You know how sacred the chocolate eclair is when, during the all-important wedding ceremony, the bride and groom announce “I do solemnly eclair…”
It was a faux pas my friend made. Funnily enough, we worked at Greggs (a UK bakery) at the time.
Making profiteroles was one of the first baking successes I had when I was quite young. I made them for my mom and I’m sure she was suitably impressed. From fairy cakes and box cheesecakes to made-from-scratch profiteroles. Awesome! I do remember mixing the flour into water at a rolling boil seemed so weird, though. I couldn’t help wondering who on earth dreamt up the recipe as it seemed such an alien way to make a sweet. (Or anything for that matter!) Who would have thought that sticky, wet batter would puff up and make such beautiful, posh treats?! Reminiscent of Yorkshire Puds??
This time, I decided not to opt out and fill with ready-made fresh cream, although this is perfectly delicious. Instead, I dug around on t’internet and found a recipe for Creme Patissiere. Aren’t I clever?! Although I’m going to try out the recipe I have in ‘Larousse Gastronomique’ next time, if I can pick it up! I even used a fresh vanilla pod. There were mistakes, granted. I’m not sure the custard was meant to have tiny little lumps – but who cares, practice makes perfect, right?!
For the choux pastry:
* Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6. Place a small roasting tin in the bottom of the oven to heat.
* For the choux pastry, put the water, sugar and butter into a saucepan. Heat until the butter has melted.
* Turn up the heat, then pour in the flour and salt.
* Remove from the heat and beat vigorously until a smooth paste is formed. Once the mixture comes away from the side of the pan, transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool for 10-15 minutes.
* Beat in the eggs, a little at a time, until the mixture is smooth and glossy and has a soft dropping consistency – you may not need it all.
* Lightly grease a large baking sheet. Using a disposable piping bag, trim off the tip and pipe the mixture into thickish lengths of around 5 cm in lines across the baking sheet. Gently rub the top of each with a wet finger – this helps to make a crisper top.
* Pour a small amount of cold water into the roasting tin in the oven – this will create steam and help the eclairs to puff up.
* Bake for 25-30 minutes – they must be golden brown otherwise they will become soggy.
* Remove from the oven. Prick the base of each one to allow steam to escape.
* Leave to cool whilst you prepare the creme patissiere.
500ml/2 cups PLUS 1/8 cup milk
100g/1/2 cup caster sugar, divided
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthways
6 egg yolks
4 tablespoons plain flour
60g/1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 pinch salt
* Place the milk, half the sugar and the vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat.
* Combine the egg yolks and the remaining sugar in a bowl and whisk until light in colour. Add in the flour and the salt, mix to combine.
* When the milk just begins to boil, remove from heat and remove vanilla bean. Very slowly dribble the hot milk into the yolk mixture, stirring all the time. When about half of the milk has been added, place all of the yolk mixture into the saucepan over medium heat. Using a spatula or a whisk, mix the pastry cream as it heats, making sure to reach all of the corners of the pan when you stir. Bring the mixture to the boil. Let boil for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. The mixture will be thick.
* Remove from heat and add the butter. Strain if you wish for a smoother cream. Place into a bowl and cover directly with cling film to stop a skin from forming on the cream. Chill.
* Fill a piping bag (with a small, plain nozzle) with the creme patissiere and, poking a small hole underneath each chocolate eclair, pipe the cream into them.
* Melt a block of chocolate and spoon onto the tops with the back of a spoon. Allow to cool.