The Great British Bake Off is one my favorite shows, inspiring new bakes, new flavors, and new techniques! Join me on my journey to bake through all the Season 8 Challenges.
Total Cooking Time: 2 hours and 5 minutes
The Great British Bake Off is a classic show for bakers and those looking for a friendly competition. All the bakes on the show look delicious and I often want to try baking them myself! I finally got off the couch and into the kitchen to recreate some of the recipes from Bake Off! I chose to start with season eight of Bake Off as it is my favorite season and the one with some of my favorite challenges!
Its time for week nine! And that means it’s time for patisserie!! The signature challenge this week was 24 choux buns. I was nervous coming into the signature this week because I had never made choux dough before. And I had never made any type of choux bun! I was doing a choux bun with a craquelin top.
In the show, they did two flavors of choux buns (12 of each), but I tried to keep it a little simpler for this because I didn’t want to go crazy quite yet. I’m saving up that energy for the showstopper! I just did one flavor: orange. This was inspired by Kate’s recipe from the show!
There were a lot of ingredients that went into this dish. Especially because there are three different recipes going that create the final form. I had to make craquelin, the choux pastry, and a crème pâtissière for the filling.
I think what shocked me the most was the number of eggs that were needed for this project. It was nine eggs in total, assuming you didn’t do anything wrong (I’ll get into that a little later). The other non-standard ingredient for this recipe was cornstarch. I used the cornstarch as a thicken agent for the crème pâtissière and it works extremely well. All the other ingredients felt standard.
Assembling the Craquelin Dough
The craquelin dough was completely new to me. I had seen it on television, but I had never eaten it before or seen in it a local bakery. So, I was flying blind for this one. There are few ingredients that go into making craquelin. It contains all-purpose flour, brown sugar, salt, and butter. That’s it.
I whisked all the dry ingredient together before adding in the butter. I just used my hands to mix in the butter and create a soft, but kind of sticky, dough. The dough came together better than I anticipated since the only binder was the butter.
After the dough was able to stay together in a ball, I put it between two pieces of parchment paper. I then rolled out the dough to make a large, thin sheet. That parchment paper helps keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin. Once I got the dough to cover a large area, I put the craquelin into the freezer to harden.
Making the Choux Pastry
Choux pastry is weird. It is a pastry made over a stove. First, I put butter, milk, salt, sugar, and some water into the pan. This went over a low heat and I was moving it often to make sure that nothing stuck to the bottom of the pan. I don’t want anything burning.
I let the mixture cook until the butter had fully melted, and the sugar / salt was dissolved. Then I turned the heat up ever so slightly to bring the mixture to a boil. I did this on low to medium heat because I didn’t want to flash cook the mixture on a high heat.
Once the pan had reached a boil, I quickly removed the pan from the heat and beat in the flour. I used a whisk for this step, and I’m still not convinced that was the right tool. But it worked out in the end. The mixture came together into a smooth and glossy ball.
I put the dough back over the heat for about a minute. I think this is to standardize the temperature of the dough. And the stove-part of the dough is complete! The dough needs to cool down to until barely warm.
Then it’s time to add in the eggs. I used a stand mixer to beat in the eggs, but this can be done by hand as well. I beat the eggs in one at a time but if you decided to beat all the eggs together, just add a little at a time. This helps the eggs get fully incorporated into the dough. The doughs texture should turn into something more like a batter.
Shaping and Baking
And with this batter like texture, I filled a piping bag with the choux dough and piped out small mounds of choux pastry. These will not expand too much in the oven so each mound gives a decent indication of how much the choux buns will be. Mine ended up being significantly smaller than those on the show.
I then lightly brushed the stops of each mound with a beaten egg yolk. I’m not sure how I feel about this step. More on that later. Then it’s time to bring the craquelin back out. I unwrapped the craquelin from the parchment paper and cut out small circles that measure about 3 cm (just over an inch). I ended up using the rim of a small glass that I found in the back of cabinet. Whatever works!
Each craquelin circle went on top of a choux mound. And then they were ready to go into the oven! The choux did expand in the oven but not as much as I was expecting. I was honestly worried about getting a batch bake effect on some of them since I put them close to each other. That did not happen. I’m not sure if I overestimated the choux pastry, if the craquelin held back the rise, or I made something wrong. But they did puff nicely and had a very class choux bun (or cream puff) texture. When the choux buns came out of the oven, I did a slight skewer on each bun to allow any trapped air out of the buns.
Whisking Together the Crème Pâtissière
I thought that the choux dough was going to be the most difficult part of this recipe. The crème pâtissière decided to prove me wrong. It decided it was going to become a major challenge and give me the most difficulty.
Making the crème started out easily enough with heating the cream and orange zest over a low heat. I wanted the cream to be steaming but not boiling. In a separate bowl, I mixed the egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. This created a creamy mixture.
