Friday, 30 May 2014

Kitchen Challenge: Chocolate Eclairs



It’s time for a challenge. I created this blog as a way to share my passion for baking and cooking with the world, but also to push myself to experiment and try new recipes and ingredient combinations.

This month I challenged myself with choux pastry. Pastry is an area in which I feel I can do the basics, shortctust mostly – enough for pies and tarts, but have always been nervous to experiment with. Until now I had associated ├ęclairs and profiteroles as desserts that needed to be bought, not made – I had certainly never dreamed of making them myself.

 


I always had a weakness for ├ęclairs. Lined up on the bakers shelves, their light airy pastry sandwiching fresh whipped cream topped with smooth glossy chocolate, to make such a piece of artwork myself seemed way beyond my abilities. You have to be a professional pastry chef right?

However, after a little internet research and with my trusty Leith’s Baking Bible, I quickly realised that there wasn’t any special equipment or gadgets required, just a saucepan, mixing bowl and a piping bag. All of which I already have in my cupboards. Now nothing could stop me.



Choux pastry is one of those fantastic goods that looks a lot more difficult than it is. Not many people make their own and therefore are thoroughly impressed when someone else does. I baked a batch of these at the weekend and still cannot get my head around how easy and quick they were to make.







Ingredients (makes 12)

Choux Pastry:
50g unsalted butter
120ml water
65g plain flour
Pinch of salt
2 eggs

Filling:
200ml whipping cream
5tsp icing sugar, sifted
1tsp vanilla extract

Icing:
100g dark chocolate

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200celcius. 2. In a large saucepan, heat butter and water over a gentle heat until the butter has melted. Take care not to heat the water too much, it needs to be warm enough to melt the butter but shouldn’t evaporate
3. Sift flour and salt onto a piece of greaseproof paper or into a bowl.
4. When the butter has melted, quickly bring the liquid to the boil and tip the flour into the saucepan.
5. Take the pan off the heat and beat quickly with a wooden spoon until the flour and butter have combined into a smooth, glossy dough.
6. Place the pan back on the heat and continue to beat the dough for about a minute whilst it cooks slightly. Your dough is ready when it forms a ball in the centre and doesn’t stick to the sides.
7. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and allow to cool until lukewarm.
8. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and then slowly beat the egg into the dough. Do this in stages as you may not need all the egg, you are looking for the dough to resemble a smooth, shiny paste.
9. Spoon the dough into a piping bag with around a 1.5cm nozzle attached (you can also just cut the bag to the required diameter if you don’t have the correct size nozzle.
10. Pipe 10cm lengths onto a greased baking tray.
11. Sprinkle the tray with a few drops of water (take care not to wet the dough) and place in to oven for 15 minutes.
12. After 15 minutes, reduce the temperature to 170celcius (do not open the door) and continue baking until golden brown and crisp. This should take around 10 minutes.
13. Take the tray out of the oven and poke holes in each side of the sausage-shape to release the steam.
14. If your pastry is not completely crisp, return to the oven for another 5 minutes.
15. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
16. To make the filling, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla together until it forms medium to stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag.
17. Using a sharp knife cut the pastry shells in half and pipe a line of cream down the length of the pastry shell and sandwich them back together.
18. Melt the chocolate using a double boiler or in the microwave (short 30 second bursts) and allow to cool a little.
19. Dip the top pastry shell into the chocolate and place back on top of the whipped cream.
20. Allow chocolate to set and serve.




xx