With shortcrust pastry, which is made by the ‘rubbing-in’ method, you have to be careful not to overwork the dough which can result in a tough pastry. Choux pastry is made in a completely different way - by heating water and butter until the butter melts and then working in the flour before beating in the eggs. The pastry can then be piped or shaped before being baked in the oven. As it cooks, the relatively large amount of water that it contains turns to steam, causing the pastry to expand. The result is light and airy with a crisp exterior; perfect for filling with a range of fillings including whipped cream and crème pâtissière.
Choux pastry can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes, but most people will be familiar with it as the basis for profiteroles, éclairs and the French celebratory dessert, croquembouche. Choux pastry can also be used to make Salambos. These are profiterole shaped little balls, covered with caramel and filled with crème pâtissière or pastry cream. I absolutely love these self-indulgent little pastries which make a great alternative dessert for a special occasion.
Here I have dipped the baked choux buns in a rich caramel and then rolled them into chopped pistachios. I filled my Salambos with a pastry cream delicately flavoured with orange flower water. Pistachio and orange as a flavour combination is a marriage made in heaven and here the orange flower water works perfectly with the pistachios accentuating their sweetness but imparting a gentle floral note that has an air of the exotic about it.
The Salambos look stunning and taste delicious and are much simpler to make than they first appear to be. I love this recipe, but have also made different versions using hazelnuts and chocolate flavoured pastry cream, which was delicious.Crème pâtissière:
1 vanilla pod, halved, seeds scraped out
4 large egg yolks
100g caster sugar
½tsp orange flower water
60g cold butter, cubed
40g plain flour
45g strong white flour
2-3 large eggs, lightly beaten
100g caster sugar
50g unsalted pistachio nuts, finely chopped
1. Place the milk, halved vanilla pod and seeds in a medium sized saucepan and bring up to boiling point over a moderate heat. Separately place the egg yolks, caster sugar and cornflour into a medium sized mixing bowl and whisk together using a small balloon whisk until pale and creamy.
2. When the milk has just come up to the boil, remove from the heat and pour in a steady stream onto the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time. Return the custard mixture to the saucepan and heat for 3-4 minutes over a low heat, stirring all the time until a thick custard forms.
3. Remove from the saucepan from the heat and add the butter, whisking until it is completely incorporated. Add the orange flower water and whisk again. Pour the crème pâtissière into a clean bowl and directly cover the surface with some cling film to prevent a skin forming. Allow to cool and then refrigerate until required.
4. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Line a large baking tray with non-stick baking parchment and set aside.
5. Place water, butter and sugar into a medium sized saucepan over a moderate heat. Allow the butter to melt and the mixture to just come up to the boil. Remove from the heat and immediately tip in the flour, mixing with a wooden spoon until everything is well combined.
6. Place the saucepan over a low heat and beat vigorously until the mixture comes away from the side of the saucepan into a ball of dough (about 1 minute). Remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside for 5 minutes and allow to cool slightly.
7. Gradually add the eggs to the mixture in the saucepan, again beating vigorously so that they are mixed in thoroughly. (NOTE: you may not need all the egg, so add a little at a time). The mixture should fall from the spoon, but should be relatively stiff and still hold its shape.
8. Place the mixture into a disposable piping bag fitted with a 1cm plain nozzle. Pipe out 20-24 little blobs about the size of an unshelled walnut, spacing them well apart as they will expand as they bake.
9. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes and then turn off the oven but do not remove the choux buns. Let cool in the oven for a further 30 minutes and then remove and allow to finish cooling completely.
10.Place the sugar and water into a small saucepan and heat together over a moderate heat until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir but instead, gently swirl the saucepan from time to time. Increase the heat and allow the caramel to turn a rich golden colour. Remove from the heat immediately.
11. Carefully dip the top of each cooled choux bun in the caramel and then roll in the finely chopped pistachios so that the nuts become embedded in the caramel. Set aside to cool and to allow the caramel to harden.
12. Remove the chilled pastry cream from the fridge and beat it with a wooden spoon to loosen it a little. Place the pastry cream into a disposable piping bag filled with a ½cm plain nozzle. Use the nozzle to make a small hole in the underside of each Salambo. Insert the tip of the nozzle and carefully pipe a little pastry cream into each little pastry bun until they are just filled. Serve piled on top of each other.
Makes 20-24 individual Salambos.