Not surprisingly, a lot of the conversations we have at work revolve around food, and so it was that in a recent doughnut-related discussion contrasting the appeal of zany versus classic fillings I was reminded of the infallible combination of rhubarb and custard, and how I'd been meaning to try Dan's rhubarb and custard buns pretty much since time began.
These understated little treats start with a simple pâte à choux; a light pastry dough that relies on steam for lift and has a crumb so full of holes it's just screaming to be filled.
Next comes a simple rhubarb compote and classic crème pâtissière. Nothing fancy, just a good dollop of each for that wonderful contrast between the tart, almost sour fruit and decadently rich vanilla custard.
And to finish, a good dusting of icing sugar which, if enjoyed correctly, should cover most of your face by the time you're done. After all, how better to indulge than by eating something so gloriously messy with the childlike, care-free abandon you enjoyed as a kid?
RHUBARB CUSTARD BUNS (Adapted from Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard)
For the choux pastry buns:
- 125 g plain flour
- 125 ml water
- 100 ml milk
- 60 g butter, unsalted
- ½ tsp salt
- 4 eggs
For the crème pâtissière:
- 250 ml milk
- 1 vanilla pod
- 3 egg yolks
- 60 g caster sugar
- 25 g plain flour
To make the buns, bring the water, milk, butter and salt to a boil. Add the sifted flour all at once, stirring constantly over heat until the mixture is glossy and comes away from the pan. Cool slightly then beat in the eggs a little at a time until the mixture is smooth but still firm enough to pipe. Spoon or pipe eight buns (around 60 g each) onto lined trays and bake at 190°C for 15 minutes. Without opening the oven door, reduce the temperature to 175°C and bake for a further 25-30 minutes, until the buns are brown and crisp. Place on a rack to cool.
For the crème pâtissière, combine the milk and vanilla pod (seeds scraped) in a pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. While you're waiting for the milk to boil, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until fully incorporated then do the same with the flour. Once the milk comes to a boil pour slowly, and whisking constantly, into the egg mixture. Return to the pan and whisk over low-to-medium heat until the mixture thickens and boils. Continue to whisk for a further minute then transfer the crème pâtissière to a bowl, cover the surface with cling film and refrigerate until ready to use.
To construct the buns, cut in half horizontally and spoon equal dollops of rhubarb compote* and crème pâtissière into the bottom of each bun. Replace the tops, dust with icing sugar, and enjoy.
** I stewed mine—about eight stems—with a few tablespoons of sugar, a squeeze of orange juice and a couple of strips of orange zest until just soft. Prepare it however you like, just be sure to keep it on the tart side, as this offers a really nice contrast to the sweet and creamy crème pâtissière.