The French wedding-cake is a tall pyramid of choux-buns stuffed with creme patissiere stuck together with melted caramelised sugar, a creation attributed to the great 19th century chef-patissier, Marie-Antoine Caréme. When the moment comes for the cake to be shared among the guests, distribution is easy since all the bride has to do is hit the pile with a silver hammer, sending choux-buns in all directions.
Makes about 750g/1 1/2 lbs
125g/4 oz butter
300ml/1/2 pint/1 cup water
250g/8 oz flour
4 large eggs
Roughly chop the butter and put it in a heavy saucepan with the water.
Bring to the boil and remove from the heat as soon as the butter has melted. Sieve in the flour gradually, beating with a wooden spoon till smooth - elimate the visible pockets of flour. Set the pan back on the heat and beat the mixture until it's solid enough to leave the sides clean - a few minutes.
Remove from the heat, and allow the dough to cool to finger-heat. Beat in the eggs one by one, beating thoroughly between each addition. At first the dough will seem reluctant to accept the eggs;
as you persist, it becomes easier to work, rather as a mayonnaise becomes more malleable. At the end, the dough should be shiny and softish though still firm enough to hold its shape when dropped from a spoon. The classic choux-pastry recipes are profiteroles (cream-stuffed choux-buns), pets-de-nons (choux-pastry fritters dusted with sugar) and the Burgundian gougere, a ring of choux pastry flavoured and studded with cheese.
To prepare as choux-buns ready for stuffing, lightly butter a couple of baking trays(not necessary if using non-stick trays). Scoop out nuggets of dough with 2 teaspoons and drop them onto the trays, allowing plenty of space between the dollops for expansion.
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/Gas4.
Bake the buns for 35-40 minutes, till well-puffed, brown and firm. As soon as you take them out of the oven, slip a knife into the sides to let out the steam - if you don't do this, the pastry is likely to soften and collapse. If the innards are still a little doughy, scoop out excess dough with the handle of a teaspoon. Transfer to a baking rack to cool, then stuff with sweetened whipped
cream (creme chantilly), or creme patissiere or home-made vanilla
Recipe from Classic French Cooking.