Once the cream was steaming, I added it to my egg yolk mixture. Whisking constantly. The cream is hot, so the whisking needs to be done to prevent the eggs from cooking. After the cream was fully incorporated, I put the mixture back into the pan and put it back over the stove on a low heat. Whisking constantly.
Or at least, I should have been whisking constantly. I tried to do some multi-tasking and that proved to be my downfall. My lack of whisking allowed the eggs to overheat in the mixture which caused everything to curdle and become like scrambled eggs. It was too far gone to save so I had to start over. Ugh.
On the second try, I was better about watching it but still not the best. It just edged curdling and I managed to save it (see how in the lessons!). Before it cooled, I added in the butter and the extract and whisked the mixture until they incorporated. Then it was just time to let it cool and then let it chill after the custard had cools to room temperature.
Bringing it all Together
Using a piping bag with a narrow tip, I filled the choux buns using the hole made when they came out of the oven as a guide. It was kind of hard to see when they were filled or if they were filled enough because I was working blind. But it worked out in the end. The cross section looked awesome!
I have mixed feelings about how this turned out. I love the choux buns and the craquelin. But the egg was on the choux cause an eggy texture to be very prominent on some of the choux. And the crème pâtissière, while delicious, felt really flavor forward. It punched me in the face. I’m still not sure if I liked it. Even if I did eat a lot of them.
Am I ready for bake-off? Again, I didn’t focus too much on design, but I really focused hard on flavor. I also didn’t want to cover up the lovely crust that the craquelin made. Is it too simple? Probably but it looks stunning for a home baker who is just trying her thing. All in all, not a bad result.
The Custard is Curdling!
As you’re whisking your custard, you might notice that it is starting to curdle. This would be where there are some small clumps in the custard but the whole mixture has not solidified. One potential way to bring it back to a custard like state is to remove it from the heat and blend it.
I’m not sure where my partner saw this method, but it worked like a dream. I saw the curdling and immediately took the pan from the heat and transferred it to a cooler pan to stop the cooking. When that didn’t show any results, we threw it in the blender and hit liquify. And it was back to its custardy self.
Orange Choux Buns
- ¼ Cup Light Brown Sugar
- ⅓ Cup All-Purpose Flour
- 4 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter very softened
- Pinch of Salt
- ¾ Cup All-Purpose Flour
- 4 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter diced
- ½ Cup Whole Milk
- ½ Teaspoon Salt
- ½ Teaspoon Granulated Sugar
- 3 Eggs beaten
- 1 Egg Yolk for brushing
- 1 ¾ Cup Light Cream
- 2 Oranges zested
- 6 Egg Yolks
- ¼ Cup Granulated Sugar
- ¼ Cup Cornstarch
- 4 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter softened and diced
- ½ Teaspoon Orange Extract to taste
- To make the craquelin, put the sugar, flour, and soft butter into a bowl. Mix until a soft, slightly sticky dough forms.
- Place the dough between 2 baking sheets and roll out dough until it is 3mm thick.
- Put dough, still in paper, flat in the freezer while you make the choux pastry.
- Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a medium pan, mix butter, milk, salt, sugar and just under ½ cup of water (100 ml).Set over low heat until the butter has melted and then bring the mixture to a boil.
- Remove pan from heat and quick add in flour. Rapidly beat the mixture to make a smooth and glossy dough.
- Put the pan back over low heat and beat gently for one 1. The dough should become very thick and will form into a ball.
- Put the dough into a stand mixer and let cool until barely warm. Beat in eggs, a little at a time, until a smooth and glossy dough that holds its shape is formed.
- Transfer the dough to a large piping backfitted with a 1.5cm plain nozzle. Pipe 20 4cm-diameter round onto a lined baking sheet.
- Lightly brush each mound with beaten egg yolk.
- Stamp out 20 3-cm discs of the craquelin and place a disc on top of each choux mound
- Put baking sheet into over and immediately reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bake for 35 minutes, rotating the sheet after 20 minutes. Choux should be puffed, crisp, and golden brown.
- Transfer Buns to a wire rack and make a small hold in the side of each with the tip of a small knife or a metal skewer.
- To make the crème pâtissière, pour the milk into a medium pan and add the grated orange zest. Cook over a low heat.
- In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch until very smooth and light.
- When the milk is steaming hot, pour it slowing into the while whisking continuously until the ingredients combine.
- Pour mixture back into the medium pan and set over a medium heat. Whisk continuously until the mixture boils and thickens into a smooth custard.
- Remove from heat and whisk in butter and orange extract, to taste. Cover with cling film (to prevent a skin from forming) and leave to cool.
- To fill choux buns, whisk the crème pâtissière until light and smooth. Transfer the crème pâtissière to a piping back with a7mm plain nozzle and pipe the filling into each choux bun through the steam hole.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!