Since I was unable to do things correctly, I spent a lot of time whisking pastry cream today. Fortunately, the repetitive whisking became almost soothing. It really doesn’t take that long to make pastry cream, but it does when you make it three times. Dad kept passing through the kitchen and noting that I hadn’t moved from where he’d last seen me. Why was I making pastry cream? Because when someone puts in a request for a baked good, I usually oblige. It may take me a while to get around to making it, but if you wait long enough, it will happen. Such was the case with these éclairs. Mom had been bugging me for a while to make them, (along with mille feuille, which still hasn’t happened) and even went so far as to peruse my cookbooks and bookmark a Donna Hay recipe for chocolate éclairs.
I set about making them somewhat apprehensively. I’ve made pate a choux and pastry cream before which are the two components of éclairs, but I’ve not always been successful in these ventures. Today was no exception. The batter for the éclairs turned out thinner than I thought it should have, but I plowed on. The result was flat éclairs that needed to be constructed in sandwich format instead of cut open and filled. As for the pastry cream, I made it not once, not twice but thrice! The first two attempts were chocolate pastry cream and they did not work out at all. The first cream was too thin and was more like a soup than filling material. The second cream got too hot and the chocolate separated, which made for an oily mess. I took a break before deciding to attempt pastry cream for the third time and when I finally gave it a go, I turned to a Dorie Greenspan recipe for vanilla pastry cream that eliminated my problem with chocolate. Dorie solves all problems, at least in the cooking world. I wonder how she fares with life issues? Maybe she could start a Dear Dorie column…
Double Chocolate Eclairs (From Donna Hay’s Simple Essentials Chocolate)
1 cup (250ml) water
100g (3 ½ oz) butter
¾ cup (4 ¼ oz) all purpose flour
1 quantity chocolate crème patissiere, (I replaced this with Dorie’s Pastry Cream, see below for the recipe, it makes more than you need)
melted dark chocolate, for topping
Preheat the oven to 350C. Place the water and butter in a saucepan over high heat and cook until butter is melted and the mixture starts to simmer. Add the flour and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the side of the pan. Remove from heat and place in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add eggs, gradually, beating on high speed until well combined. Spoon mixture into a piping bag with a 12mm plain nozzle. Pipe 8cm lengths of mixture onto baking trays lined with non stick baking paper. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks. Halve éclairs and fill bases with chocolate crème patissiere. Dip the tops in chocolate, allow to set.
Pastry Cream (From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours)
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
3 ½ T unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature
Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in a bout ¼ of the hot milk- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so that they won’t curdle. Whisking al the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate until cold.