It is no coincidence that the Czechs rave about their větrník. This delicious chou that is garnished with caramel and vanilla cream are the pride of Prague bistros.
Indeed, everyone claims to serve the best in the city. Did you know that this little caramel chou pastry is a variation of a pastry that Catherine de Medici used to love? The pâte â choux (choux pastry) has traveled a lot since then. But let’s take a closer look at the větrník.
Větrník: The Czech caramel profiterole
All větrník fans in the Czech Republic will confirm that a větrník is not just a simple chou. So, what makes the authenticity of a good větrník? The choux pastry must be successful: the chou must be golden brown, puffy, crispy on the outside and airy inside. If it collapses, it is because it wasn’t baked enough. The chou is then cut in half and alternately filled with a whipped cream that contains vanilla pudding and a caramel whipped cream.
The vanilla cream is the key factor that determines whether the větrník is successful or not. If the cream is too sweet, the originally airy chou quickly becomes heavy. Finally, icing on the cake (no pun intended) for the gourmands, the caramel icing also comes into play in the texture of a perfect větrník. The top of the chou is dipped in a shiny caramel icing. The ideal glaze is glossy and adheres perfectly to the choux pastry. There are several versions of větrník in the Czech Republic. Some do not contain caramel, others are flavored with coffee or rum. In short, there’s something for everyone! On 196 flavors, we tested the traditional recipe, and it’s definitely worth it!
From Catherine de’ Medici to Prague bistros
The větrník traveled miles before integrating the dessert menu of the Czech bistros. It is in France, in the sixteenth century, under the reign of Queen Catherine de’ Medici that the famous choux pastry was born.
The Queen’s cook had a flash of genius. He created a cake from a “pâte à chaud” (old name of choux pastry), spooned it on a sheet and dried it over the fire. This cook then stuffed these little choux with fruit jelly. His creativity was rewarded: the poupelin was born. But it was not until the eighteenth century that the “pâte à chaud” became known as “pâte à choux” (choux pastry in French).
Choux pastry is now a pillar of French gastronomy. Several great pastry chefs in France tried to create recipes to make it their own. These elaborated many recipes. Eclairs, religieuses and pets de nonne (nun farts) eventually emerged.
But we would have to wait until the nineteenth century to establish the final recipe and shape of the chou. Antonin Carême, prodigy of Jean Avice who was the pastry chef of Talleyrand, started garnishing the choux with pastry cream and whipped cream. He really converted the chouquettes into profiteroles. But nobody really knows the identity of the person who started garnishing the profiteroles with ice cream, nor of the one at the origin of the chocolate frosting that covers them.
The profiteroles then began their culinary journey through Europe. They quickly became popular in Germany. In the Czech Republic and Slovenia, caramel větrníky quickly became the unmissable specialty of the country. In the Czech Republic, bloggers and culinary experts alike regularly tour the Prague pastry shops and bistros to taste and elect the větrník of the year.
The variants of the vetrnik
Of course, there are French éclairs and religieuses. But it would be just inconceivable not to mention the croquembouche, the pride of French gastronomy, which sits on the tables of weddings, banquets and festivities throughout France until today.
In terms of taste, croquembouche is closer to the větrník. It is made with choux that are stuffed with cream and that are coated with crunchy caramel. Let’s not forget the cone shape that is one of its main characteristics, nor the nougatine that accompanies it.
Other choux pastry baking goods are available in France. The salambo, for example, is an oblong chou, filled with pastry cream, iced with sugar and decorated with crushed pistachios. The Charentaise nut is a specialty from the Charente region in France, which consists of a chou stuffed with butter cream and flavored with walnut praline. In Champagne, the gland (acorn) is an acorn-shaped chou garnished with kirsch-flavored custard.
But let’s stop chatting, without further ado, I present to you the recipe of authentic větrníky!
This recipe is validated by our culinary expert in Czech cuisine, Kristyna Koutna. You can find Kristyna on her food blog CzechCookbook.com.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup milk
- 3-¼ cup flour , sifted
- 1 cup butter , cut into pieces
- 3 pinches salt
- 8 eggs
- 1-¼ cup caster sugar
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 cups heavy cream , whipped
- 2 cups whole milk
- ¾ cup caster sugar
- 1 vanilla pod
- 3 oz. vanilla pudding powder
- 2 cups heavy cream
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup icing sugar
- 5 tablespoons milk hot
- Preheat the oven to 480 F.
- Add the water, milk, butter and salt to a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil.
- Remove from heat and pour all the flour at once. Mix with a spatula, making sure not to leave any lumps. The result is called a panade.
- Desiccate the panade over medium heat, stirring with the spatula, until it comes off the sides of the pan and forms a ball.
- Place the panade in the bowl of a stand-mixer and beat it for a minute with the flat beater or spatula in order to warm it.
- Stir the eggs one by one at low speed using the flat beater or spatula. At first, the egg is difficult to incorporate, but it gradually incorporates with the panade.
- Stir in the remaining eggs one by one. The choux pastry is ready for use. It must be used immediately.
- Transfer the choux pastry to a piping bag with a large open star piping tip. Make rings of about 2 to 3 inches diameter on a baking sheet, allowing some space between them.
- Bake these rings in the oven and immediately decrease the temperature to 350 F.
- Open the oven after 25 minutes so that all moisture evaporates (do not open before), then close the oven and bake for another 3 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a rack.
- In a small saucepan, heat the cream without boiling, stirring regularly.
- In a large saucepan, pour the sugar and melt it over medium-low heat until you get golden caramel.
- Once the sugar is caramelized, add the hot cream. Boil over low heat until the caramel dissolves completely.
- Refrigerate this preparation for 12 hours.
- At the end of these 12 hours, gently mix this caramel cream with the whipped cream.
- Place the heavy cream in the freezer.
Cut the vanilla pod lengthwise and scrape the vanilla seeds.
Pour the milk in a large nonstick saucepan. Add the sugar, the pudding powder, split vanilla pod and vanilla seeds. Bring to a boil, stirring regularly.
Remove the vanilla pod, and whisk. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly.
- Set aside until completely cooled.
- When the vanilla cream is cold, whip the cream in a bowl. Gently stir in whipped cream with vanilla cream. Reserve in the refrigerator.
- In a saucepan, caramelize the sugar on low to medium heat until you get an amber color.
- Pour the hot milk and stir until well blended.
- Off the heat, add the icing sugar and mix well until reaching a smooth texture.
- If the icing is too thick, gradually add a tablespoon of water.
- Assembly of the větrník
- Transfer vanilla cream to a piping bag with a small open star tip.
- Transfer the caramel cream to a second piping bag with a small open star tip.
- Cut the rings in half.
- At the bottom part of each ring, first place a small amount of vanilla cream.
- Then, add a small amount of caramel cream on top the vanilla cream.
- Dip the top part of each ring into the caramel glaze and place on the bottom ring with vanilla cream and caramel cream.