Rising up to the challenge of our rivals

Posted: August 13th, 2009 | Author: adi | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »
There's more where that came from..

There's more where that came from..

What do you do when it’s 10:30pm, you’re in your pyjamas, and you’ve just spent over an hour making éclairs, only to realize you’re out of chocolate and the only store open is a 24-hour gas station?

The answer to that goes a long way towards proving what kind of baker you are. If your answer is like mine, get dressed and buy chocolate bars!, chances are you’re a) Obsessed and b) Insane. The good news is, you’re not alone.

Inspiration comes in all forms, but the simplest when it comes to cooking is seeing someone else’s success and wanting to replicate it. The sincerest form of flattery and all that. When someone on my Facebook posted his photos of éclairs, my first thought was “Waaaaaaaant!” Then I realized, I’d never made them. Nor had I made ANY kind of choux pastry, and when I considered it, it seemed….kind of scary. I mean, French pastry. It’s a bit HUGE, isn’t it? But, being who I am, I immediately decided it was time to face my fear head-on, in the form of deliciousness.

First up, custard for the filling. I heat two cups milk in a double boiler over water which was at a slow boil, then sifted  in 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 tablespoon corn starch. While it heated I beat two eggs until pale and then added about a half a cup of the milk to the eggs, whisking the entire time and adding the hot milk very slowly. Once the eggs were tempered, I added the egg & milk mixture into the double boiler with the rest of the milk, again…very slowly, and stirring the entire time.  (Otherwise, you WILL scramble your yolks. ICK.) This has to come to a slow boil so it will thicken. Once it has, take it off the heat, cover it in plastic wrap (directly on the surface so it won’t form a skin) and refrigerate it.

While that cooled, I made the dough. On the stove I put a cup of water and half a cup butter, brought it to a boil, then turned it to low and sifted in a cup of flour. Mix this vigorously until it forms a ball, and then take it off the stove and beat in four eggs separately. Try not to do like I did and beat it so vigorously that a glop flies out onto the floor, though.

Once it’s all incorporated, spoon it into a pastry bag (or directly onto a greased cookie sheet). I made mine about an inch wide and four inches long using the pastry bag. The dough slips a bit on the cookie sheet, so I used my finger to stop the dough from sliding right off or making a super-skinny éclair. These should be baked at 450 for fifteen minutes, and then at 325 for about twenty minutes more. My recipe said they should be done when the bottoms, when tapped with a knife, sound hollow, but they still looked underbaked inside when I took them out then–just use your best judgement. You obviously don’t want them too dry because then, well. They’re too dry.

Remove them from the pan to a wire cooling rack, and slice open the tops to vent the steam. While those cool, make the icing from three ounces chocolate, two tablespoons butter, a cup of confectioner’s sugar, two tablespoons of milk, and a teaspoon vanilla. I just microwaved the chocolate and butter and then stirred in everything else in, but you can do stovetop if you’re worried about burning your chocolate. Make sure to pay attention to your consistency here–if you like a thicker, fudgier, icing, you may want to omit the milk.

Once that was done I basically sat around drooling and waiting for everything to cool. Thankfully it did before I ate my own arm off in anticipation, and I spooned the custard into the pastry (through the vents) and then covered the tops (and the vents!) with chocolate. Some recipes I saw said to vent the sides, but this makes no sense to me. Not only would the custard be more likely to leak out the side, but on top the slit is easily disguised by chocolate. Who wants a great big slit in their gorgeous éclair??

I left them on the racks so the chocolate could harden and admired my handiwork. Looking at them, so perfectly imperfect and golden-brown, I felt a distinct surge of pride. I’d been intimidated, and I’d powered through. I attacked a completely unknown recipe and I succeeded. And the best part? Succeeding means that now I have fresh éclairs to eat.

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