These all-but-forgotten little globes of joy have the Belle Époque styling you’d expect from a pastry invented in the 1890’s. Crunchy caramel and nuts on the outside, fluffy choux and rich, silken pastry cream on the inside…I wonder how it is that they’ve been out of vogue for so long!
Start yours by preparing a batch of choux batter and preheating your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the batter into a pastry bag fitted with just the collar, no tip, and pipe blobs of about 1 1/2 tablespoons each. Pat down any pointy tips of dough that stick up with a lightly moistened fingertip. For more perfectly round shapes, add a disk of craquelin to the top.
Bake them for 10 minutes at 425, then lower the heat and bake them about another 15 minutes until well browned.
Larger choux shapes generally need to be ventilated to keep the insides dry and the sides rigid, so do that with a knife.
Tip them and put them back in the oven. Turn the heat down to 250 and prop the door open about half an inch with the handle of a wooden spoon. Let them sit in the oven about another 20 minutes, checking every so often to make sure they don’t brown much more. .
When the shells are finished prepare the caramel. Add about a cup and a half of sugar to a wide pan and pour in about half a cup of water.
Swirl it over high heat for about four minutes until it finally starts to yellow…
…then turn amber. Take it off the heat at this point since you want the caramel fairly light. If it gets very dark it will take on that tooth-sticking consistency. Yick.
Now then, being extremely careful ‚ because they don’t call this bakery napalm for nothing — tip the pan to the side a bit so the caramel pools up, and dip a shell into it, about half way. Pull it out of the caramel and count slowly to fifteen. One…two…three…four…five…six…seven…eight…nine…ten…eleven…twelve…thirteen…fourteen…fifteen,
Now gently press the highest point of the shell into some finely chopped pistachios (if you can only find salted pistachios at the store it’s OK…that little bit of salt actually makes a nice accent).
Dip all the shells in a similar way.
When the caramel has cooled down a bit more, I go back and carefully dip the end of half a pistachio, then affix it upright to the top, because if these pastries weren’t meant to suggest breasts, I’ll eat my toque.
Lastly, I’ll load some silky-style pastry cream (half a batch will suffice, but spike the milk with a tablespoon of kirsch) into a pastry bag fitted with a bismarck tip and pipe in about an ounce of the good stuff.
And I’m good to go!
A standard recipe of choux will make 18-24 salammbos depending on the size.