Cake Fairy Tales

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Butter for burns

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The Gâteau St. Honoré was named for St. Honoré or Honoratus, the French patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs, who died in 600 AD. It was invented by the pastry chef M. Chiboust (shee-boost), who named the cake after the patron saint, but named the lightened pastry cream filling after himself.

The base consists of a circle of puff pastry, on which concentric rings of choux paste are piped and baked. Petite choux buns, dipped in a caramel, are ‘glued’ on the edge of the base with more hot caramel. The cake is traditionally finished with Chiboust cream and a stunning, glistening nest of spun sugar. Thanks to our super-humid climate in Singapore, I decided to pay tribute to Honoratus with chocolate-dipped strawberries and pretty macarons instead of a sticky pool of caramel sauce instead.

Finally we got a chance to play with caramel in class. I approached the 185 degrees Celsius pot of molten sugar lava with both anticipation and fear. In spite of my best efforts, I still got one nasty burn on a knuckle from backing my hand into a freshly-dipped profiterole that was lying on my blindside. An angry-looking blister pooling with fluid appeared on the offended appendage almost right away. An ice-bath only made it, and the pain, worse.

I was wincing from the burn and feeling quite sorry for myself when the chef tasked me with preparing 6 kilos of Chiboust cream for the class to fill our Gateaux with. As I found myself elbow-deep in a large vat of cool whipped cream and custard, something pretty amazing happened. The pain from the burn ebbed almost instantly. I blissfully trawled my fingers through the cream for a suspiciously lengthy duration, until everyone else was almost done with their chores. After I scraped out the vat of cream, I was almost reluctant to wash my cream-coated hands. Once I had washed and dried my hands, the pain was back with a vengence. I spent the rest of the lesson in a surly mood.

Why is butter good for burns? Is it really an old wives’ tale that putting butter or cream on a burn makes it heal faster? Butter is an insulator, which traps heat, so technically putting butter on a burn right away will most definitely make it worse. So how does one explain why my burn felt better in a vat of buttery Chiboust cream? The answer is simple – most of the pain from a burn is caused by air moving across the surface of the burnt skin. Any greasy substance forms a protective covering from air and hence, lessens pain. Thus, applying ointments or butter or in this case, Chiboust cream, will help to lessen pain. On a side note, you should definitely wash that burn in cold water first before applying the ointment or butter.

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This entry was posted on April 4, 2013 by in Cakes and tagged , , , , , , .

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© Dana Yong and Out Of The Cake Box, [2014]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material (including photographs) without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Out Of The Cake Box with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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