Pâte a choux
- Will Owen Feb 26, 2009 09:34 PM
Someone on one of the boards was wondering where the hell this came from - like, who on earth would think of boiling flour and butter and then adding eggs? I was not able to chase the thread down, not having taken notes, but when I was cruising through my Larousse Gastronomique tonight, just for fun, under the heading of Algeria I found the Culinary Specialties of North Africa, and the first entry was Aâsida – Flour boiled in water, mixed with butter (!!!) So the lovely Burgundian snack Gougeres, our trendy profiteroles, and the ancient and honorable creampuff are all descended from a North African treat! To which I can only say, That's cool...
He quoted all it said. LG does not link the Algerian dish to the French pastry, it just lists the name and the brief description. As I noted in the other post, it sounds more like a porridge than a pastry.
Algeria was once part of France (or a French colony depending on whose perspective you take). So French cooking did influence Algerian cooking. However this dish probably is much older, quite possibly back to the time when North Africa was part of the Roman empire (or earlier). It sounds like peasant food. Pate a choux, or its predecessor, is more likely something produced in court kitchens,or by urban bakers or street vendors.
In Spain, after the Moors were kicked out, convents continued to make many of the sweets.
Spanish churros use essentially the same dough, but deep fried. Jacques Pepin, on Chef's Story (CreateTV) demonstrates a half dozen ways of cooking this dough, including deep frying and poaching.
Spanish prestinos also use this dough, but baking it. The notes in one cookbook read: 'The Arabs invented all sorts of sweet bites, to eat after the main course or with drinks. Bathed in scented honey syrup, prestinos were often deep-fried and known as Dulces de Sarten, which means "sweets from the frying pan'. However, at home it is a good deal easier to bake them and they puff beautifully in the oven.' (this recipe flavors them with aniseed and anisette).
Many Spanish sweets can be traced to the Moors
That Aâsida sounds more like a porridge or an Italian polenta (which has historically been main with grains and flours other than corn). Semolina is widely used in the Middle East and India to make puddings and sweets, often including butter.
What a great culinary anthropology question. I am too lazy right now to pull out old English cookbooks and compare them to the Guide Culinaire, but I reasonably sure that pate a choux was borrowed from the English yorkshire pudding and/or popovers, inasmuchas they are older chronologically. Course, this still begs the question: OK, smarty, where did Yorkshire pudding come from? Not a clue.
re: jerry i h
The relevant entry from FoodTimeLine
According to this, the legendary origin is '1540 by Popelini, Catherine de' Medici's chef'
The longer quote goes forward a century or two.
The Yorkshire pudding entry
1737 more or less
Both names are associated with this dish. Panterelli was the Medici chef, Popelini came later. According to Claude Juillet in Classic Patisserie: An A-Z Handbook:
"In 1533, when Catherine de Medici left Florence to marry the Duke of Orleans who was later to become Henry II, King of France from 1547, she brought with her to France her entire court, which included her chefs. Seven years later in 1540, her head chef, Panterelli, invented a hot, dried paste with which he made gateaux. He christened the paste pâte à Panterelli.
The original recipe changed as the years passed, and so did the paste’s name. It became known as pâte à Popelini, which then became pâte à Popelin. Popelins were a form of cake made in the Middle Ages and were made in the shape of a woman’s breasts. A patissier called Avice perfected the paste in the middle of the eighteenth century and created choux buns. The pâte à Popelin became known as pâte à choux, since only choux buns were made from it. [And choux buns were the same shape as small cabbages. Choux is the French word for cabbages.] Antoine Carême in the nineteenth century perfected the recipe, and this is the same recipe for choux pastry as is used today."
Did the Larousse make this connection to pâte à choux, too, or are you the first? I only question this because I have read that it came to France via a Florentine baker brought to Paris by Catherine di Medici. Perhaps the recipe came to Italy over the Mediterranean from Algeria? I wonder what the experts say.