Cathy Merenda
Cathy Merenda
Cathy Merenda
Cathy Merenda
Cathy Merenda

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Mendl’s Courtesan Au Chocolat Experiment

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…

IMG_6574_edit IMG_6575_edit IMG_6582_edit IMG_6576_edit

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.

ASSEMBLAGE

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.

Serve fresh.

*Good quality chocolate at 62% or better.  Tcho Fruity, Scharffenberger 62%, Vahlrona Caribe are my fave chocolate and Vahlrona cocoa powder.

2014 Moments

I did this last year and thought I’d do it again.   I went through all of the photos on my phone for the past 12 months and picked some favorites or just fun moments.

Best of 2014

2014 Best Of 750

Some of my favorite moments from 2014.

Top row left:  Taja emulating Carrie Bradshaw in an ode to Sex in the City, Eliana’s Pink horse, Green Bench outside Bluebird, Kings Road London, Debra at 9 months, Dave on the piano at Sonic Fuel Studios, Carolina headshot taken on rooftop, London Eye Capsules, Night shot of Serpent in Galleta Meadows, Borrego Springs, CA.

Second row left: Skyler at 10 days, Jonah lamenting the birth of his sister Skyler, Galetta Meadows horse sculptures in Borrego Springs, CA, Elaine Taekwando, First time at Stonehenge, London Eye at night when I made Katy and Meagan indulge me while I went to the very center to take this shot, Fleurette portrait, Nicole O’Malley (who was also a favorite in last years collage).

Third row left: Taja naked newborn, Eliana avoiding the spotlight with a pink ball, Cathy self portrait taken inside elevator of Ace Hotel Shoreditch, Marty & Pat Just Married in Richmond VA, David O, Planet of the Apes Scoring Session, Tower of London Poppies.

Fourth row left:  South Bank Carousel, Taja as Hanna from Girls, Blue Carmen, Dave Lighting Experiment, Jordan as the Black Swan, London Lady taken outside the Soho Hotel, Meagan at the Royal Observatory.

Fifth row left:  Lovey red headed Ruby, Eliana having a Elvis-worthy breakdown, Leanna preggy, Marissa Perspective outside the Soho Hotel February, 2014, Katy Perspective outside the Soho Hotel June, 2014, Big Ben, Carnaby Street night lights, High Line Park, NYC November.

Bottom row left:  Katy & Meagan at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Brooklyn Bridge, BT Tower 10pm sunset, Debra 9 months, Pink Smoke, Brianne Hearts, Katy, Marissa in Pink.


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