Making Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat with Country Velador of Super Chunk Sweets and Treats (VIDEO)
First things first: If you haven't seen Wes Anderson's newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, by now, you're really missing out. The director's latest effort is beautiful, funny, quirky, and, best of all, involves food. Of course, it doesn't feature just any edible creation, but rather a pastry that blends simple confections with just the right amount of whimsy to be the type of fictional dessert that fits in perfectly with Anderson's one-of-a-kind world.
We've already showed you an adorable video recipe for making Mendl's courtesan au chocolat, but when we heard local pastry chef Country Velador would be making the confections to sell at her Scottsdale store we knew we had to get in the kitchen for a firsthand look at the baking process.
For those who have not seen the movie, or maybe weren't paying close enough attention, the Courtesan au Chocolat is a tiered-dessert made of three different sizes of chocolate cream-filled pastries. Each of the puffs, which are staggered in size, is coated in a different color glaze and then decorated with blue and white icings.
Velador, a pretty big Wes Anderson
nerd fan, started with the fictional Mendl's recipe that's been floating around the internet based on the video tutorial. It begins:
Mendl's Courtesan au Chocolat
The exact recipe for the Courtesan au chocolat has never been published or publicly disclosed as per the conditions of Herr Mendl's will. However, the following has been collated and adapted from several "pirate" sources in the Nebelsbad archives (including a 1963 recipe from the kitchen of the Grand Budapest Hotel using powdered eggs that was printed in the Lutz Daily Fact).
The first step is to make a choux pastry. For this portion of the recipe Velador uses the same proportions as are provided in the recipe:
- 1 cup plain flour
- 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
To make the pastry she combines the water, butter, and salt and brought to a boil. (Velador uses a convection burner, but home bakers can use a regular stove top.) Once the mixture has reached a boil, remove it quickly from the heat and mix it with sifted flour. Velador then returns the dough to the heat and cooks until it forms one lump.
Lauren Saria Velador pipes the dough.
You then remove the dough and allow it to cool before adding the eggs. Doing so prevents the eggs from cooking, so Velador says it's important to let it cool at least to the touch. She also recommends adding each egg one at a time with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula to be sure the dough doesn't become too runny to pipe. The correct number of eggs will differ depending on elevation and humidity, but ideally your dough should be about the same texture as cookie dough, soft enough to pipe but not so runny it doesn't keep its shape.
Once the dough is done Velador covers a tray in parchment and puts the dough into a pastry bag. You can also use a spoon if you don't have a bag. You'll need to pipe the same number of small, medium, and large pastry balls -- about the size of a tablespoon, teaspoon, and hazelnut, respectively. The smallest balls should be put on a separate sheet since they'll likely take less time to bake.
Velador recommends baking all three for 10 minutes at 400 degrees to "give them a nice rise" before lowering the temperature to about 350 degrees and baking for another 25 minutes. You'll want to keep an eye on the pastries since the bake time will also be affected by elevation and humidity.
Once the pastries are done remove them from the oven and cut small holes in the bottom to allow the steam to escape. Then let cool.
Lauren Sari Removing the pastry from the oven.