Mary’s Christmas choux wreath
Choux pastry freezes well once it's cooked, so make the buns in advance if you prefer.
For this recipe you will need a food mixer with whisk attachment or an electric whisk, a piping bag fitted with a 1½cm/¾in plain nozzle, a piping bag fitted with a writing nozzle and piping bag fitted with a long thin nozzle or a jam syringe.
For the choux buns
For the crème pâtissière
- 600ml/20fl oz full-fat milk
- 6 free-range egg yolks
- 75g/2¾oz caster sugar
- 50g/1¾oz cornflour
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- 150ml/5fl oz double cream
For the chocolate ganache
For the chocolate snowflakes
- 100g/3½oz white chocolate, melted
For the caramel
Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6. Line three baking sheets with baking parchment.
Put the butter into a heavy saucepan with 250ml/9fl oz water and heat over a medium heat until the butter melts. Bring to the boil taking care not to burn the butter.
Remove from the heat and add the flour. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft ball. Cook over a low heat for 3–5 minutes, stirring constantly to dry out the choux. Leave to cool slightly.
Tip into the bowl of a food mixer with a whisk attachment or use an electric hand whisk. Gradually add the eggs, whisking well between each addition, to form a smooth, shiny paste. Spoon the mixture into piping bag fitted with a 1½cm/¾in plain nozzle.
Pipe twelve small mounds onto each prepared baking sheet (giving a total of 36 mounds). Dip your finger in water and gently smooth the top of each mound. Bake for 10 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5. Cook the choux for a further 10 minutes until golden-brown.
Pierce each bun with a skewer to allow the steam to escape. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to dry out. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
For the crème pâtissière, pour the milk into a heavy-based pan, bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until pale, then whisk in the cornflour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour the milk over the egg mixture, whisking continuously, then pour back into the pan.
Bring to the boil, whisking continuously over a medium heat and cook for a minute. Remove from the heat and pour the crème pâtissière into a bowl. Cover the surface with cling film to prevent a skin from forming and leave to cool.
For the chocolate ganache, break the chocolate into pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Pour the cream into a pan and heat until simmering. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate. Stir until the mixture is smooth. Leave to cool until thick enough to drizzle.
For the chocolate snowflakes, spoon the chocolate into a small piping bag fitted with a writing nozzle. Pipe 12 snowflake shapes onto baking parchment and leave to set.
To assemble, whip the double cream to soft peaks and fold into the crème pâtissière. Spoon into a piping bag fitted with a long thin nozzle or jam syringe. Fill the choux buns with the crème pâtissière.
For the caramel, boil the caster sugar and 5 tablespoons water together in a pan until it turns golden or reaches 170C on a sugar thermometer (CAUTION: boiling sugar is extremely hot. Handle very carefully. Use a deep pan to avoid bubbling over). Remove from the heat and plunge the pan into a sink of cold water and leave the caramel to thicken slightly.
On a large cooling rack or work surface, arrange a circle of fourteen choux buns so they are all touching and place ten choux buns inside the circle, so you have two circles of choux buns. Carefully dip one side of each choux bun individually into the caramel and glue to the bun next to it. Continue until the two circles are joined together.
Dip the base of the remaining twelve choux buns in caramel and stick them on top of the circles.
Line a baking sheet with silicon paper. Return the caramel to the heat and bring to a gentle simmer, add a small amount of red food colouring paste. Add the hazelnuts, stir well and lift each hazelnut out and place on the prepared sheet. Leave to cool.
Finally drizzle the wreath with one quarter of the chocolate ganache. Transfer onto a serving plate and decorate with the chocolate snowflakes and caramel hazelnuts.
Double the amounts for the ganache if you’d like extra to serve. It will need to be reheated gently just before serving.