I remember my first Pate A Choux. It was the first pastry that I made and blogged here one and half years ago. At that time, I was so inspired by the famous Sadaharu Aoki green tea eclair that is available all over in his famous Patisserie in Tokyo and Paris. Until today, Japanese Pastry Chefs' ways in perfecting the French and European pastries never fail to awe me and I am glad that there are several books and magazines that showcases all these beautiful pastry works. I once told a friend that baking is all about passion and cooking is about love, which she wholly agrees and everytime I look at beautiful pastries and cakes, I can only feel the love and passion that channelled from the baker's heart through his hands into the baked goods. Indeed, I have adopted that way of making my cakes and tarts these days and it feels sweeter with every bite!
Eclair's pastry is exactly the same as Cream Puffs, made from hot milk, flour and eggs. It is piped in a finger long shape and filled with custard pastry cream and dipped with a chocolate topping. To say it is difficult to make is not very true as I still find it easier than Macaron or even cookies. But it is true, the process involves alot of steps and all the ingredients must be ready before you start. Over these period of time, I have come to like to read a bit more on the pastry I am making and understanding on how the ingredients work surely yields a better result. After reading the recipes, I always like to re-write it out again and plan my steps in doing things, especially desserts like this that is made up of more than 1 component. Baking is indeed a passion thing but certainly not recommended to be done frivolously! I prepared the pastry cream filling earlier and let it firm up in the fridge while I proceeded to do the eclair puffs. While the puffs are cooling on the rack, I started with the chocolate glaze and white chocolate for the swirls. Planning is everything in this one and I find the dipping part of the chocolate top was the most time consuming as things get messier with the dripping chocolate.
Cooking the pate a Choux requires patience with medium low heat on the stove and a heavy mixer is definitely useful when the eggs are mixed into the batter. As the flour is first cooked in the hot milk, it must be cooled down a little before the eggs are being added to prevent coagulation and I used a trick to do this. Once I removed the flour & milk mixture from the heat, I transfer the mixture into the heavy mixer bowl and with a paddle attachment and turned on low speed, I let the the paddle churn the mixture for 20 seconds to release the heat and then added the eggs in 4 batches, decreasing and increasing the speed after every addition. At first, it looks like the flour mixture cannot blend in with the eggs well but as you increase the speed, the batter will become creamy like thick pastry cream. By the time I finished adding the eggs, the batter has turned heavier and thicker but able to drop from the spoon like butter cake batter. To save time , I recommend using the largest pastry bag of 16 inch with the special big round tip that is specifically made for this sized piping bag. I used a star tip to get a crinkly look and I piped a 3.5 inch length puff, with 2 layers, one on top of the other. I thought 1 layer will not puff up nicely for the filling. Instead of a piping bag, I used a squeeze bottle with a small tip to pipe in the pastry filling. Previously with my Matcha Eclair, I cut the puffs into half and spooned in the fillings but I think a proper Eclair does not expose the cream filling inside. After baking the puffs for 20 mins in a 400F oven, I took them out and with a chopstick, I poked each from the side all the way in but keeping the other end intact and returned them to the oven to finish up cooking for another 4 mins. This is to ensure the inside is baked through and also the cavity for the filling later. One thing about Eclairs and cream puffs, they must be eaten within hours they are made of else the pastry loses its slight crispness due to the moisture from the cream. After coating with the chocolate, I let them rest in the fridge for 30 mins to firm up .
Pastry Cream Filling
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
4 extra large egg yolks
2 tbsp cornflour
2 drops of vanilla essence
1)Lightly Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar. Stir in the cornflour.2)On medium low heat, boil the heavy cream with the remaining half of the sugar till dissolved.
3)Stir the egg mixture again to ensure that the cornflour has not sunken to the bottom. Continuing to stir, slowly pour half of the hot cream into the egg mixture till lightened and combined.
4)Pour the egg mixture back into the boiling pot that contained the rest of the cream and bring back to the stove on medium low heat and cook till bubbly and thick, keep stirring throughout. Remove and stir in the vanilla essence and place in a container with cover and immerse the container into a shallow plate containing cold water to cool. Put in the fridge till ready for use.
