Category Archives: Puff pastry

A Valentine’s Day story in three parts (Part 3)

Part 3

In the first two parts of this story, I was telling you about my misadventures in trying to impress my (then) boyfriend with an elaborate puff pastry dessert for Valentine’s Day.

In the completion of the Valentine’s Day story, I’m going to show you the pictures of the cake as it’s being made and assembled.

To make cream puffs, I started by making a batter of butter, water, flour and eggs. It starts off looking like pancake batter, but a little thicker. Then you heat it up. I’ve never heated batter before. It’s all very strange.

So I kept stirring, not sure what was happening, and then it started to pull into a coherent ball of dough (or several smaller balls)

These are the puffs cooking in the oven from the first trial in January. They turned out to be too big and after we ate a few we threw the rest out.

They sell sponge cakes at the grocery store… but only in the summer. It was impossible to find one in February … so I make my own from scratch (it was fine but not lovely, next time I’d add some flavouring, like alcohol!).

Again, I could have bought instant pudding and used Cool-Whip. But at the time I believed the future of my relationship was at stake. So I made the custard from scratch.

My pastry bag still had left over puff pastry batter in it, so I used an icing squirter-plunger-thing and just kept refilling it.

I heated up sugar to make caramel. It really smells like burnt marshmallows when it’s overdone, so I tried to stop before I smelled campfire (but was unsuccessful).

I put the rest of the pudding-cream mixture in the flan and tried to make it look smooth and lovely.

Using tongs, I dipped each filled puff into the sugar sauce, and placed on a tray to cool. They became rock hard at this stage. Once the flan had been filled, I arranged the choux buns around the edge of the flan, just inside the rim and decorated with strawberries.    


This year, for Valentine’s Day … well, we’re married now, so perhaps the pressure is off? Nah, I’m still in super-impress mode. I think it’s a setting I can’t turn off 🙂

I’m going to make Tiramisu with Brandy Custard (yes, again with the homemade custard, although I like the idea of brandy, and I think I’ll buy the ladyfinger cookies at the Italian market, I won’t try to make those from scratch). I’ll take pictures, and share my success (or lack thereof) after February 14th.

PS/ I know someone out there is going to scold me for not giving you the recipes for the the above Gateau-St-Honore. It was a pretty advanced adventure, even for me, but if really really really want to see the recipes, I’ve posted them here.

PPS/ If you want to see a Flash slideshow version of the above images, including a few bonus pictures (such as the shot of what my kitchen really looks like when I’m cooking), you can visit this link.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at


Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef

A Valentine’s Day story in three parts (Part 2)

Part 2

In the first part of this story, I began to tell you about my adventures in making Gateau St Honore for the first time — a complicated, multi-stage dessert. In January, I was making the puff pastries in advance, as a trial run, to ensure that on Valentine’s Day the whole thing would come off without a hitch. Only problem was that on my first attempt at making puff pastry, I discovered that the inside of each puff was raw…

I’ve spent the time cooking these things, and when they’re done, I open up each one while they’re still hot. Let me describe what the inside of these puffs really look like. Once I split them open, I find a lump of uncooked batter that smells suspiciously (very strongly) of eggs. It resembles scrambled eggs, in fact.

So I diligently scrape out the scrambled eggs, as the Julia Child recipe says I will have to. I scrape it with my fingers, from each and every puff (1). It’s disgusting. It is so grim, in fact, that we eat a few of them and throw the rest of the trial batch in the garbage.

Distressed, I call my mother long distance. My mother can be difficult. One area where I can generally talk to her (and not get into an argument) is on the subject of food. She’s a good cook. She has 20 years more cooking experience than I do. And she’s from the south shore of Nova Scotia so she’s got this “easiest is best” mindset.

Mother says: “Use the recipe in the Purity Flour Cook Book.”

She always says this. When in doubt, use this book. It’s like my grandmother, who says “put a little ozonol on it,” like that’ll solve all problems. Rash, heartburn, broken arm. Well, if you’re my mother (let’s call her Sherri, since that is her name), well if you’re Sherri, you use the Purity Cook Book to solve all of life’s problems.

