It’s the most universal, most popular, and most famous of all of Shakespeare’s plays: show me someone who says they don’t know the story of Romeo and Juliet and I’ll show you a liar. Whether you know the story through English class or (and most likely) through Leonardo DiCaprio, you know that Romeo and Juliet are the originals of the star-crossed lovers trope.
In fair Verona where we lay our scene, where a fight breaks out between the servants of the Montagues and the servants of the Capulets who, like their respective employers’, aren’t too keen on the others. Prince Escalus of Verona interrupts and tells them enough’s enough: any more, and it’s death. If ever you disturb our streets again your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace.
Next we meet a lovestruck Romeo, who is lamenting to his cousin Benvolio the fact that he’s infatuated with Rosaline (Capulet’s niece), and she doesn’t reciprocate the feelings.
Meanwhile, in the Capulet household, Count Paris fancies his chances with Juliet. His love is as yet unrequited, too, but Capulet tells Paris to wait so they can convince Juliet to fall for him, and invites Paris to the upcoming ball the Capulets are throwing.
Romeo’s also heard about the ball from Benvolio and he attends in the hope that he’ll meet Rosaline there. Instead- cue the harps- he sets eyes upon fair Juliet and its love at first sight. Did my heart love till now? forswear it, sight! For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.
Enter Tybalt, Juliet’s cousin, who spots Romeo, the filthy Montague, and is about to kill him for sneaking into the ball, but Capulet stops him since he doesn’t want spilled blood on his front porch.
Romeo and Juliet meet and are smitten; they talk, they kiss, and they don’t even know each other’s names. When Romeo discovers she’s a Capulet, and Juliet finds out he’s a Montague, they’re both distraught.
Romeo, asked to leave the party, sneaks into the orchard of the Capulet house, but soft! what light through yonder window breaks? He spies Juliet, who’s pouring her heart out at her balcony and calls for him- wherefore art thou Romeo? He reveals himself, they profess their love to each other, and Romeo says you and me babe, how about it?
The next day, our young lovers are married by Friar Lawrence, who only agreed to marry them as he thought it would end the Montague-Capulet feud.
Then things get messy. Tybalt, still annoyed that Romeo snuck into the Capulet ball, challenges Romeo to a duel. Benvolio and Mercutio (Romeo’s friend) somehow get themselves involved, and when Romeo reveals that he doesn’t want to fight, Mercutio fights Tybalt instead. Romeo tries to stop them, but Tybalt stabs Mercutio- which makes Romeo cross, so he stabs Tybalt.
The Prince hears and banishes Romeo from Verona. But this is his wedding day, after all, so he spends the night with Juliet and leaves the next day. Juliet is understandably upset, and her father misinterprets her misery and thinks that arranging for her to marry Count Paris will cheer her up. She asks Friar Lawrence for help, since she doesn’t want to marry Paris, and he gives her a potion that will put her into a deathlike slumber, just long enough for Paris to think she’s dead. Then, she can reawaken and run off to live with the exiled Romeo.
Simple? Nope. Romeo never gets the message about Juliet’s plans, so when his servant reports the news he thinks she’s really died. He goes to the crypt where Juliet is, sees her apparently lifeless body, and drinks poison. He dies beside her, and when she awakens to find his definitely lifeless body, she takes his rapier and stabs herself. And never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
Now here’s a story of zero woe: this of these choux pastry hazelnut o’s. Technically, they are a Paris brest (careful when you google that), and they look super fancy; they wouldn’t look out of place at a Capulet ball. The choux pastry is piped into rings and split in half, then filled with a layer of thick caramel sauce and a hazelnut crème patisserie, before being drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with sticky-sweet hazelnut praline. These delicate French patisseries take a little bit of effort but they look so impressive and are definitely worth it. Who needs Romeo? Pass Juliet a caramel hazelnut paris brest.
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MAKES five individual paris brest
PREP 20 mins for hazelnut caramel (plus cooling time), 15 mins for pastry, 15 mins for crème patisserie filling
COOK 25 mins for pastry
▪ Best eaten on day of preparation.
FOR THE HAZELNUT CARAMEL
50g golden caster sugar
About 2 tsp vegetable oil
FOR THE CHOUX PASTRY
75g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
FOR THE CRÈME PATISSERIE FILLING
45g golden caster sugar
3 egg yolks
20g plain flour
1 ½ tsp cornflour
50ml double cream
100ml carnation caramel
50g milk chocolate, melted
1 Make the hazelnut praline first. Over a low heat, melt the sugar in a non-stick pan. Swirl the sugar rather than stirring, and when it starts to melt keep swirling to avoid it burning. When it is straw coloured and runny, remove from the heat and add the hazelnuts. Stir to coat, then pour onto a sheet of greaseproof paper.
2 Whilst the hazelnut caramel is cooling, make the choux pastry. Pre-heat the oven to 220°c/425°f/gas mark 7. Use a template or draw five 10cm circles onto a sheet of greaseproof paper lining a baking tray so you know how big to pipe your paris brest.
3 Add the butter and water to a pan and heat until it melts together and just starts to bubble. Take it off the heat then quickly beat in all the flour until it comes together in a smooth dough (use a balloon whisk to prevent lumps from forming). Return to the heat and cook for two minutes or so, to cook out the flour. Cool slightly, then add the beaten eggs slowly, whisking as you add, until the mixture is smooth and shiny.
4 Fill a piping bag with the pastry, then pipe thick discs onto the greaseproof paper templates. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 190°c/375°f/gas mark 5 and cook for a further 15 minutes. Immediately cut in half using a serrated knife, and return to the oven for five minutes to crisp up the inside.
5 Finish making the praline paste whilst the choux pastry cools. Smash the hazelnut caramel into pieces then blitz in a mini chopper to chop it into tiny pieces. Reserve about three tablespoons of this, then continue to blitz the rest until the oil starts to come out of the nuts and it starts to stick together (you might need the vegetable oil to help it.) Set this to one side until needed.
5 For the crème patisserie filling, mix the eggs and sugar together in a bowl and whisk in the flours. Heat the cream and milk in a saucepan over a low heat until it is just warm (it will start to steam). Slowly pour the warmed milk over the egg mixture, whisking as you do so, then pour it all back into the pan. Cook on a medium heat for about five minutes, stirring constantly, until the crème patisserie starts to thicken. Finally, stir in the hazelnut caramel paste, pour into a bowl, and cover with clingfilm until needed.
6 Once the crème patisserie has cooled slightly, you can assemble the paris brest. First, spread some of the carnation caramel over one half of the choux pastry, then add the crème patisserie. You can do this by piping on, or just by spreading on with a knife. Add the top of the choux pastry disc, then use a spoon to drizzle over the melted chocolate. Finally, sprinkle over a little of the reserved hazelnut caramel. Keep in the fridge until ready to be eaten (you can make this recipe up to two hours in advance). ▪