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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

St. Honore's Feast Day May 01

by Sarah Lyon  and Gordon Nary

There are two French saints named St. Honoré. One was St. Honoré of  Arles who established the famous monastery of  Lerins.  However, the St. Honoré (also called St. Honoratus) celebrated by the Gâteau St. Honoré and after whom Paris's Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and Rue St. Honoré were named, was a sixth century bishop of  Amiens. 

After his death, his relics were invoked against drought. Bishop Guy, son of the Count of Amiens, ordered that a procession be held, in which an urn holding Honoratus' relics were carried around the walls of the city. Rain is said to have fallen soon after.

In 1202, a baker named Renold Theriens  donated to the city of Paris some land to build a chapel in honor of the saint. The chapel became one of the richest in Paris, and gave its name to Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. In 1400, the bakers of Paris established their guild in the church of Saint Honoratus, celebrating his feast on May 16 and spreading his cult, and soon  Honoré was recognized as the patron saint of bakers, pastry chefs, and confectioners. Louis XIV subsequently ordered the guild to observe his feast day annually

If anyone needed a patron saint in the Middle Ages, it was the bakers. As Phyllis Magida points out in Eating, Drinking, and Thinking, bakers suffered "bakers' asthma" from inhaling flour dust, "bakers' knee" from nearly eighteen hours-a-day bending and lifting, and "bakers' eczema" - an infectious skin disease caused by the clogging of their skin pores by the flour. Bakers who were convicted of short-changing customers or using bad grain were subject to the "bakers' gallows, a terrible contraption by which the baker was hoisted in a basket and dropped 40 feet into a pool of mud usually resulting in multiple fractures.

The famous Gâteau St. Honoré is a traditional first communion pastry and a popular birthday cake when candles are inserted in the tiny cream puffs that surround the pastry. It is a unique pastry construction because it combines two types of dough. The circular base is traditionally made fran a flavored shortcrust pastry and the circular crown is made fran chou pastry. It was supposed to have been created in 1846 by the pastry chef Chiboust, in honor of the saint and also because his own shop was on Rue St. Honoré in Paris. 

Chiboust certainly did not invent the choux pastry for the Gateau St Honoré,  The origins of choux are somewhere obscure, but there is some evidence that it originated in thee sixteenth century as as a variation of a fritter dough. He was. however, responsible for the “Crème Chiboust” that fills the cake. It is essentially a standard crème pâtissière made lighter by having stiffly beaten egg whites folded through it.

Gâteau  St. Honoré

Gâteau St. Honoré is the ultimate gestalt dessert (although the French might be offended by the use of a German term to describe this fantastic dessert). The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. This recipe may look difficult at first glance, but it is fairly easy to make, especially if you have ever made cream puffs and/or otherwise worked with a pastry bag. It just a matter of assembly after the components are made,  Many contemporary chefs add strawberries and /or chocolate to this classic, but this recipe if for the unadorned (but adored) version.

Shortcrust Pastry Ingredients

1 TB grated orange zest

1 3/4 cups plain flour

22 TB chilled butter, chopped

1 egg yolk, lightly whisked

2 tsp iced water

Pastry Cream (Crème Chiboust) Ingredients

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups scalded milk

4 egg whites

3/4 cup superfine sugar

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 egg yolks

3 TB Grand Marnier, Amaretto, rum, or brandy

1 TB unflavored gelatin (added just before assembly)

Choux (Cream Puff ) Pastry Ingredients

1 cup water

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

4 large eggs

Sugar Syrup Ingredients

3/4 cup superfine sugar

1/4 cup water

Shortcrust Pastry Instructions

Place the flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.

Add the egg yolk and water and process until the dough just starts to come together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until smooth. Shape into a disc and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Pastry Cream Instructions

Combine egg yolks, sugar, and salt in heavy saucepan. Beat until mixture is pale yellow and smooth. Add flour. Stir until well blended. Add milk. Boil over medium heat, stir constantly. Simmer few seconds, and remove from heat.

Add vanilla and Grand Marnier, Amaretto, rum, or brandy. Allow to cool.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into yolk mixture.

Choux Pastry Instructions

Combine water, butter, and salt in heavy saucepan. Heat until butter is melted. Add flour. Stir until mixture forms a ball and follows your spoon. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat well.

Spoon into pastry bag without tip.

Heat oven to 400º F.

Remove shortcrust pastry circle from refrigerator. Press choux paste onto edge of pastry circle to form 1-inch wide rim. Press remaining paste into 16 to 18 small cream puffs on same cookie sheet.

Bake the circle and puffs 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to 375º F. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until puffed and golden.

Remove from oven and. place on rack to cool. Prick puffs to allow steam to escape.

Assembly Instructions

When puffs are cooled, put 1&1/2 cups of pastry cream in pastry bag fitted with a small tube. Make a small slit in the bottom of puffs. Gently force pastry cream into puffs.

Combine water and sugar in a pan and cook over high heat to form a sugar syrup. When syrup begins to caramelize, dip filled puff about 1/3 into syrup and then place puff on top of puffed choux pastry ring. Repeat procedure until a complete circle of puffs are fixed to ring.

Warm pastry cream in a double boiler over warm water until warm.

Dissolve gelatin into 2 TB cold water and add to warmed pastry cream. Mix well and remove from heat and allow to cool.

Beat egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar until stiff. Fold egg whites into cooled pastry cream. Fill center of tart with cream mixture.

© 2017 by Gordon Nary


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