Monday, November 11, 2013

Eclairs with Chocolate Pastry Cream. Conquering Choux Pastry



At the back of my head somewhere is a memory. Of staring at this cold dessert counter and looking longingly at an eclair. You see, till I was almost 10 years old I'd never eaten one. My mother hated desserts made of eggs and an eclair also had a distinctly eggy smell that she couldn't stand. So of all the pastry treats in the world, that was never going to be mine.

My aunt, however, loved them. And once when I was spending the night with my cousins, she bought a few for us to eat as a tea-time snack. I stared at it dubiously: Was it a cake with a whole lot of whipped cream? Would it taste bready? Would the chocolate be dark?

But it was love at first bite. The lightness of the choux pastry against the billowy soft sweetened whipped cream and the chocolate coating that added a lovely depth to the entire pastry, it was a party in the mouth. I couldn't finish the entire thing, and it was a good thing too, because as I grew older even two couldn't make the cut.



After that, I'd order an eclair whenever I got a chance. But it was a bit of a hit and a miss. Sometimes the pastry would be soggy, sometimes the whipped cream sour. A few years later (I must have been 12?), I found myself peering through the glass of another dessert counter, staring at yet another eclair. Except, this time around, it seemed to be filled with chocolate. I knew I had to taste it.

A chocolate, chocolate eclair. For the first time, I realised that you could fill the eclair with anything. Coffee, chocolate, caramel, fruit. And each time the experience could be fabulous. Truth is, that was the eclair I truly loved, not the one filled with whipped cream..

I didn't really attempt making choux pastry, till I was in my twenties. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that I really didn't know anyone else other than me who loved this pastry that much. That was ofcourse, until I met the husband. (if there's an eclair eating competition anywhere in the world, he'd win it hands down, trust me).

I'd tried a number of recipes, but the one that I loved and gave out the most fool-proof puffed choux was Dorie Greenspan's. I've made her eclairs/ cream puffs/ gougeres so many times, that I've truly lost count.

The only thing you really have to keep in mind while baking the choux pastry is that you need to either bake or freeze it immediately after making it otherwise you'll basically have to start all over again. And also to read the instructions, super carefully.



The recipe for the Chocolate Pastry Cream is also Dorie's. And can I please tell you it is by far one of the most superior creme patisseries that I have ever tasted. It's velvety smooth, and tastes beautifully chocolaty, no matter what chocolate you use. Plus I've filled tarts with it, made ice cream at a pinch with it and it all tastes wonderful.

Eclairs might sound slightly intimidating, but trust me when I tell you that they are just as rewarding. Sometimes I split the task by making the pastry cream a day earlier and the choux the day I want to it so that it's less work. But most times, I can go the whole hog in under 70 minutes.




Eclairs with Chocolate Pastry Cream
From Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Available in India, US and UK

For the choux pastry/ eclair shells

Ingredients

1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature

Directions

1. Bring the milk, water, butter and salt to the boil in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan.  
2.When the mixture is boiling rapidly, add the flour all at once, reduce the heat to medium and, without a second's hesitation, start stirring the mixture like mad with a wooden spoon.  The dough will come together very quickly and a slight crust will form on the bottom of the pan, but you have to keep stirring - vigorously - another 2 to 3 minutes to dry the dough. At the end of this time, the dough will be very smooth.
3.Turn the dough into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or, if you've still got some elbow grease left, you can continue by hand.  One by one, add the eggs to the dough, beating until each egg is thoroughly incorporated.  Don't be discouraged - as soon as you add the first egg, your lovely dough will separate.  
4. Keep working and by the time you add the third egg it will start coming together again.  When all the eggs are incorporated, the dough will be thick and shiny and, when you lift some of it up it will fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.  The dough will still be warm - it's supposed to be - and now is the time to use it. 
5. Drop the dough from the spoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches of space between each mound of dough. 
6. Slide the baking sheets into the oven, bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the sheets from top to bottom and front to back.  Continue baking until the puffs are golden and firm, another 10 to 15 minutes.  Transfer the cream puffs to a cooling rack.

7. Keeping:  You can spoon out the dough and either bake it immediately or freeze it.  To freeze, spoon the dough in mounds onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer.  When the dough is completely frozen, remove the balls from the baking sheets and wrap them airtight. They can be kept in the freezer for up to 2 months and don't need to be defrosted before baking.


For the Chocolate Pastry Cream

Ingredients
2 Cups Whole Milk
4 Large Egg Yolks
6 Tbsp Sugar
3 Tbsp Cornstarch, sifted
Pinch of Sea Salt
7 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, melted
2 ½ Tbsp Unsalted Butter, cut into bits, at room temperature

Directions

1. Bring the milk to a boil in small saucepan or in a microwave oven.
2. Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar, cornstarch, salt until thick and well blended. Whisking without stop, drizzle in about ¼ cup of the hot milk-this will temper, or warm, the yolks-then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream. 
3. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly, and thoroughly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil-still whisking-for 1 to 2 minutes, then pull the pan from the heat.
4. Whisk in the vanilla melted chocolate. Let stand for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until the butter is fully incorporated and the custard is smooth and silky. 
5. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the custard to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool the custard quickly-put the bowl with the pastry cream into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir the custard occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.


Assembly:

Slice each piece of pastry in the middle without splitting the end. Spoon in as much pastry cream as required and then drizzle with melted chocolate. Eat within 8 hours of filling.








1 comment:

  1. Ruchira, I cant wait to try these mouth watering eclairs......

    ReplyDelete

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