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Eclairs – January Kosher Link Up

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Another month, and another Kosher Connection Link-Up thingy. This month’s theme – Miniatures, which is great, because I made these here eclairs a little while back, and it was totally on purpose that they came out way smaller than I was expecting. Well then, let’s get going shall we?

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Of course we shall, what a ridiculous question.

Anywhoo, so eclairs, they’re pretty much awesome, correct? So why aren’t we making it more often? Well I don’t know, I guess most people assume that they’re pretty difficult to make, well I’m here to tell you not to assume (you probably think I’m going to say not to assume because it makes an ass out of you and me right? Wrong! You never assume because it makes an ass out of Uma Thurman, and that’s never a good thing). An eclair is simply baked pate a choux, filled with pastry cream, and topped with chocolate, and I intend to tackle each one starting…now.

Pate a choux, which translates into cabbage paste, luckily stuck around even after those damn Frenchies gave it that ridiculous name. Choux paste in it’s most simplistic form is melted butter with some water mixed together with flour, and then mixed together with eggs. It’s really a thing of beauty; It relies on the simple conversion of water to steam to deliver its lift, and what ends up happening is you end up with one giant bubble stuck inside the final product, which is perfect for filling.

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In order to make choux paste. First butter is melted in some water, and when ready, flour is added, and cooked for a little to remove any flour-y taste.

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The resulting batter is left to cool, and then eggs are added and mixed in, which will take a little time to fully incorporate,  and the resulting dough will go from the consistency of a paste to more like a thick pancake batter.

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The batter can then be “cooked” in a few different ways, and one of those ways is to bake it for eclairs/profiteroles. (frying would be another great way which would get you beignets, but that’s another post). I based the recipe off of Michael Ruhlman’s ratio for pate a choux, which means you need a scale (I’m telling you, if there’s one piece of equipment you really should have, it’s a scale, but you know me, I’m not preachy). The ratio he uses (in his book Ratio, which is a great book by the way) is: 2 parts water: 1 part butter : 1 part flour : 2 parts eggs. For me the eggs are usually the rate limiting step, and I base how big/small the recipe will be on the eggs. Since one large egg weighs 50 grams, if you use 1 large egg, you end up with: 50grams water, and 25 grams butter and flour (besides salt, and other flavorings like sugar and vanilla if you want).

For the pastry cream filing, I based it on another ratio in Ruhlman’s book, the ratio for Creme anglais. Creme anglais is a loose custard (whereby custard is defined by – a mixture of eggs and a liquid, which can either be free standing [eg – quiches, cheesecakes…] or not [ex – creme anglais, which includes French style ice creams, creme brulee, pastry cream]). For the non free standing types, there are different ways to thicken the resulting cream, and for our pastry cream (or Crème Pâtisserie if you want to be fancy) it gets thickened by a starch (cornstarch being the first choice since it’s pure starch, but flour, potato, tapioca/cassava would also work). The ratio he uses for creme anglais is: 4 parts Milk/cream: 1 part yolk : 1 part sugar.

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The general idea for making any type of custard usually is to mix the eggs and sugar together, to start dissolving the sugar, and to lighten the eggs with thorough whipping.

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Then the milk is heated up, along with your vanilla bean.

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In our case, I used some ground vanilla bean, which I got so graciously from Bakto Flavors via Kosher Scoop because I’m one of the taste testers…more on that in the future.

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Once the milk is at the desired temperature, it’s slowly added to the eggs a little at a time to temper the eggs (temper means to slowly bring the temperature of one thing that’s colder to the temperature of another thing that’s warmer, but done slowly and gently to avoid overcooking), once tempered, the remaining milk/cream is added to the eggs, and then it’s all poured back into the pot to cook a little more, and if needed strained out. In our case, to incorporate the starch, you first have to mix the cornstarch with some cold milk until it makes a slurry, and then you add the slurry to the heating up milk, and it will then start to thicken (starch only thickens at a specific temperature, which is also why you don’t want to dump it all in dry, because it will begin to thicken the second it hits the hot milk, and form clumps). Set aside to allow to cool.

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To cook the eclairs, preheat an oven to 450, transfer the batter to a piping bag (what you really need is a tip coupler, which can turn any cut ziploc bag into a real piping bag), and pipe onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, although you might want to pipe them a little bigger than I did. (You can push down any irregularities, by dabbing at it with a wet finger)

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Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, and then lower to 350 for the last 10-20 minutes, until nicely browned. Take out of the oven, and pierce with tip of paring knife to allow steam to vent out. When cooled enough to handle, use the star tip to pipe the pastry cream inside the eclairs (this will be hard if you don’t have the tips). Set aside on cooling rack.

