Charming and quirky and full of bad language. Accurate descriptors both for The Grand Budapest Hotel and the outcome and process one goes through to make its star pastry, the Courtesan au Chocolat.
The fictional courtesan is baked at Mendl’s Bakery by the lovely Agatha, whom the Grand Budapest Hotel’s lobby boy Zero Moustafa comes to love dearly. It’s Zero’s boss, the Hotel’s concierge M. Gustave, who loves the Courtesan au Chocolat. And the wealthy octogenarian ladies who stay at the Hotel love M. Gustave.
Are you sensing a level of complexity here? I won’t go into the murder, stolen painting, prison break, homicidal henchman, and the state of the country Zubrowka on the brink of war that makes up the rest of the story then. I’ll stick to telling you about the Courtesan au Chocolat.
Most likely inspired by the French pastry the Religieuse – a two-tiered choux bun filled with pastry cream or vanilla custard (i.e. a profiterole) that is glazed with chocolate ganache and held together by a whipped cream collar – religieuse is also the French word for nun. A courtesan is not a nun, but I won’t get into that either.
The dessert version is three layers of pastel-glazed pastry filled with chocolate cream, held together with layers of blue icing and decorated with filigree of white chocolate. Filigree is the real man’s drizzle. What on earth would possess on to make one of these at home?
Boredom. Insanity. A case of the “it seemed like a good idea at the time”s. Or bloggers.
I could not turn down an invitation to team up with 15 incredible bloggers to bring you an awesome giveaway in honor of the Academy Awards next Sunday, February 22. Each of the participating bloggers has prepared an Oscar-themed recipe, and they’re up for best recipe. Vote for your favorite, and one lucky reader will win their choice of an Amazon Fire TV, an Apple TV, or a Roku 3 streaming media player. The winner can catch up on the year’s best films, and the blogger who receives the most votes for their recipe will receive $50. Below you will find the entire Oscar Noms party menu and all of the giveaway details.
Despite its intricacies and seemingly impracticability, this recipe does have a place in your kitchen. Probably not three tiers filled with chocolate and dipped in a sugary glaze, but break down the components to make something new. The pastry and filling are basic cream puffs. The pastry can be sliced in half like a mini sandwich bun, filled with something savory like a chicken salad, and voilà, you have yourself a cute little teacake. I also think these would be cute at Christmas time. Picture all three tiers dipped in green and decorated as festively or plainly as desired.
If you go ahead as presented here, I think it is important to know the things no one will tell you about making Courtesan au Chocolat. Things such as, you will wipe down your kitchen at least three times during the process, and it will still be sticky. You can leave The Grand Budapest hotel playing in the background while you make these. Twice. And like the movie, you will experience something colorful, extravagant, and complex. Enjoy, and good luck!
Courtesan au Chocolat
- For the Pastry
- 1 cup water
- 8 tablespoons butter, cut into large cubes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 4 eggs, lightly beaten
- For the Filling
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- Several pieces of good quality, semi-sweet chocolate (I used a heaping cup full of pieces)
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (plus more if the filling requires thickening)
- For the Glaze
- Confectioners sugar
- For the Decoration
- White chocolate bark
- For the Assembly
- Buttercream frosting
- optional: blue food color and sprinkles or cocoa beans
- To make the pastry, bring the water, butter, salt, and sugar to a boil in a medium-size saucepan over medium heat.
- Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the flour.
- Return the pan to the heat and stir until the dough forms a single lump. At first you might think this is not going to happen, but them bam, it does.
- Allow the dough ball to cool so that is warm but not hot enough to cook the eggs when they are added. Slowly stir the eggs into the pan with a strong wooden spoon.
- When the mixture is incorporated, pipe the pastry (or just use a tablespoon) onto three baking sheets lined with parchment paper. The dough should be the size of a tablespoon on one sheet, the size of teaspoon on the second sheet, and the size of hazelnuts on the third (sizes are approximate - no need to overthink this step).
- Bake the pastries at 350 degrees F for 20-40 minutes until they puff up and start to brown. Because the dough is different sizes, it will finish baking at different rates. I kept the large pastries in for 40 minutes, followed by the medium at 30, and the small at 20.
- When done, remove the pastries from the oven and gently pierce the bottoms with a knife to allow the steam to escape. The pastries will be hot, but do this as soon as you can handle them without burning yourself.
