I am mildly obsessed with Pierre Hermé, a French pastry chef who makes the most delicious pastries I’ve ever tasted and who seems to constantly choosing flavor combinations catered to my particular tastes. Unfortunately, he has no shops in the US, meaning that I merely have to yearn from afar– or make my own.
I bought my mother this Pierre Hermé Pastries cookbook a few years ago, hoping to unlock the secrets of his deliciousness. Now, I have flipped through the many beautifully photographed pages and tried quite a few of the recipes. To his credit, the flavors are mostly delicious. Unfortunately, the amounts and methods are hit or miss. I have made pancake flat choux pastry and extremely runny custard that would only serve 3 instead of 12… but no matter. Where there is a will there is a way!
For my birthday, I decided to make the ‘Strawberry, Orange and Cardamom Delight’, but adapted the recipe to make it more comprehensible to the American home cook (or at least, THIS American home cook). It turned out spectacularly, if I do say so myself.
- Fill a small bowl with 1/8 cup of water and sprinkle gelatin over it.
- In a saucepan, bring the cream to a boil with the cardamom. Set aside to infuse for 30 minutes.
- In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar. Pour the boiled cream over the egg yolks beating hard. Pour mixture back into the saucepan and beat until the temperature reaches 185 degrees F. Remove from heat.
- Stir in gelatin. Set custard aside to cool to room temperature. Fold in mascarpone. Refrigerate until needed.
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
⅓ cup whole milk
⅓ cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (3 3/4 ounces)
½ cup flaked almonds
1/4 cup demerara sugar (or other large granule sugar)
- Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 1 baking sheet with vegetable oil spray and line with parchment (keeping guide rings on underside).
- Beat eggs in measuring cup or small bowl; you should have 2/3 cup (discard excess). Heat butter, milk, water, sugar, and salt in medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When mixture reaches full boil (butter should be fully melted), immediately remove saucepan from heat and stir in flour with heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and no mixture remains on sides of pan. Return saucepan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using smearing motion, until mixture is slightly shiny and tiny beads of fat appear on bottom of saucepan, about 3 minutes.
- Immediately transfer mixture to food processor and process with feed tube open for 30 seconds to cool slightly. With machine running, gradually add eggs in steady stream. When all eggs have been added, scrape down sides of bowl, then process for 30 seconds until smooth, thick, sticky paste forms. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a plain #12 pastry tip.
- On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, pipe 6 balls of choux paste, 1 1/2 inches in diameter, in a row so their sides are touching. They should form a single eclair. Repeat to make 2 more éclairs, then sprinkle with almonds and demerara sugar.
- Place sheet with upper rack and bake for 22 to 26 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for another 10 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven and turn oven off. Using paring knife, cut 4 equally spaced 3/4-inch-wide slits around edges of eclairs to release steam. Return to oven and prop oven door open with handle of wooden spoon. Let éclairs stand in oven until exterior is crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes.
- Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds into a saucepan. Add milk, sugar, and vanilla pod and bring to a boil. In a bowl, beat the corn starch and flour with the egg yolks. Add one third of the hot milk mixture, beating constantly to temper the eggs. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Transfer the party cream to a metal bowl set in a larger bowl of ice water to cool. Remove and discard the vanilla pod. When pastry cream has cooled to 140 degrees F, cut the butter into pieces and beat into the pastry cream. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream and set aside to cool completely.
- Chill a metal bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes. Pour heavy cream into the chilled bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Fold whipped cream into cooled pastry cream being careful not to deflate the cream. Transfer to another bowl.
- Place the bowl of the stand mixer in the freezer for 10 minutes. Rinse the strawberries and pat them dry. Hull and cut in half lengthways.
- Using a serrated knife, split each chou in half one third of the way up the side. Spread each bottom half with orange marmalade. Top with light pastry cream, then strawberry halves, allowing them to overlap the outside of the choux.
- In the chilled stand mixer bowl, beat the cardamom mascarpone cream. Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a #8 star pastry tip. Pipe figure eights over the strawberries. Cover with top half of chou. Serve immediately.