Recipe: Gâteau St. Honoré with Raspberries

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In our corner of Suisse-Romande, there seems to be a local version of the famous French cake—Gâteau St. Honoré. Named after the seventh-century patron saint of bakers, a Parisian pastry chef developed the cake in the 1840s. I first learned about it last month, when the boys and I were walking by my favorite local bakery. The sign out front read “St-honoré aux Framboises,” so I quick popped inside to inquire about the raspberry cake.

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Inside the bakery, the lady behind the counter pointed to what looked like a cream pie topped with a crown of whipped cream and glazed raspberries in the middle. Typically, I avoid custard-like desserts and glazed fruit. I don’t like making them, and I’m not a fan of eating them either. I would much rather have a big piece of Bundt cake or a sweet yeasted bread—and hopefully made with some type of chocolate.

Still, I was intrigued to learn more about it, especially given the saintly name. So, I picked up a small gâteau and my oldest son and I shared it after dinner. It was much better than I thought, with the flavors of the different sweet and tart components, along with an almost savory pastry shell, blending together with each bite.

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I must mention, however, that some of the Swiss-French Gâteaux St. Honoré differ tremendously from the traditional version of the cake. A true St. Honoré has a ring of cream puffs on top. The French cake is especially popular in May, and particularly on May 16, the day St. Honoré reportedly died.


Allergy-Friendly Shortcuts

One of the reasons I felt more compelled to try making something like this at home was my other recent discovery: Bird’s Custard Powder from the UK. Unlike traditional custard, filled with dairy and eggs, this powder helps to thicken a non-dairy milk into a suitable substitute. To be honest, it took me 3 tries to get it right, with the first two batches going down the drain.

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Despite all the shortcuts I’ve taken for this Swiss-French Gâteau St. Honoré, like store-bought puff pastry and custard powder, this recipe still takes time. I even bought a pastry bag! I typically avoid recipes with lots of complicated and time-consuming steps, but I had to give this a try. Maybe I’ll make it again next May because the boys liked it so much. I’ll need a full year just to practice my custard and piping techniques!


Gâteau St. Honoré with Raspberries

(dairy/egg-free)

What you’ll need:
Puff pastry, store-bought and pre-made
Custard, chilled (I used Bird’s Custard Powder and followed the directions on the can)
Fresh raspberries
Raspberry jam
Whipped cream, dairy-free (I used soy cream)
Small pie or tart pan
Parchment paper

1. Buy pre-made puff pastry and pre-bake the pastry shells in the desired pans, lined with parchment paper and following the directions on the package.

2. Make custard filling. Use your favorite dairy/egg-free custard recipe, but if you don’t have one, I recommend giving Bird’s Custard Powder a try if you can find it. Cool the custard.

3. Gently warm some raspberry jam on the stove until it thins out a bit. Pass it through a sieve to remove the seeds. Cool and gently coat the raspberries in the jam glaze.

4. Fill the cooled pastry shells with custard. Top with the glazed raspberries.

5. Using a pastry bag, pipe whipped dairy-free cream around the edges of the pastry.

6. Store in the refrigerator or eat them all at once!

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If you have any dairy/egg-free custard advice, please leave a comment below!

And, have you been watching the World Cup? Switzerland vs. France tonight, so we’ll be tuning in. Bon week-end, everyone!

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Vermicelles: Sweet Chestnut Noodles

Spring must be arriving soon, as our local roasted chestnut stand finished up its season on Saturday. The stand had been open for business since November, marking the start of colder weather and the holiday season. I love the smell of roasted chestnuts, and even though I have to wait until next year to enjoy them again, the Swiss have another popular use for chestnuts that’s available almost all year long: vermicelles.

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Vermicelles from Wodey-Suchard, Neuchâtel


Roasted Chestnuts

On the last day of roasted chestnut season, my boys and I bought a paper cone filled with the hot, sweet-smelling nuts. After removing the hard outer shell, you’ll find a warm chestnut inside with that distinct, yet mild flavor. The texture can be a bit dry and almost like paste, so a hot drink like mulled wine or tea makes a nice accompaniment. We brought our chestnuts to the park, and I snacked on them while the boys played on the slides.

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Roasted chestnuts at the park

From what I’ve read, Swiss chestnuts are primarily grown in Ticino, the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. During the holiday season, Swiss Christmas markets often have a stand selling marrons chauds (hot roasted chestnuts). Beyond using chestnuts for roasting, they can also be ingredients in other food products, like beer, flour, pasta, jam and vermicelles—a popular Swiss dessert.