- To make the filling, heat the milk and the chocolate in another saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring frequently so the mixture turns into a chocolate milk. Take care to keep the heat low so the milk does not scald on the bottom of the pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cocoa powder, flour, and cornstarch into a smooth mixture.
- Add half of the hot chocolate milk to this bowl, stirring constantly.
- Now add this mixture back into the rest of the hot chocolate milk, stirring over low heat until the mixture thickens to a custard. If you need to add more cornstarch to thicken the filling, do so (I ended up adding three additional tablespoons over the course of stirring). If you add additional cornstarch, the mixture will clump. Don't panic, just whisk, whisk, whisk until it smooths out again.
- Remove the chocolate filling from the heat and chill for at least hours.
- Once cooled, spoon the filling into a pasty bag and pipe into the large and medium pastry balls.
- Next it's time to glaze the filled pastries. There is really no consistent way to provide measurements for the glaze, but you will need to mix the confectioners sugar (sift it so it does not create clumps), a dash of vanilla, enough milk to achieve the desired consistency. The glaze will need to be thick so it does not run right off the pastries when dipped. Even then, you may need to dip the pastries twice to achieve the desired look.
- Separate the glaze into 3 small bowls and add food color to each – one lavender, one green, and one pink.
- Dip the large pasty in the lavender glaze, the medium pastry in the green, and the small pastry in pink. Dipping them to the mid-line is sufficient, though you can dunk the whole thing if desired.
- When the glaze dries, decorate the balls with filigree of melted white chocolate. If you can call what you see here a filigree, what you can do to imitate it is to melt a few bricks of white chocolate bark, pour the melted bark into a pastry bag fitted with a small round tip, and pipe away.
- Finally, oh finally, assemble the dessert. Pipe or place a dollop of (preferably) blue frosting atop a large pastry ball. Take a medium size pastry ball and press it gently on the large ball so it stays in place. Repeat this step with placing one of the small balls atop the medium.
- Pipe a small butter cream star on the top and place a sprinkle or a single cocoa bean on the star as a garnish. Or at this point, just leave the star on top and call it a day.
It is highly recommended you have a few pastry bags and tips on hand to pipe the pastry onto a baking sheet, fill the pastry with the chocolate cream, decorate with the white chocolate, and create the butter cream star. I used Wilton tips 12, 230, 3, and 21. You may notice the lack of a buttercream frosting recipe. You could whip some up with confectioners' sugar, butter, and a dash of vanilla and milk for consistency, or like me, just buy a tub.
The Oscar Noms Party
Menu & Movies
Pork Tenderloin Sliders – The Judge
Aged Cheddar & Apple Grilled Cheese – Boyhood
Pull-Apart Pepperoni Pizza Bread – Whiplash
Asparagus Rolls – Into the Woods
Texas Guacamole Quesadilla – The American Sniper
Magic Garbanzo Beans – Into the Woods
Nutella Mochi – Big Hero 6
Rocket Raccoon Cake – Guardians of the Galaxy
Texas Peach Crisp Skillet – American Sniper
Camouflage Mini Cheesecakes – American Sniper
Courtesan au Chocolat – Grand Budapest Hotel
Butterscotch Pudding – Gone Girl
Chocolate-Covered Cherry Granola – Wild
Meet The Bloggers!
Anne from Wit Wisdom and Food // Beth from bethcakes // Cat from The Rustic Willow // Cate from Chez Catey Lou // Erin from The Speckled Palate // Ginnie from Hello Little Home // Grace from Think Fruitful // Jenna from A Savory Feast // Katie from Twin Stripe // LeAndra from Love & Flour // Leia from Eat It & Say Yum // Linda from Brunch with Joy // Madison from The Wetherills Say I Do // Meghan from Cake ‘n’ Knife // Molly from Hey There Sunshine // Susannah from Feast + West
- Enter the giveaway through the Rafflecopter widget below. Everyone gets a free entry! You can also enter multiple times by following the giveaway sponsors on social media. (If you’ve followed in the past, that counts! Just enter the info as prompted.) All entries will be verified. No purchase is necessary to win.
- The giveaway is open until Sunday, February 22, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. EST. One winner will be chosen at random and emailed within 48 hours. Winners must claim their prize within 48 hours of initial contact. The retail value of the prize is $100. Prizes shown in the graphic are the only ones available.
- Open to U.S. residents with a valid shipping address only. Must be 18 years of age as of February 16, 2015.