Total time: 2 hours, 35 minutes
Note: From "La Technique" by Jacques Pépin. Prepare the crème pralinée while the choux is baking.
Choux pastry ring 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, cut up
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour
5 eggs, divided
Butter and flour for cookie sheet
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
1. Measure 1 cup water, the butter and salt into a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until completely mixed and blended.
2. Return to the heat and cook and stir over low heat 5 to 6 minutes, to dry the mixture. The dough should be soft and should not stick to your fingers when pinched. The bottom of the pan should be covered with a thin crust, which is an indication that the dough has been sufficiently dried.
3. Transfer the dough to a bowl and let it cool for at least 5 minutes. Add 4 eggs one at a time, beating carefully after each addition so that the mixture is smooth before the next egg is added. The dough should be smooth, shiny and as thick and heavy as mayonnaise.
4. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a cookie sheet with butter and flour. Using a flan ring or any circular mold, mark an outline about 10 inches in diameter.
5. Spoon the pâte à choux into a pastry bag. Squeeze out a ring about 1 inch wide following the outline. Squeeze another ring inside the first, then squeeze a ring on top of the others.
6. Brush with remaining egg, lightly beaten. Sprinkle with sliced almonds. Let choux stand about 20 minutes.
7. Bake 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven partially. Let the ring stand in the oven for 1 hour so it cools and dries.
Crème pralinée and assembly 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, divided
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 cups milk
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
Choux pastry ring
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
1. For the nougatine, combine 1 cup powdered sugar and almonds in a heavy saucepan. Stir with a wooden spoon. Place on medium low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar starts to melt. Since there is no liquid in the mixture, it will take a few minutes, about 3 to 4. As soon as it melts, it will turn rapidly into caramel. As soon as this happens, pour the mixture onto an oiled marble or an oiled tray. When cold, break into pieces and blend into powder in a food processor or blender. Set aside until ready to fold into the crème pâtissiere.
2. For the crème pâtissière, heat the milk to boiling, then set aside. Combine the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat with a wire whisk until it forms a ribbon, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the flour and mix thoroughly.
3. Add half the hot milk to the egg mixture and return all to the remaining milk. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. The sauce will thicken as soon as it reaches the boiling point. Reduce the heat and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly to avoid scorching.
4. Pour the crème pâtissière into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to avoid a skin forming on top. Place in an ice water bath to cool. Cool to room temperature. Fold powdered nougatine into crème pâtissière.
5. Use a long bladed knife and cut the lid off the choux pastry ring.
6. Whip the cream until stiff. Fold in 1 tablespoon powdered sugar.
7. Fill the bottom part of the ring with crème praliné. Pipe slightly sweetened whipped cream over the top of the custard. Place the lid back on top.
8. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Cut into wedges with a serrated knife.
Each serving: 354 calories; 8 grams protein; 38 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 19 grams fat; 9 grams saturated fat; 232 mg. cholesterol; 106 mg. sodium.