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Marrons chauds: roasted chestnut stand, Neuchâtel


Chestnut Vermicelles

Before moving to Switzerland, I associated the word vermicelles with a thinner version of spaghetti tossed with tomato sauce, for example. Here in Switzerland, however, it can have an entirely different meaning—except the shape remains the same.

I noticed these noodle-like desserts in the grocery stores almost immediately after we moved here. You can find them as part of layered whipped cream desserts, little tarts or larger cakes. For some reason, I always imagined them being coffee-flavored though. Right before Christmas, I figured out that vermicelles were actually made of pureed roasted chestnuts, and these desserts always contain dairy. If a milk product isn’t mixed in with the chestnuts, then of course it’s in the whipped cream.

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Vermicelles at the grocery store

Finally in November of last year, I purchased my first vermicelles from our local patisserie, and now I’m a fan. The combination of chestnut and whipped cream with pastry was sweet and nutty and smooth. After trying to make my own marron purree—which was a ton of work and not properly executed—I was thrilled to find a tube of ready-made vermicelles at Coop, made by Hero, that’s dairy and egg-free.

I had leftover puff pastry from last week’s gâteau aux noisettes, so I made two little round circles and baked them for about 25-30 minutes. After they cooled, I squirted out a nest of vermicelles on top. Honestly, this took a long time because I wasn’t using the tube properly. Thankfully, this video helped me figure out how to do it! I topped it all off with some soy whipped cream mixed with vanilla sugar and powdered sugar and some mini-chocolate chips from Enjoy Life.

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Vermicelles sans milk and eggs

Unfortunately, our little guy was sick with a stomach bug when I made vermicelles, so he didn’t have an appetite for anything—even dessert! I’ll likely be making them again soon. It’s so nice having a quick and allergy-friendly way to do it.

Part II: Gâteau aux Noisettes Success

For February vacation week, our family went searching for snow in the Jura mountains of Switzerland. Thankfully, we found it in Le Locle and La-Chaux-de-Fonds. Since 2009, UNESCO has listed both cities as World Heritage sites for their watchmaking history and how it shaped their development. When we came home, the trip had inspired me to finally tackle an allergy-friendly version of a local Neuchâtel specialty: Gâteau aux noisettes (hazelnut cake, but I call it a tart).

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Allergy-Friendly Accommodations

In Le Locle, we stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment in a wonderful old farmhouse outside of town. Relais de La Baume sits on a hillside, surrounded by evergreen trees and snow-covered pastures. Our apartment had a kitchen, so we planned to make all of our meals there. At the same time, I emailed two local restaurants in advance to inquire about allergy-friendly options for my son. I never heard back from one, and the other said they couldn’t guarantee a safe meal for him. While it would have been great to eat out together as a family, we played it safe by buying groceries at the Coop in Le Locle and cooking for ourselves in our well-equipped kitchen.


Neuchatel’s G
âteau aux Noisettes

During our trip, I had the chance to sample yet another gâteau aux noisettes from a bakery in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. I first discovered these hazelnut tarts last year when we visited a well-known bakery in Valangin. These nut-filled tarts traditionally have a thin layer of icing and are a local treat here in the canton of Neuchâtel. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can find similar ones in German-speaking Switzerland, but likely without the icing. In my opinion, they taste best with a strong cup of coffee.

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Hazelnut tart from Interlaken with Rivella, a popular Swiss soda that contains whey

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Gâteau aux noisettes and other baked goods from La-Chaux-de-Fonds

In the canton of Neuchâtel, according to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the gâteau aux noisettes was originally developed in Colombier at Confiserie Zurcher. The bakers started using hazelnuts in the tarts instead of almonds, when they became too expensive during World War I. Yesterday, I finally made it to Zurcher with my 2-year old. We picked up a petite gâteau aux noisettes—the last one in the case.

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Home of Gâteau aux noisettes: Confiserie Zurcher, Colombier

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Gâteau aux noisettes from Confiserie Zurcher

When we got back home, I had the Zurcher gâteau for my second breakfast, while my 2-year old had the allergy-friendly version I made the day before. While shortcrust pastry is more traditional, and what Zurcher uses for their version, my homemade tart used allergy-friendly, pre-made puff pastry. Puff pastry is an acceptable alternative, and one used by the bakery in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. Plus, it’s nice taking a shortcut once in a while with store-bought pastry dough!


Gâteau aux Noisettes

Recipe adapted from the vegan blog, Loetitia Cuisine—another one of my favorites from Switzerland.

(dairy/egg-free)

Makes 1 tart in a 9-inch American-style pie pan or 4 smaller 4-inch tarts.

