This easy festive choux wreath, flavoured with toasted hazelnuts, caramel and chocolate makes an impressive centrepiece at any festive gathering.
For the Choux Buns
- 150ml (5 fl oz) semi skimmed milk, plus extra for thinning
- 50g (1 1/2 oz) unsalted butter
- pinch sea salt
- 80g (3 oz) plain (all purpose) flour
- 2 large eggs
- 200ml (6 3/4 fl oz) whipping cream
- 1 tap icing (confectioners) sugar
- 1 1/2 tbsp hazelnut liquor
For the Choux Wreath
- large handful blanched hazelnuts
- 100g (3 1/2 oz) white caster (granulated) sugar
- Guylian sea shell truffles
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees (355 fahrenheit). Spread the hazelnuts out across a baking tray with a lipped edge and toast them for roughly 8 minutes until they are just golden. Remove from the oven to cool.
- Meanwhile, in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan bring the milk, butter and salt to the boil over a high heat, stirring until all the butter is dissolved. Remove from the heat.
- Stir in the flour – don’t worry if it looks a bit of a mess – and return to a medium low heat. Beat vigorously for 3 minutes until the flour has cooked and the mixture is steaming. Again, remove from the heat.
- Gently beat the eggs. Once the mixture has cooled enough so that it no longer steams, gradually beat in the egg until you have a smooth mixture. You want it to be just stiffer than the dropping consistency of a cake batter: add too much liquid and your choux won’t rise, if you need to, add a little more milk. If you happen to have egg whites in the fridge, use them instead and you’ll get a crisper choux.
- Scrape the dough into a disposable piping bag and cut a centimetre off the end. Pipe 18 rounds onto two baking trays lined with baking parchment about 2/3 of the size you wish for the final choux to be, keeping space around them to allow them to grow without sticking together.
- With a wet finger, gently flatten the peaks of the choux.
- Bake in the oven for at least 15 minutes. The buns should have grown, puffed and turned golden. The longer you can keep them in the oven the better, but don’t let them burn!
- The moment you remove the buns from the oven use a cake tester of the end of a barbecue skewer to poke a discreet hole in each bun to let the hot air escape and to prevent soggy choux.
- While the buns are cooling, using a hand held mixer add the sugar to the cream and beat until it just holds its shape. Add the hazelnut liquor and beat until it has thickened just enough to pipe into the choux.
- Scrape the cream into another disposable piping bag and cut a 1/2 cm hole in the end. Carefully, poke the end into the hole you made in each bun and carefully filling them with cream, making sure you don’t fill them with so much cream delicate patches split. Set aside.
- To make the caramel, place the sugar in the bottom of a medium saucepan in an even layer and set over a medium heat. Leave, untouched until the sugar has melted into a golden caramel. Meanwhole, roughly chop the nuts.
- Work out your wreath on a piece of baking parchment: from here it will be easier to transfer onto a serving plate or platter. You want to create a ring of the bigger, flatter choux with just over a centimetre of space between each, where you can balance the rest of the smaller, prettier choux over each gap.
- Being very careful of the hot sugar, carefully dip the base of each of the top choux and use it to stick each bun in place.
- Using a fork, drizzle the remaining caramel over the wreath, scattering the nuts over the molten sugar carefully so that they stick before the sugar solidifies. Don’t worry about things looking messy, the uneven drizzles are actually what makes it look impressive!
- Decorate the gaps between each of the upper layer of choux with a Guylian truffle, and serve immediately.