Sticking with the pastry theme, I decided to try my hand at profiteroles.
I had never made choux pastry, or crème pâtissière before, so I was looking forward to picking up some new skills. To be fair, having watched contestant after contestant make it on the Great British Bake Off gave me a bit of an advantage – I knew more or less what it should look like. And it turned out to reasonably straightforward.
What’s more, my source recipe even included a video, which is always helpful for knowing what things should look like.
Crème de la crème
My profiteroles were to be filled with crème pâtissière, that creamy, delicious, custardy mixture found in numerous pastries. But what do we call it in English? In the UK, it seems to be referred to as: pastry cream, crème pâtissière, or, as seen on GBBO, ‘crème pâte.’ The latter seems to be an example of a word being absorbed into a culture and adapted to suit its new linguistic environment. ‘Pâte’ is presumably much easier to pronounce than ‘pâtissière’ for the average native English speaker. Sauvignon blanc has seen a similar adaptation, sometimes referred to as ‘a glass of sav.’
What of this adaptation? Should we bemoan it? Should those of us that do speak French insist on the correct, and original pronunciation and spelling, and reject what some refer to as ‘corruptions’ of the language? If so, how far does this go? Would you talk of ‘taking the Eurostar to Pa-reee’ [insert over-egged pronunciation here]?
Languages are continually evolving, and it’s hardly a new phenomenon. They’re influenced by changes around us. As new concepts and technologies are born, words are created to enable us to express these notions or refer to these items. As populations of people move to new areas, words are traded between cultures. Given this, I believe that it would be both fruitless and myopic to resist these changes.
Let us get back to the matter at hand – cream. Crème pâtissière appeared similar to custard – which is referred to as crème anglaise, or ‘English cream’ in French. But crème pâtissière is much thicker. As well as eggs (or just egg yolks), milk, and sugar, it includes flour and/or starch of some sort, such as cornflour. Meanwhile, crème anglaise is much thinner and just uses milk, (very fresh) egg yolks, and sugar – plus vanilla or other flavourings.
The right chocolate – cooking, eating or decorating?
What is the difference between cooking or baking chocolate (chocolat pâtissier in French) and regular chocolate? From what I can tell, it depends on the ratio of sugar, with cooking/baking chocolate containing less sugar than regular ‘eating’ chocolate. One of my all time favourite sweet treats is Green & Black’s 70% dark chocolate. It’s fruity, decadent, and satisfying. Given that this chocolate has less sugar than the average milk chocolate, presumably it would be fine for baking as well?
I also learned that there is yet another type of chocolate – apparently known as ‘Scotbloc’ in the UK – which is used for icing or ‘covering’ as it retains its glossiness without tempering.
'In the UK there is a type cooking chocolate used for cake covering (often known as Scotbloc). This is formulated so that it melts quickly and retains a glossy finish after melting (regular chocolate needs tempering to remain glossy after melting). It is good for cake decorating and can be used for cooking, but we prefer to use other chocolates for cooking'
In French, this type of chocolate is known as chocolat de couverture (covering/coating chocolate), and is the easiest to use in pâtisserie. Confusing then, that this chocolate is not called chocolat pâtissier!
I was very close to another baking fail this week.
After my piping disaster for the langues de chat biscuits, I was loathe for history to repeat itself. So I shaped my choux using two spoons rather than piping them as per the recipe, which did mean they were a bit messy. (Later, I did actually pipe the filling into the choux, this went off without a hitch).
However, as my choux buns began the 30cm journey from kitchen bench to oven, the reusable baking parchment I was using started sliding right off the tray. With a panicked squeal, I managed to catch it, but squished many of my choux into each other in the process. Fortunately, only a small amount of batter fell onto the oven door, and the rest of the buns were salvageable.
I also made my choux far too large. I didn’t expect them to puff up quite as much as they did. Some of the buns were definitely more than a handful! But they tasted divine.
I think it's about time I made something savoury. And something comforting and warming in this cold weather. Watch this space!