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To make the chocolate topping, melt a whole bunch of chocolate in a double boiler with a little bit of some sort of fat (butter, vegetable oil, whatever), and dip eclairs into the chocolate. Allow the chocolate tool cool and it will slightly harden, but not too much because of the addition of the fat. (I tried making a ganache by mixing equel parts chocolate and hot milk, but it didn’t work as I had planned, but if I were to make it now, I would do it this way)

Comments: So I made a few mistake – From the beginning in order of appearance:

  1. The tip I have for my tip coupler was too small, resulting in these “mini” eclairs (which I guess wasn’t that bad of a result, but not what I was trying to do).
  2. I forgot to poke a knife in the eclairs as they were cooling, so they deflated (whomp, whomp)
  3. The pastry cream was way too thick. I think maybe because when I made the pastry cream, I forgot about the starch, so I had to heat it back up, and add the cornstarch slurry, but I think I added to much starch, plus I’ve never used ground vanilla bean, and I wonder if it also thickened the sauce more than anticipating.
  4. Because I forgot the deflate the eclairs, it made them soggy, so it was very hard to pipe the already thick pastry cream into it..so that didn’t really go over so great.
  5. I thought I’d be better off making a chocolate ganache…I’m not really sure why, but I made the ganache, that was too thin, and had to make it thicker, and whatever it didn’t work out either.

And there ya have it – eclairs. So it might seem like it’s a lot, with fancy words like: scale, piping bag, temper…oooh that sounds like it’s too much…too much of a patchke…well, it’s not, and you should do it. But do it better than I did.

And to the three people who read this much and haven’t been referred here from another blog (Hey mom, dad, and fan favorite Phoenix Fresser), don’t’ forget to Check out all the other participants in this months Kosher Link-up, by clicking on the funny frog thin-a-ma-bob under here.



Eclairs

adapted from Ratio by Ruhlman

Ingredients:

For the pate a choux:

  • 25 grams butter
  • 50 grams water
  • 25 grams flour
  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Pastry cream

  • I used the ratio 4 parts milk/cream: 1 part egg yolk : 1 part sugar, and used 1 yolk, but I don’t remember how much everything else came out…yet another reason to get a scale.
  • Vanilla (if it’s a vanilla bean, you want to cut and scrape the pods into the milk as it’s heating up)
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons milk

For the Chocolate sauce:

  • 3-4 grams bittersweet chocolate chips (I know I’m old, because I find the sweetened ones to generally be way too sweet, and I like the Whole Foods brand which is like 70% cacao, which if I was 15, I would think tastes like bitter terrible-ness, but now I love it)
  • 1-2 teaspoon fat (butter, oil, whatever)

Directions:

To make the pate a choux:

  1. place butter and water in medium sized pot (to be able to accommodate the flour also), and heat over medium heat to melt butter.
  2. Once butter is melted, add all of the flour in at once, and with a wooden spoon, mix together until paste forms. Continue mixing and cooking for another 3-4 minutes to cook out the floury taste. Take off heat and allow to cool, 5-7 minutes.
  3. When cooled, add eggs (one at a time, if using more), and start to mix vigorously. At first it will look like the egg isn’t adding into the dough, but continue beating, and eventually it will all come together…trust me).
  4. Transfer batter to piping bag fittest with widest tube, and pipe large eclair shaped ovals (I guess it’s an oval…)
  5. Bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350, and cook until beginning to brown (about 10-20 minutes).
  6. When done, place on wire rack to cool, and when cool enough to handle, pierce eclairs on the side with a small knife, to allow steam to escape

For the custard:

  1. Mix together yolk and sugar vigorously until the color of the yolks lighten (we’re after incorporation of air (which lightens the color) and for the sugar to start dissolving into the yolk)
  2. Heat milk or cream over medium heat (I hate heating up milk, because if you turn around for one second it will boil over, and make a big mess…true story…like every time I heat up milk), and if using a vanilla bean, cut lengthwise, and scrape the pods from the inside, and heat up until just about boiling…If using vanilla extract, add it to the egg/sugar mixture…I used ground vanilla bean from Bakto, which I got via Kosher Scoop to test out, and it’s really cool…more on that to come…eventually)
  3. Slowly pour a little of the heated up milk to the egg yolk mixture, and whisk constantly, to heat up the eggs  ever so slightly (ie – temper), and once warm enough, dump the rest in, whisking constantly. When fully mixed, add it back to the pan, over medium-low heat, to heat up some more.
  4. While milk egg mixture is heating up, mix together the 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 2 teaspoons milk, until no clumps are left, and add to the milk-egg mixture, and continue cooking until custard has thickened (when you drag the spatula on the floor of the pan, it should leave somewhat of a trail…does that make sense? meaning – it should take a little bit of time for the mixture to fill in the void the spatula created)
  5. Strain through fine mesh strainer, and set aside.

For the chocolate:

  1. Place chocolate chips on double boiler (that is: you take a medium sized pot, fill it a tiny bit with water (like an inch or so), and heat up to a simmer. Place smaller metal bowl over top of it) and heat up chocolate gently, with the fat in it, constantly mixing with a spatula, and stop just as everything is melted, because it will continue to cook, and you don’t want to burn the chocolate)

To assemble -

  1. With star tip on piping bag, pipe custard into eclairs slowly, while back out, and stop when custard starts oozing out.
  2. Dip each eclair into chocolate mixture, and set aside to cool/harden
  3. Eat every last one of them with out shame knowing full well it’s 100% fat free if you make it yourself
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