Now first things first!
Congratulations to Danielle and Steve for winning last month’s competitions! Danielle has won the 1 year subscription to new food mag The Gourmet Kitchen, and Steve has beat out over 100+ entries to win himself a beautiful little Le Chasseur French Oven!
For those who missed out, stay tuned as I’ll have another fantastic competition running in the next few days! But for now, onto the pastries
When I tell people that I have to regularly give away home-made cakes and pastries in case they go stale and need to be tossed out, I’m often greeted with gasps of shock and disbelief.
I think the problem is that I’m always baking. I mean, rarely a weekend goes by when I haven’t gone on a mental baking rampage, churning out all manner of sweets and savoury treats. Sometimes this means that by the end of the weekend, the kitchen bench is groaning under the sheer weight of food, and then the counter starts ticking – how long will it last before we finally have to toss the remains into the bin?
Horrific, isn’t it? Thankfully, the family members have enough friends that giving away goodies is rarely a problem so I very rarely have to do things such as tossing out half a cake which is beginning to turn green and fuzzy.
Long time readers will know that my family is not easy to cook or bake for due to varying tastes, and the fact that my father now no longer has a single original tooth left in his mouth means that there is an overall preference for things that don’t require chewing.
(On a separate note, have you ever tried to watch someone with no teeth eat a steak? It’s equal parts disturbing, gross and just a little bit funny…)
However, for those of us who do have teeth, the problem with these eclairs is that they’re just so damn moreish. The lightened pastry cream means that they’re not too rich or overwhelming, and the incredibly thin choux pastry isn’t too heavy in the stomach.
So you have one.
And then another.
And then possible have just one more…
As a friend of mine said after trying one of these delights – these are so damn good that you just want to inhale them!
Okay, so they take a little work to put together, but believe me when I say that you shouldn’t let that hold you back from making the best vanilla eclairs ever!
(From Sucre: Recipes from Ladurée Paris)
Biscuit Topping Ingredients
100g unsalted butter, very cold
125g cake flour
125g caster sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Choux Pastry Ingredients
120g cake flour
100mL whole milk
10g caster sugar
1 pinch salt
80g unsalted butter
4 large eggs
Lightened Crème Pâtissière Ingredients
1 vanilla bean
400mL whole-fat milk
4 egg yolks
80 caster sugar
30g corn starch
25g unsalted butter
1 cup double cream
1. Cut the chilled butter into small pieces, then mix together with the flour, sugar and vanilla till well combined.
2. Bring the mixture together into a ball by hand and refrigerate for an hour.
3. While the topping mixture is chilling, preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and melt the butter into the milk and water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
4. Add the flour, sugar and salt all at once and rapidly mix with a wooden spoon till the dough comes together into a ball
5. Transfer the dough to a bowl and mix in the eggs with a wooden spoon, one at a time, till the dough is smooth and glossy.
6. Fill a large piping bag with a 1″ / 2.5cm round tip and pipe out long ‘sausages’ about 10cm long onto a tray lined with baking paper. Make sure to leave about 10cm between each pastry to leave room for them to spread.
7. Once this is done, take the biscuit topping out of the fridge and lightly knead to soften, then place between two sheets of non-stick baking paper or plastic wrap and roll flat to about 1-2mm thick. Cut into rectangles about 4cm x 12cm, to make sure that it completely covers the eclairs and hangs off the sides.
8. Place each rectangle of ‘biscuit’ topping on top of each eclair, then bake for 10 minutes, then jam the oven door open about 3mm (the handle of a wooden spoon is great for this) and allow to bake for another 20 minutes or till they are golden on top and fully puffed up. Set aside to cool before filling.
HOW TO MAKE THE LIGHTENED PASTRY CREAM:
1. Whisk together the egg yolks and sugar, then add the corn starch and whisk till mixture becomes pale yellow and thickened.
2. Set aside and scrape the vanilla into the milk and bring to a simmer.
3. Slowly pour the milk into the egg yolk mixture in a thin stream while constantly beating.
4. Pour back into the saucepan and bring to a boil while whisking, making sure to scrape down the sides.
5. Leave the mixture to cool for about 10 minutes so that it’s no longer boiling, then briskly whisk in the butter till the mixture is smooth and glossy.
6. Scrape the mixture into a non-reactive bowl and keep tightly covered with plastic wrap till ready to use. Once you’re ready to fill the eclairs, beat the cream to firm peaks then carefully mix together the cream and the pastry cream with a spatula.
7. Fill a piping bag with the mixture then pipe each eclair with the pastry cream in three places and dust with icing sugar before serving!
Now you can actually store the unfilled pastries for up to a week in an airtight container, but after filling them up it’s best to store them in the fridge for no more than 2-3 days at most otherwise the filling will seep into the pastry and begin to make it soggy.
So they’re perfect for a gathering of friends or a dinner party, as you can make the pastry and the pastry cream beforehand, then just pipe the filling in the day before you want to serve them and you’ll have these incredible little eclairs to blow everyone away with