Saturday, January 27, 2007
Valentine's Day is Approaching, and What Better Way to Say "I Love You" than with Sexy Chocolate
Eclairs filled full of rich creamy vanilla-y pastry cream coated with thick lucious chocolate ganache. Oh my. There was a bakery at the mall we used to frequent when we were quite young, and my sisters and I would save a bit of our allowance (that is if the sticker store didn't have too many new scratch and sniff stickers) to visit. I always had my heart set on an eclair. This bakery had the best eclairs...or so I thought. If only I knew then what I know now. Eclairs really aren't that difficult to make (of course when I was 9 or 10 or 11 making my own eclairs wasn't something I would have considered). The most daunting part of eclairs for most people is the shell. The pate a choux. A very eggy batter that produces the empty light shell that is the base for so many desserts. Nowadays I don't think twice about making choux paste. It's really all about the method, if you follow the method, you cannot go wrong. You can have eclairs, cream puffs, swans, whatever you like in no time. So, say goodbye to the store bought eclairs filled with whipped cream (or whatever artificial whipped dairy substitute they are putting in them) and say hello to your own fabulous home made eclairs!
Pate a choux:
1 cup water
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
-Preheat oven to 375f
-Place the butter, water and salt in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil.
-Add the flour and stir, continuing cooking until the mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and place the mixture into the bowl of a mixer (you can do this by hand, I prefer to use my mixer for this). Using the paddle attachment add the eggs one at a time, mix until incorporated before adding the next egg.
-Place the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip (I only had a large star tip plain works better, but it had to do)and pipe out "fingers" of dough about 4" long and 1" thick (unless you want mini eclairs or larger ones...depends on what you want, you could also drop the dough by spoonsful for cream puffs) onto a parchment lined sheet pan.
-Bake for about 20 minutes, remove from the oven, poke a tiny hole in the end of each one with a paring knife and return to the oven for another 10 minutes (this allows the steam inside to escape)or until they are a nice golden brown.
-Cool on a rack.
-These can be frozen in an airtight bag at this point if you like.
I'm using the pastry cream recipe I posted when I made the Brioche pastry cream snails. It's a wonderful pastry cream and tastes good to boot.
I lightened the pastry cream by whipping 2 cups of heavy cream with 1/4 cup sugar and folded it in.
(you can sweeten the whipped cream with a little sugar if you like or add some flavoring such as vanilla or kahlua or whatever you like).
Place the cooled pastry cream into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip (I find the star tips work best for stabbing through the shell to get the cream inside, however I didn't have a pastry bag or a star tip, so I used a parchment cone and poked a hole in each shell with the tip of a carrot peeler). Take each eclair shell and jab the star tip into the end and pipe in the pastry cream, if you do not feel that you filled the eclair all the way, repeat on the other end. Alternately you could slice the eclair shells in half,
pipe in the cream and replace the cover. Once you have your shells all filled you will want to make the ganache.
Chocolate Ganache: (sometimes I wonder what the world of pastry, or even the world, would be like without chocolate ganache)
1 cup heavy cream
10 ounces good quality bittersweet chocolate chopped into small bits (semi sweet will also work, if you use milk chocolate, you may want to add just a little extra)
-Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl large enough to accomodate the chocolate and cream.
-Heat the cream to boiling, remove from heat and pour over chocolate bits. Let stand for about 5 minutes, then whisk until the mixute forms a smooth shiny deep chocolate lovely mixture.
Finish the eclairs by dipping the top of each one in the ganache, set on a wire cooling rack with a sheet of parchment underneath to catch any excess drips. Let sit until set up.
Eclairs are best the day they are made, but they will keep in the refrigerator for a day or so. If you need to make them ahead the best way to do it is to make the shells, pastry cream and ganache the day before and then assemble the next day (ganache will keep for up to 3 days covered at room temp and up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, just reheat it gently over a hot water bath).
Share with your loved ones and enjoy!