Pate A Choux Pastry
4 extra large eggs (yield 1 cup)
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter
1 cup all purpose flour
extra flour & butter for lining pans
2 tbsp of milk
1)Prepare tools. Fill a large piping bag with a round or star tip and let it stand inside a tall glass with the tip pointing inside. Lightly grease 2 large cookie pans and sprinkle all purpose flour, tapping out any excess. Preheat oven to 400F. Boil 2 cups of water. Contain this water in a shallow baking pan or bowl and place on the lowest part of the oven. This will ensure even baking.
2)Position 2 racks to the lowest of the oven. Affix the paddle attachment to the cake mixer.
3)Sift the flour and leave aside. Whisk the eggs in another bowl.
4)Pour the milk and water into a pot and bring to a rolling boil on medium heat. Add in salt. Remove from heat. Pour the flour into the pot and stir quickly to combine with the liquid. A heavy glossy dough will form.
5)Bring the pot back to the stove and continue to stir for 15 seconds, incorporating scraps from the sides. Turn off heat and transfer the mixture into the cake mixer.
6)Turn on the lowest speed and let the mixture churn for 20 seconds to release heat.
7)Pour 1/4 of the egg mixture into the mixer, slowly increasing the speed from low to medium to incorporate the eggs into the flour mixture (approximately for 30 seconds). Slow down the speed and continue with the next batch of the eggs, increasing and decreasing the speed everytime. The batter will slowly turn into a heavy like butter cake batter. Remove from mixer.
8)With a Spatula, spoon this mixture into the pastry bag. Position it on the baking pans and squeeze a long line measuring around 3.5 to 4 inches. Pipe a second layer on top of the first layer to ensure it will be puffy enough to contain the fillings. Space 1 inch from each other, continue to pipe and use up the batter.
9)Brush the piped out pastry batter with milk lightly. Bake for 20 mins, rotating the pan after the first 10 mins. Turn off oven and remove, the pastry will feel firm and expanded in size.
10)Using a chopstick, poke one side of the puffs all through inside and stopping just before the end of the other side. 1 hole only for each pastry. Return to warm oven for another 4 mins to finish cooking. Remove and cool the pastries on a rack, 1 inches apart to avoid building up of moisture from each other.
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 tbsp corn syrup
1 tbsp butter
4 squares of white chocolate
1)Sift the cocoa with the sugar.
2)Pour the heavy cream and corn syrup into a boiling pot. Turn on low heat, spoon the cocoa mixture into the same pot and stir to combine. Drop in the butter and stir till butter melts. Bring to a rolling boil and remove immediately from heat. Cover till ready for use.
3)Boil some water in a pot. Place the white chocolate squares in a heat resistance bowl and let the bowl sit on the rim of the boiling pot. The chocolate will melt. Once all melted, remove from heat.
To assemble the Eclair
1)Take out the pastry cream and stir. Spoon into a piping bag with a small round piping tip OR use a squeeze bottle.
2)Pipe the pastry cream gently into each puffs, holding it vertical. You will see the puffs slowly filled up to the tip nearest you. Continue with the rest.
3)Holding the puffs with your fingers and the flat bottom part facing downwards, dip the top part into the cocoa glaze till it covers the top part. Wiggle gently to drip off excess glaze and place on rack, with a catch pan below. Continue with the rest.
4)Using a toothpick or chopstick, dip one end into the melted white chocolate and trace the white chocolate horizontally across the dipped Eclair. Trace 3 to 4 horizontal lines on each pastry. Change the toothpick or wipe the tip of the chopstick after a few pastries.
5)Using a clean toothpick, point to the top white chocolate line of the eclair and drag down gently to the bottom to create the white swirls. Continue 2 or 3 times with each eclair.
6)Place the eclair into foil liners and arrange inside a plate and let rest in the fridge for 20 mins to set.
Makes 2 dozens small eclairs (4 inches)