As much as food and culture has influenced film, I think as much can be said of the reverse. Often a book or film can fire the imaginations of chefs, leading them to create beautiful dishes that are themselves works of art. From Willy Wonka (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) to Vienne Rocher (Chocolat), the quirky characters behind these gorgeous edible pastries are essential to bringing these works of fiction to life.
In The Grand Budapest Hotel movie, viewers are seduced with grand cinematography, eccentric characters and a visual feast courtesy of Mendl’s pastries. It follows the misadventures of lobby boy Zero and Grand Budapest’s legendary concierge Gustave. They find themselves embroiled in a plot of murder, mystery, henchmen and prison in this star-studded movie inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig.
In Sydney, dessert powerhouse Gelato Messina re-created the legendary Courtesan au Chocolat from Mendl’s Patisserie, and I had the fantastic opportunity of learning how to make it myself, under the guidance of Donato Toce (one of the co-owners of Gelato Messina) and Flo (the head pastry chef). Though it is finicky, this creates a marvellous tower of choux and chocolate, and with a few simple basic techniques, you can be impressing your friends in no time!
- For the Choux
- 1 cup of plain flour
- 1 cup fresh water
- 125g butter
- 4 eggs
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of sugar
- Extra egg, for egg wash
- For the Filling
- 1L chocolate gelato or ice cream (We used gelato provided by Gelato Messina)
- For the Icing
- Icing Mixture
- Few drops of milk
- Food Colouring
- 125ml thickened cream
- 3 tbsp sugar
- blue food colouring
- To Assemble
- Whole Almonds in chocolate
- White chocolate, melted
- For the Choux
- Chop the butter into small pieces and place into saucepan with the cold water.
- Whisking over medium high heat, melt the butter completely. Then take off the heat and whisk in the flour a little at a time, till you get a smooth mixture. Then return the saucepan to the heat, and using a wooden spoon, stir the thickened mixture till it becomes a smooth ball. The idea here is to dry it out as much as you can, without burning the mixture.
- Then transfer the mixture to a clean bowl, and let cool for a couple of minutes. Using the wooden spoon, stir in the eggs one at a time, making sure the eggs are completely incorporated before adding the next one. Once you've added three of the four eggs, test the dough for a dropping consistency. It should look like this
- If the mixture is too dry, add the last egg. Otherwise, leave it out.
- Heat your oven to 190C, then prepare three flat trays by spraying it lightly with oil and dusting with flour. Insert a 1cm piping tip into a piping bag, then add the prepared choux mixture. Pipe three sizes of choux on each of the trays: small, medium and large.
- Be sure to make sure that your piping bag is perpendicular to the trays, otherwise your pastries will not rise evenly.
- Then, brush each choux with a beaten egg, and press down the top with a fork, to further help it rise evenly.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes: Ideally you want them to be puffed and golden, and the smaller ones will bake faster than the large ones.
- Cool before proceeding.
- For the Filling
- Soften the ice cream in a standing mixer till it is of piping consistency.
- Using a paring knife, make a small hole in the bottom of your pastry, and fill it with the gelato using a piping bag. Chill in the freezer.
- For the Icing
- Add a few drops of milk and vanilla extract to icing mixture to create a coating consistency, adding more milk if needed. Divide it into three bowls, and colour one pink, one lavender, and one green.
- Dip the tops of the filled chouxs in the icing mixture.
- Chill until needed.
- Melt the white chocolate and use the melted chocolate to pipe filigrees onto the tops of the chilled pastries.
- Then, whip up the cream and sugar to soft peaks. Colour half the cream blue, and place both into piping bags with a small star nozzle.
- Assemble the Courtesan au Chocolat, by squeezing a small amount of blue icing between the choux layers. Using the white cream, pipe a small rim around the base of the pastry. Add a final star of cream on the top, and finish with a single almond.
If you’re a more visual learner, the DVD release of The Grand Budapest Hotel includes a video recipe of the Courtesan au Chocolat as one of the special features!
As for my attempt, well. Let’s just say that I’m no pastry chef, and that gelato melts fast. Very fast.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is currently out on DVD, and will be available on Blu-ray from today.
Haven’t seen the movie, or would like to see it again? We’ve got you covered! Thanks to 20th Century Fox, we have 5 copies of The Grand Budapest Hotel on Blu-Ray up for grabs!
Simply leave a comment on this post, Facebook, or Tweet us with what the most decadent dessert you’ve ever come across is! Make us drool, and you could be immersed in the luxurious world of Mendl’s Pastries. Entries close at 9am AEST on the 15th of September, 2014. Competition is open to Australian residents only.