Dough:
Prepared pâte feuilletée (i.e., puff pastry to fit the specs listed above)
Dairy-free margarine, for greasing the pan/s or line the pans with parchment paper

Filling:
100 grams ground hazelnuts
100 ml rice milk
25 grams brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (optional)

Icing:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 teaspoons water

1. Lightly grease the pan with dairy-free margarine and lay the puff pastry into it. Press in the pastry dough, and cut away any excess dough. Please note: the pastry dough should only go about halfway up the sides of the pan.

2. Mix together the filling ingredients until well-blended. Pour and spread the filling evenly into the prepared dough in the pan. The filling should roughly be the same height as the edges of the dough.

3. Bake at 180°C/350°F for 30-40 minutes, until the crust has lightly browned and the bottom isn’t soggy.

4. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Whisk together icing ingredients and spread a thin layer on the tart while still a little warm.

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My homemade hazelnut tart sans dairy and eggs

My husband just discovered this morning that he has a minor allergy to hazelnuts, among other things, which helps to explain why he’s not a huge fan of this tart! However, if you can tolerate hazelnuts or almonds, this is an easy and satisfying recipe. Bon week-end!

An Old Favorite: Bangladeshi Meat Patties

Hand pies made with ground meat—one of my favorite kinds of food. So many variations created by different cultures throughout the world, including two recipes I’ve already shared: Jamie Oliver’s Sher Ping Pancakes and empanadas. I love these recipes because you can make them in advance (i.e., during naptime). Plus, when we’re traveling, they’re a good alternative to a cold (but, equally delicious) Bündnerfleisch sandwich. It’s easy to throw a few meat pies in a small cooler bag that I can reheat later in a hotel microwave.

Today’s meat pie version—dairy, egg and nut-free—comes from Bangladesh. Years ago, I attended a dinner party in Western Massachusetts that featured a huge feast of home-cooked Bangladeshi foods. Afterwards, the generous hostess shared her recipe with me for meat patties, a very popular Bangladeshi snack eaten throughout the year. Typically served with hot sauce or ketchup, she told me you can use any kind of meat, including shrimp or vegetables, as filling.

I’ve been making these since before my boys were born, and now that I’ve found allergy-friendly puff pastry in Switzerland, they’re back in regular rotation.

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At Coop, along with the pre-made pastry crust, I’ve also been using its ultra-convenient and allergy-friendly puff pastry—“Blätterteig” (in German) or “Pâte feuilletée” (in French). It contains gluten, but the allergy label doesn’t list milk, eggs or nuts, so it’s safe for my son.

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Last week on the Great British Bake-Off—my latest TV obsession from the UK—the contestants made their own puff pastry. I didn’t even realize people actually made this stuff themselves? I love homemade baked goods, but after watching them roll out sheets and sheets of paper-thin dough, I just don’t think I’ll ever have the patience for making puff pastry.

Thankfully, Coop’s version works perfectly well for Bangladeshi meat patties, which we had yesterday at lunchtime with salad, roasted chickpeas and red grapes.

 

Meat Patties

Special thanks to our friend for sharing this recipe, which I’ve adapted slightly. Makes about 10-12 patties.

(dairy/egg/nut-free)

Sautéed onions:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

Beef mixture, Part 1:
1 lb. or 1/2 kilogram ground beef
1 cup of water
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil
2 teaspoons cardamom
1 tsp. ginger, freshly grated
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
A pinch of red chili powder

Beef mixture, Part 2:
1 handful of fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons of flour
Salt and pepper, to taste

Puff pastry:
640 grams puff pastry

1. In a large pan, add 1 tablespoon of the oil and sauté the onion until soft and transparent.

2. Mix together the ingredients for Part 1 of the beef mixture in a large bowl, and then add to the large pan with the onions. Cook over medium-high heat until all the liquid has evaporated, about 5-10 minutes.

3. Add fresh cilantro, flour and salt and pepper to the beef mixture and stir until well-blended. Cool the mixture slightly.

4 .Unroll the puff pastry and cut into squares. Place the square onto an oiled baking sheet. Fill the center of the square with about 1-2 tablespoons of the slightly cooled beef mixture. Fold a corner to the opposite side, to create a triangle. Seal the edges by pressing on the dough with oiled fingers. Coat the tops of the patties with a little oil (or egg white, if you can).

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5. Bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes at 190°C/375°F until golden brown. Serve with hot sauce.

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I’m working on a British baked good, hopefully for Friday’s post… Have a great week, and thanks for visiting my blog!