by Ashley Mills
I adore The Grand Budapest Hotel. In true Wes Anderson style, the film is rich in texture and color, with engaging, quirky characters and a flair for the dramatic. It’s a delightful romp through time, a story within a story within a story about the Grand Budapest Hotel through the eyes of a lowly lobby boy. I usually find myself wishing I could jump into Anderson’s films, and The Grand Budapest Hotel was no different.
A friend of mine hosted a potluck for the Oscars on Sunday night, encouraging attendees to bring a dish that related to a nominated film. Since The Grand Budapest Hotel was nominated for Best Picture, I knew I had to make the featured pastry: Courtesan au Chocolate from Mendl’s.
Fortunately, the filmmakers released a step-by-step video, complete with ingredients and music from the film. German baker Anemone Müller-Grossman is the creative mind behind the dish.
I am not a pastry chef and I’ve never made anything this ambitious before, so I followed the directions as closely as possible. It was the smartest decision I have ever made.
First, the dough was sticky. Let me reiterate that. The dough was STICKY. This is a choux, which is the term for the dough used to make airy pastries like éclairs. I first attempted to plop the different sized dough balls onto the baking sheet with a spoon and my hands, much as I would with cookie dough. But after getting the dough everywhere but the pan, I gave up and pulled out my pastry bag. Things went far more smoothly after that. Stickiness aside, this section of the video was easy to follow, and everything I made looked exactly like the video.
The chocolate filling is like a custard, and was fairly easy to make. However, the video doesn’t specify how much semi-sweet chocolate to use, so I was forced to estimate. I ended up using about 2 ounces of chocolate, but upon final taste, I think I should have used a touch more. Overall, this section of the video was also easy to follow. A sharp paring knife is useful for putting a small hole in the bottoms of the puffs to use for filling.
The decoration section of the video is where things go awry. Why? Because there’s no measurements. The video simply tells you to mix powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla until it forms a glaze. When I dunked my little pastry puffs into the glaze and set them onto the tray, the glaze did what glaze always does: runs down the sides and settles on the parchment paper below. What you’re really looking for here is more along the lines of a “watery frosting” which should stick to the pastries a bit better.
The next step is to decorate the glazed puffs with “filigree of white chocolate.” I melted one four ounce bar of white chocolate and tried my best to neatly draw little swirly designs on the pastries. However, I am not an artistic person, nor is melted chocolate easy to handle. So the swirls didn’t quite turn out as planned.
Finally it was time to stack. Again, I made my icing too thin so it too dripped down the sides of the pastries. By this point, however, I was tired and I was late for the party. Despite this, the puffs stuck together relatively well, and only a few fell over during the evening.
Verdict: Everyone loved them! The pastry dough and chocolate aren’t very sweet, which counters the sugary glaze and frosting. A friend noted that they paired very nicely with coffee as well. All in all, these definitely weren’t the Pintrest fail I expected and I’m proud of the results.