I try to argue with her that the four remaining recipes I have (including Purity) are identical – all include more flour than Julia (therefore the batter would arguably be less eggy). And I figured if I made the puffs smaller the second time, I’d solve the scrambled-eggs-centre problem.

But Sherri is insistent that the Purity book is old fashioned, and therefore more reliable. What about my collected Gourmet edition I’d gotten for Christmas? What about the new edition of the Joy of Cooking? No, Sherri says, stick with Purity.

She then says something snarky like “I’ve made almost every recipe in that book, including the pickles. And every single one of them has worked out.”

Well, doesn’t that sound like a challenge? Maybe one day I’ll take a page from The Julie/Julia Project, and I’ll make every recipe in the Purity Flour Cook Book just to see if my mother might be exaggerating. Maybe someday, but not today.

I did use the Purity recipe on Valentine’s Day to make the cream puffs (2). I’m sure it’s the same as the Joy of Cooking or Gourmet. But really, I had to do what my mother told me to do.

I might be 40, but I’m not stupid.

Stay tuned… in Part 3 you’ll get to see all of the pictures of the cake as it’s being made and assembled… and I’ll let you know my plans for Valentine’s Day this year 🙂

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at


Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef

A Valentine’s Day story in three parts (Part 1)

Part 1

Last year, I let my (then) boyfriend pick out any dessert he wanted for Valentine’s Day. When I said to him “what’s your favourite dessert?” I expected him to say strawberry shortcake, or apple pie. Or how about my famous apple streudel cheesecake? I thought maybe he’d settle for a nice Safeway store-bought Black Forest Cake.

No such luck.

After searching on the internet for a bit, he found a link to a fancy cake – Gateau St Honore – apparently something from his French Canadian childhood. (Why is it, then, that I can only find a recipe for it on an Australian website?)

The recipe he picked looks impossibly difficult, especially with the British/Australian measurements and descriptions. So I set about recreating the recipe using my own cookbooks, pulling in bits and pieces from sources that I trusted.

As this recipe was clearly complicated, and the future of my relationship relied on its success (it was our first Valentine’s Day together, after all, and I was still in super-impress mode), I decided to break the recipe into stages, and to make stage one (the puff pastry) in January. I needed a test run of the pastry to make sure I could figure it out. Puff pastry scared me. The other parts seemed easy enough — make a cake, make a custard, whip some cream. But I wasn’t sure I could make puff pastry. Or is it choux pastry? Are they even the same thing?

Really, it wasn’t long after the beginning of January when I sat at the dining room table with five different cookbooks spread around me. I start reading about puff pastry. The recipes looked virtually identical. Apparently, if you did it right, the little bundles of raw dough bake up nice and light and HOLLOW, which makes them perfect for filling up with good stuff.

For my trial run of phase one puff pastry making, I decided to go with the Julia Child cookbook, the only one of the five recipes that was slightly different in terms of its ingredients. It contains ¼ cup less flour, thus giving it a higher flour-to-egg ratio than the others. I thought, “I’m sure Julia’s the one, I’m sure she’s got it figured out.”

I made Julia’s recipe, and really she has such a lovely writing style, I couldn’t help but believe that I would create an absolutely beautiful work of art. Here’s what she says:

You cannot fail with puff shells – as mounds of pâte à choux puff and brown automatically in a hot oven – if you take the proper final measures to insure the shells remain crisp. A perfect puff is firm to the touch, tender and dry to the taste. Hot puffs will seem perfectly cooked when taken from the oven, but … there is always an uncooked center portion… large puffs are split, and often their uncooked centers are removed. This is actually the only secret to puff making. (pp. 177-178)

Did you catch that? Part of it will be uncooked…

Stay tuned, tomorrow I’ll share Part 2 with you, where I am reduced to calling my mother to ask for advice.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.
You can always reach me at


Thanks and bon appetit!

Shelley MacDonald Beaulieu, Owner & Head Chef

To view recipes for download…

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