My Nemesis – Choux Pastry

Choux pastry and I are not friends. Or so I thought. We never used to be friends and I thought we never would be. But I am slowly warming to the crafty little fecker. This time I used Mary Berry’s recipe from the Baking Bible. I know it may be sacrilege to say but sometimes I find Mary’s recipes a little mad so I was more than a little skeptical embarking on this particular choux odyssey.

Such negativity was happily unwarranted (although I must insist my negative outlook is not really my fault. When I was having Tom I found out, no joke, my blood type is B negative). The recipe worked out pretty well and when that happens they really are super easy to make.

I must also admit that I am not entirely sure what a true eclair should be. Under no circumstance think that I have not done a lifetime of research, for I have, but eclairs take so many guises. In good old fashioned Dublin bakeries – where you can buy buns with sprinkles on- they are quite sturdy, filled with plain cream and topped with plastic chocolate. In Parisienne patisseries the pastry is a little less bombproof, they may be filled with creme patissiere and are often finished with a sticky chocolate glaze. The most fickle of all eclairs are those made at home. Usually consisting of almost flaccid pastry, slightly loose creme patissiere and melted chocolate on top.

The result of this weeks endeavors is somewhere in the middle of the above. The pastry is dry but still somewhat pliable, the cream is just sweetened and the chocolate icing falls somewhere between plain chocolate and the curiously sticky Parisienne glazes.

This quantity made 7 large eclairs for me, Mary reckons you could get 12. I don’t believe her.

Oven temperature 200 celsius

Butter                 50g

Water                 150ml

Plain flour         65g

Eggs (beaten)    2

Filling;

Cream                 as much as you fancy

Icing sugar         a tablespoon?

Topping;

Dark chocolate  50g

Water                   2 tablespoons

Butter                   15g

Icing sugar          70g

Preheat your oven. It really does need to be the right temperature for these fellas. Line two baking trays with baking parchment.

Put the butter and water into a medium sized saucepan and place on a medium heat until the butter has melted. Once it has, raise the heat and bring the goo to a boil. This stage looks unpleasant. Let there be no panic.

unpleasant
unpleasant

Take it off the heat and throw in the flour. Beat it all together using a wooden spoon, it should start to come away from the sides of the pan. Keep going for an extra few seconds just to make sure everything is doing what it should.

better
better

Put it to one side while you have a cup of tea or check your email.

Once more or less cool, beat the two eggs with a fork till all one yellowy mess.

Pour half into the floury, buttery mix and beat well again. It’ll look a terrible slimy, lumpy mess but that’s what you want. When it becomes smooth add in the second half of the egg and beat again till smooth and lovely.

Get yourself a piping bag. Recipes always say to use a certain nozzle which I inevitably don’t have so I use no nozzle at all. Anyway, twist the narrow end of the piping bag and place it, twist side first, into a large glass. Roll the top of the bag down, over the rim of the glass like the picture.

a picture says at least a paragraph of words
a picture says at least a paragraph of words

Using a large spoon, dollop the choux pastry into the piping bag.

so glossy
so glossy

Unfurl the top of the bag, off the glass and take the bag out of the glass altogether. Make sure to hold it narrow end up. Twist the other end of the bag to stop anything coming out that way. It isn’t that complicated, I’m just trying to avoid you ending up with pastry everywhere.

Find your lined baking trays and begin to pipe pastry lines, about 7 or so. This is best done by applying pressure to the wide end of the bag. As you pipe, keep twisting the wide end of the bag to maintain the pressure.

If there are any sticky uppy bits on your pastry, you can wet one of your fingers and smush the point down.

dirty minds, all of you
dirty minds, all of you

Pop them in the oven immediately and cook for 10mins. Then turn the oven down to 170 celsius and bake for another 20mins. It’s important that they are a medium brown colour because any paler bits will become soggy and gross.

When they’re ready, remove them from the oven and make a slit, the length of the eclair, along the side of each one to let the steam escape. Steam, incidentally, is how these creations rise.

well done me
well done me

Anyway. They’ll need to be completely cooled before you fill or ice them.

To make the filling. Beat the cream and add icing sugar to taste. Tricky ay?

For the icing, which shouldn’t be made in advance or it’ll start to set and you won’t get a lovely shine like I didn’t. I am wise to a point. Place the chocolate, water and butter into a bowl, set over a pan of simmering water. Let it melt for a while before stirring it and adding in the icing sugar.

fine. Sieve your sugar
fine. Sieve your sugar

To assemble. Fill a piping bag, using the same set up as above, with cream and fill each eclair. Spoon on a generous amount of icing onto one end of each eclair and spread it along it’s length.

Well done indeed. Eclairs. Now eat.

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