loose to hold its shape, it should be refrigerated for up to a few hours to harden, then beaten again to return it to the proper consistency.
The buttercream can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month; defrost frozen buttercream in the refrigerator overnight before using. Thirty minutes before using the buttercream, place it in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and allow to soften. Then mix on low speed to return the buttercream to the proper consistency for piping or spreading.
Sweetened Whipped Cream
Small Batch: Makes 150 grams/1 1⁄2 cups
½ cup + 2 tablespoons (150 grams) Heavy cream
2 ¼ teaspoons (5 grams) Powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Medium Batch: Makes 300 grams/3 cups
1 ¼ cups + 2 tablespoons (450 grams) Heavy cream
1 ½ tablespoons (10 grams) Powdered sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Large Batch: Makes 450 grams/4 1⁄2 cups
1 ¾ cups + 2 tablespoons Heavy cream
2 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon Powdered sugar
1 ½ vanilla beans, split lengthwise
We like to use a high-fat cream (40%) for our whipped cream; do use it if it’s available to you. Sebastien uses powdered sugar because it dissolves more easily than granulated sugar. It’s best to whip the cream just before you need it; although you can whip it in advance, it tends to break down in the refrigerator. But taking cream from liquid to soft, silken peaks is a matter of less than a minute.
Place the cream and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add them to the cream. Whisk at medium speed until the cream holds a shape when you lift it on the whisk and, if you will be piping it, is just stiff enough to be piped through a pastry bag; do not overwhip. It is best to spread or pipe the cream immediately after whipping.
(*Excerpted Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2012. Photographs by Deborah Jones)