Eclairs with Vanilla Pastry Cream

The last time that I made choux (pronounced like shoe) pastry, was when I made a croquembouche for Shavuot a couple of years ago. It was a little bit involved as you had to make the cream puffs, the cream, dip them in chocolate or caramel and then stack them up carefully.  It came out tasty, but I felt that the cream puff shells were not crispy enough, probably because I had filled them and stacked them the day before we ate the croquembouche. (Just as an aside, Rocker Dude thinks that the word corquembouche is too pretentious, so he calls is a crokey douche and that is what we really call it in our household. He also uses it as an example of a fancy dessert).Chocolate Glazed Eclairs

We were invited out to E. and A.’s for lunch this weekend, and when I asked E. what I should bring, she told me that she had just read the post about the Chocolate Silk Pie and would please like something decadent. But after indulging in the Chocolate Silk Pie, I was chocolated out.  I needed something different. So I browsed around on Pinterest for other decadent desserts. Someone pinned a picture of an eclair pie and that started the eclair mindset.

I did a little research on different recipes and different fillings and came the Joy of Baking site. The site is wonderful and has a lot of instructional videos that show all the steps of a recipe so you can make sure that what you are making looks like it should.  I watched the video for the eclairs, and though there were a few steps, it seemed relatively simple and straightforward.

Eclairs
Eclairs

i decided to make the pastry shells and the pastry cream and chocolate glaze on Friday, but only fill the eclairs on Saturday. That way they would not get soggy.  The Little Rocker asked me if she could please help me and as I couldn’t refuse such a request, I told her that she needed to watch the video on the Joy of Baking site and tell me what to do. It worked out wonderfully. The Little Rocker updated me every few seconds with what was going on, though she didn’t allow for time lapses when the video cut to the next step while I was still mixing. We had to pause a few times :). Squeaker cooperated by sleeping and not needing to be held – and that is even more helpful than the Little Rocker wanting to mix the batter!

The shells baked up really nicely – nice and crispy on the outside and almost hollow on the inside. When they were cool I cut them in half and then dipped the tops in the chocolate glaze. I decided not to poke holes in the sides and force the cream in because as this was my first time making them and I was making them for friends, I didn’t want to take a chance that the filling would not fill the whole eclair and just settle on the side.

A bite of eclair
A bite of eclair

I felt that the glaze on the site was too thin.  Adding corn syrup and vanilla I think was unnecessary and made the glaze harder to deal with. Next time I make these, I will use a regular ganache that will harden a bit. I had to keep these refrigerated in order to keep them from being sticky.

Eclairs with Vanilla Cream Filling
Eclairs with Vanilla Cream Filling

My plan for keeping the shells nice and crispy worked! I filled them shortly before lunch and then refrigerated the finished eclairs until dessert time. Success!

FYI I am submitting this post to Aspiring Bakers #34: Choux Party (August 2013) hosted by Jasline of Foodie Baker.

Recipe (based on the Joy of Baking):

Choux Pastry:1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (55 grams) unsalted butter/margarine, cut into pieces
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Glaze (optional):
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Pastry Cream:
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk/soy milk
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams) white sugar
2 tablespoons (20 grams) all-purpose flour
2 scant tablespoons (15 grams) cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Chocolate Glaze:
2 ounces (55 grams) semi sweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy/whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. To make all the eclairs the same size, you can use a template. Take a piece of parchment paper and draw 12 – 3 1/2 inch (8.5 cm) lines, spacing the lines about 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7 cm) apart. Place the template under your parchment paper so you can use it as a guide.

In a bowl whisk the flour with the sugar and salt. Place the butter and water in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour mixture all at once, and stir until combined. Return saucepan to the heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about 1-2 minutes). Transfer the dough to your electric mixer (can do this by hand or with a hand mixer), and beat on low speed to release the steam from the dough (about 1 minute). Once the dough is lukewarm start adding the lightly beaten eggs (dough will separate and then come together) and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste (dough will fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon). Place the dough in a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe 12 oblongs of dough (about 3/4 inch (2 cm) wide) onto the baking sheet (using template as a guide). If desired, with a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the dough with a lightly beaten egg.

Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Continue to bake for a further 25 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color and when split, are almost dry inside. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. If they are not dry inside then poke two holes on the bottom of each eclair with a toothpick or a skewer. Turn off the oven and let the eclairs cool in the oven with the door slightly ajar. This will help dry them out inside.

In a heatproof bowl, mix the sugar and egg yolks together. Whisk the flour with the cornstarch and then add to the egg mixture, mixing until you get a smooth paste.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan bring the milk just to a boil (just until milk starts to foam up.) Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. (If you did get a little curdling, then pour the mixture through a strainer.) Then pour the egg mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until boiling, whisking constantly. When it boils, keep whisking constantly for another 30 – 60 seconds until the pastry cream becomes thick. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. (For a chocolate pastry cream stir in 2 ounces (55 grams) finely chopped semi sweet chocolate. For a mocha flavor add 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee or espresso powder to the hot milk.) Pour the pastry cream into a clean bowl and immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming. Cool to room temperature then refrigerate until firm (can be made up to 3 days ahead). Whisk or stir before using to get rid of any lumps that may have formed.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream just until boiling and immediately pour it over the chocolate. Gently stir until the chocolate has melted.

Split the pastry shells in half, lengthwise. Take the top shell and dip into the chocolate glaze, letting the excess drip off. Place on a wire rack to dry. Fill the bottom half (can spoon or pipe) with the cream. Once the glaze is dry, gently place the top half of the pastry shell on the cream. Can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for two days.

Tuesdays with Dorie: Crunchy and Custardy Nectarine Tart

This week’s recipe was hosted by Rachel of sweet tarte.  She chose the crunchy and custardy peach tart.  I have actually made this recipe a couple of times already, each time a bit differently.  The first time I made it with canned peaches because it was the middle of  the winter and there were no fresh peaches to be had.  The second time I made them, I forgot to specify to dear Rocker Dude when he bought the fresh peaches that I would need them the same day, so they were really hard.  I have to say that I liked the tart better with the canned peaches than with the underripe fresh ones.  This time, we are at the height of peach season, so I was going to do this right, well, sort of.

Pitted nectarines. Not the neatest job in the world.

I used nectarines so that I wouldn’t have to peel them before putting them into the tart.

Tart crust ready to be baked.

I also decided to slice up the nectarines completely and make a spiral pattern in the tart instead of partially cutting them and spreading the nectarine half.  I did this with the canned peaches (because they came sliced) and it came out looking really nice.  I used an extra nectarine half because I made a ten-inch tart instead of a 9 inch one.

Nectarine filling

The recipe is really east to make.  The topping takes about 1 1/2 minutes to mix up, then get your tart crust going add filling (which requires no pre-cooking by the way) and bake the whole thing!

We just came back from America on Wednesday, so it has taken the Little Rocker a while to get back to the right time zone, giving us a few hard nights.  Friday morning, when I made this tart, I was only about half-functioning.  And the Little Rocker and I walked out to the farmer’s market in the 108 degree heat – we got the greatest pickles ever!  (And some fresh mangos and grapes too.)  So when we came back I was pretty wiped and all I could think about was if I had enough freezer space I would have tart crusts already frozen and then I wouldn’t have to procrastinate baking.  Haven’t we all had those days?  Granted, I procrastinated by finding cool things to bake, but it is procrastination nonetheless.

Crunchy and Custardy Nectarine Tart

We brought this tart to our friend S.’s house for lunch on Saturday and it was well received, though Rocker Dude did say that he did not like the tartness of the nectarines with the creaminess of the custard filling.  Oh well, can’t please everyone.

Close up. Looks delish!

Check out the recipe on Rachel’s blog here and see what other TWD bakers did here.

P.S. Can you tell that I am still recovering?  This post was all over the place!