Foodie

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eclair





I have made eclairs and i have made eclairs, also i have made cream puffs but what is the difference between a cream puff and an eclair?  Both are made with choux pastry, so, shape is only essential difference.  Every time i make a batch of choux pastry, i will pipe some round and some long.  To my grand kids, don't ask if they want cream puffs or eclairs.  Renee will say she wants the round ones and Alexander prefers the long ones - no name calling.  To me, somehow the round ones - cream puffs are more photogenic but eclair is the ugly duckling.  I could never get a good shot and strangely, when i think it looked good, it was out of focus.  I think i got a lucky break when i found this éclair à la vanille from this cookbook - Laduree: The Sweet Recipes.  The recipe started with making a vanilla pâte sablée which is rolled onto a thin layer and place on top of each éclair.  When you bake  them, the sablée melts into the choux and gets mostly incorporated, making a perfect éclair, with a thin crunchy layer on top.  You would not have guessed that this thin layer could kick up the eclair with pronouced butter and vanilla flavor.  I have changed the recipe but the idea was adapted from this cookbook.



Ingredients:

For the pâte sablée:

4 ozs butter - chilled and diced
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 ozs confectioners'/powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

To make the sablée:

Mix the flour, sugar and rub in the cold butter. Work quickly with your fingertips (or use a food processor) until the dough holds together. Divide into 4 portions and form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

When you have piped the choux pastry, put one of the disk on a large sheet of baking paper, cover with another sheet. Using a rolling pin roll the pastry between the two sheets until very thin and cut into the size of the piped eclairs about 2 inches long and 1 1/4 inch wide..


For the Filling :

2 cups milk
1/4 cup white sugar
2 egg yolks
1 egg
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream
To make the filling:

In a heavy saucepan, stir together the milk and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and egg. Stir together the other 1/4 cup sugar and cornstarch; then stir them into the egg until smooth and pass through a fine sieve into another medium bowl. When the milk comes to a boil, drizzle it into the egg mixture in a thin stream, stirring and mixing so that you do not cook the eggs. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly so the eggs don' t curdle or scorch on the bottom.

When the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, remove from the heat. Stir in the butter and vanilla, mixing until the butter is completely blended in. Pour into a heat-proof container and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled. 

With an electric hand mixer or a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat cream (you can use a hand whisk; it just will take longer). Start slowly -- if you set it on high at first, you'll have cream all over the place. I like to use a large piece of cling wrap and wrap it around the top of the bowl to catch the splatter.  Set the mixer so it goes as fast as possible without splashing.


As the cream thickens, turn the speed up. As it gets foamier, start checking for a soft peak, which is what you want. The peak should bend over at the top when you remove the whisk. As it gets close, slow down, because if it goes too far, it will clump and separate (essentially become butter).

Mix 1/3 of whipped cream into the chilled pastry cream.  Stir well to mix and then fold in the rest of the whipped cream.

Chill before using.

For the Choux paste:

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk
1 stick unsalted butter - cut into small pieces
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
1 cup bread flour

2 large eggs
2 large egg whites

To make the Choux paste:

In a medium saucepan, bring the water, milk, butter, salt and sugar to a vigorous boil. Remove saucepan from heat. Add the flour all at once and stir mixture quickly with a wooden spoon. This will cause a ball of dough to form immediately. Continue to cook the mixture for approximately one minute until it forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes to approximately 130f(54c) to prevent the eggs from cooking as they are added to the mixture.
Transfer the dough into the bowl of an electric mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the dough on low speed. Add 2 whole eggs, one at a time, blending well after adding each egg. Then add 2 egg whites, one at a time, blending well after each addition. The dough should hold its shape somewhat and should not be too loose. The color of the dough should be yellowish from the butter and eggs, and it should look glossy. Alternatively use the food processor.
Preheat oven to 350 f.

Fill a large piping bag with a 1/2 inch round tip or Wilton 1M and pipe out long strips about 2 inches in length.onto a tray lined with silpat or baking paper. Make sure to leave about 2 inches  between each pastry to leave room for them to spread.  Cover each with the thin layer of prepared sablée.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes in the hot oven, until they raise. Open the oven door a tiny bit so that moisture can escape, and keep cooking until they have a deep golden hue, about 20 minutes (I used the handle of a wooden spoon to keep the oven slightly open).

Remove from the oven and with an icing nozzle,  poke a small hole into each puffs. This helps dry out the moist inside of each eclair and allows them to cool faster.

Shortly before serving: whip the cream until firm, and mix it with the custard.  Fill lightened custard into a piping bag and pipe into eclairs.

Sprinkle lightly with icing sugar or drizzle with melted chocolate and serve.

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