Torte of the Month: April
This classic French torte was created in 1910 to commemorate a bicycle race from Paris to Brest, France. The light, airy pâte à choux is piped in a ring like a bicycle wheel, topped with slivered almonds, filled with a creamy custard (also called pastry cream) and fluffy whipped cream, then finished off with a dusting of powdered sugar.
The fun part about this torte is how versatile it can be! Change up the fillings and flavors, add fruit, or pipe them in mini-sized rings. Just a few tips before you start baking this delicious dessert: gather all the ingredients/equipment/utensils that you might need before beginning the recipe itself. Having everything measured out before you start will make executing this dessert much faster and easier. It is also very helpful to read through the recipes completely before you start. Enjoy and bon appétit!
Pâte à Choux Recipe
- 4 fl. oz. Milk (1 cup)
- 4 fl. oz. Water (1 cup)
- Pinch of Salt
- 4 oz. Butter, cubed (1/2 cup)
- 6 oz. Bread Flour (3/4 cup)
- 8 oz. Eggs (4)
- 2 oz. Slivered Almonds (1/4 cup)
- 2 oz. Eggs (1)
- 2 oz. Milk (1/4 cup)
- First, trace an eight-inch circle onto parchment paper using a cake pan. Next, bring the milk, water, salt, and butter, to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly! Once butter has melted and has been brought to a boil, add the flour all at once and stir vigorously to combine. Continue to stir until the mixture forms a mass and pulls away from the sides of the pan. There should also be a film on the bottom of the pan, it will take about three minutes.
- Transfer the mixture into a mixer and beat briefly on medium speed with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs two at a time, beating until smooth after each addition and scrapping the sides as needed. Check the consistency of the dough, it should have a pearl-like sheen and be firm enough to hold its shape when piped.
- Using a 1/2-inch round tip, pipe two rings side by side around the circle you drew on the parchment paper. Then pipe a third ring on top of those two (as shown below). Pipe as smoothly and consistently as possible. If there are a lot of breaks and/or bubbles, dip your finger into water and gently smooth them out.
- Combine the extra egg and milk to gently brush an egg was onto the top of the pâte à choux, then slightly press the almonds into it. Bake at 375 to 400 degrees until it is an even golden brown and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Keep in mind that if it is not baked long enough it could collapse while cooling. However, if it does collapse, don't worry too much because you will be slicing it anyways.
- Set aside and cool completely before slicing, filling and assembling.
Pastry Cream Recipe
- 16 fl. oz. Milk (2 cups)
- 4 oz. Sugar (1/2 cup)
- 1.5 oz. Butter (3 tablespoons)
- Pinch of Salt
- 1.5 oz. Cornstarch (3 tablespoons)
- 6 oz. Eggs (3)
- 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
- Combine 12 oz. (1 1/2 cups) of the milk, half of the sugar, the butter, and salt in a nonreactive saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Meanwhile, combine the cornstarch with the remaining sugar in another bowl. Stirring with a whisk, add the remaining milk, eggs, and vanilla extract. Stir with a whisk until the mixture is smooth.
- Temper the egg mixture by adding about one-third of the hot milk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk to avoid cooking the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan. Continue cooking, stirring vigorously with a whisk, until the pastry cream comes to a boil and the whisk leaves a trail in it. Do not overcook, for the custard will thicken too much and become lumpy. If the mixture does become lumpy, strain the mixture through a sieve.
- Pour the pastry cream into a 9x13 baking pan. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the surface of the cream, and cool immediately over an ice bath or under refrigeration.
- 24 fl. oz. Heavy Whipping Cream (3 cups)
- 6 oz. Powdered Sugar (3/4 cup)
- 1-2 tablespoons Vanilla
- In a stainless steel bowl, whip the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla with a metal whisk or whisk attachment. Preferably, use a chilled bowl to help it whip faster (put it in the refrigerator beforehand). Beat on high until soft and fluffy, but still forms stiff peaks when you lift up the whisk.
- The benefit of using homemade whipped cream, is that is pipes much better than a store-bought or canned whipped cream. It will be easier to control when its piped and will support more of the weight of the top of the torte.
Assembly and Finishing Touches
- Take the cooled pâte à choux, slice the top third off and set aside. Gently take out any extra pastry on the inside bottom portion of the torte to make room for the filling.
- Using a large round or star piping tip (your pastry cream will be thick, so don't use one that is too small!), fill a piping bag with the cooled pastry cream and pipe into the "trough" inside the bottom portion of the torte. Use as much of the pastry cream as you can without it spilling over the sides, and the whipped cream will go on top.
- Next, use a large star tip and fill up another bag with your Chantilly and begin to build up the whipped cream (as shown above). First, pipe two or three rings on top of each other, then on either side of that pipe large rosettes almost sideways (placing them at about a45 degree angle). if you still have more whipped cream, pipe one last ring on top of the rosettes.
- To make slicing the torte easier when you're ready to serve, pre-slice the top portion of the pâte à choux (that was set aside earlier) into however many serving you need so the filling will not spill out when the knife runs through it.
- Carefully place the top of the pâte à choux onto the whipped cream, and finish it off with a light dusting of powdered sugar. The torte is best served fresh to keep the pâte à choux from getting soggy. If needed, store each individual component of the torte covered in the refrigerator no earlier than 2-3 days prior to serving, and assemble the torte the day of.