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Monday, December 20, 2010

Eclairs

Here goes idea number two of items you can make with pâte à choux pastry and pastry cream: eclairs! How can you go wrong with cute little custard filled, chocolate glazed pastries? You can't. You just can't.

You can make them whatever size you wish. I like them fairly small. The little guys I made the other day were two biters. In my humble opinion, smaller is better. If they get too big, you run the chance of initiating the squirt hazard. There's nothing more embarassing than biting into a filled pastry and having pastry cream ooze everywhere.

To make this size of eclair, I used a Wilton 12-inch pastry bag without a tip to pipe out the pastry. To keep them nicely shaped, use a pair of damp scissors to cut the pastry when you have enough dough piped out. I piped these about two inches long. Dip your finger in water and smooth out any deformities you see in your piped pastries.

Bake the pastry at 425° F until the pastries are deeply golden. Remove from the oven and pierce the end with a sharp knife. This cut serves two purposes. The first is to provide a small vent for some of the steam inside the now hollow pastries to escape. The second purpose is to provide "easy access" for the tip of the pastry bag you will use to fill the pastries.

Let the pastries cool completely before filling. Load a pastry bag fitted with a small, round tip. Pastry cream is the classic filling. One nice thing about pastry cream is that it is stable for a day at room temperature.

When filling the pastry, be careful not to fill them too full or you will really have a squirt hazard on your hands. I made this mistake the first time I filled puff pastry. I stuffed them full enough that the filling ended up under a little bit of pressure. Biting into them caused a small cream explosion which, despite tasting good, was quite messy. I find using the increasing weight of the pastry the best way to gaugue when they are getting full. If the cream comes squirting back out the hole, you need to scale back.


Making the glaze, which you want to have harden into a firm topping that can be handled somewhat, is pretty straight forward. Melt three ounces of chocolate with two teaspoons of corn syrup in a double boiler or in the microwave. When the chocolate is mostly melted, stop heating it and let the residual warmth melt the remaining bits. Add one tablespoon of butter and stir until the mixture is smooth and glossy.

It is easiest to dip the eclairs if the chocolate mixture is in a shallow bowl. Dip the top half of the eclair in the chocolate and shake it while still upside down to let the extra chcocolate drip off. Then turn the eclairs right side up and set them on a tray or rack to set. Depending on the temperature and humidity in your house, the dry time will vary. I think it took mine about twenty minutes the other day. It does not form a hard shell; it is more like the chocolate glaze on a donut, so be gentle when handling even after they have dried.

And the last step? Well, that's the best step of all... to enjoy and share the fruits of your labor. Have I mentioned lately that I love food?

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