The Grand Budapest Hotel is certainly on the list as a favorite Wes Anderson film (up there with Fantastic Mr. Fox,The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom). There are just too many great ones to choose a real favorite. Anyhow, I have been obsessed with the Courtesan Au Chocolate pastry from the film’s bakery Mendl’s since I saw it. Lovely little choux pastry profiteroles filled with chocolate pastry cream, one stacked up on top of another forming a miniature tower of sweetness. So delicate and special that it comes in a special box and the guard in the film would not cut it open on inspection.
So I wanted to attempt to make them. Attempt!
There is an instructional video on how to make them which I found to be very helpful. I had made pate a choux when I went to pastry school a long time ago. It’s very easy to make and easy to pipe. Make sure your eggs are room temperature. It will be easier to incorporate them.
The chocolate pastry cream was also easy and kind of like a chocolate pudding. Use very good chocolate* and cocoa powder to get a strong chocolate flavor. Make sure it is cool before you pipe into the profiteroles.
The icing is super simple. Powdered sugar, milk, vanilla, coloring. Just experiment until you get the right consistency. Not too runny so it thins out but not to thick so it won’t cover. I used gel food coloring and of course I used way too much so I had to throw out 3/4 of the icing then add more sugar/milk to get it to the right paleness. For the white decorating icing I did not add vanilla as it would make it too brown.
I would recommend chilling the balls after they have been iced and decorated and before they are stacked. This will help them stick together.
Mine definitely did not come out like Agatha’s by any stretch. That said, they were very delicious. If I made them again to serve I might just skip the stacking and keep even sizes on the balls. Then again…
There are tons of recipes and attempts out there on the interweb. The first one was on BUZZFEED. It’s a good version.
THE CHOUX PASTRY
1 cup plain flour, sifted
1 cup fresh water
1/4 lb (1 stick) butter
4 eggs beaten in a bowl
A pinch of salt
A larger pinch of sugar
Bring the water, butter salt and sugar to a boil. Remove from the fire and quickly mix in the sifted flour. Return to heat for a few minutes, stirring, and cook until the dough forms a single lump. Allow to cool just enough to keep the eggs from cooking and stir in very gradually with a strong wooden spoon.
Cover your tray in parchment and pipe the dough into spoon size dollops. You will need small, medium, and large size pastry balls (large tablespoon, teaspoon and hazelnut size dollops) to make a courtesan. Bake in the oven at 350F(180 C) for about 25-35 minutes. The smaller pastries are best put on a separate tray as they will cook more quickly.
Remove from the oven and discreetly make a small piercing in the choux to allow the steam to escape – this will be where you pipe in the chocolate.
CHOCOLATE PASTRY CREAM FILLING
1 1/2 cups whole milk
6 ounces dark chocolate*
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch to thicken
Heat the milk gently and add chocolate, stirring to melt into a rich, almost-steaming chocolate milk. Whisk egg yolks, flour, sugar, cocoa and a few spoons of cornstarch into a smooth mixture. Add half of the hot chocolate milk to the bowl, a little at a time, stirring constantly. Then add this mixture back into the rest of the hot milk, stirring over gentle heat for a few minutes until the mixture thickens to a custard. Remove from heat and chill.
Once cooled, spoon the chocolate crème into a pastry bag and pipe into the large and medium pastry balls.
Prepare sugar icing of confectioner’s sugar, a dash of vanilla and enough milk to achieve the desired consistency. Separate into 3 small bowls and add food coloring to each – one pink, on lavender, one pale green, one bright blue and one plain white. The blue should be a little thicker.
To assemble a Courtesan, dip a large ball of filled pastry in the pink icing (to the midline) and place icing side up on a small tray. Repeat with a medium pastry into the lavender icing, and place it, iced side up, atop the first ball. Press it gently so it sticks in place. Repeat with the smallest pastry in the green icing. Decorate with filigree of white icing as desired. Place a cocoa bean atop the tower as a garnish.