Saturday, February 19, 2011

They'll Probably Serve This in Heaven

Eclairs don't travel well as you can see, but it doesn't really matter does it. They taste the same whether smashed or not. These were a product of my baking basics class--perhaps, no undoubtedly my favorite skill to have learned. It's actually a combination of skills. Three elements go into this pastry: pate a choux, pastry cream and ganache. None are hard, but they all require this knowing familiarity. The pate a choux has to be this certain consistency in order to puff up just so in a hot oven. The pastry cream should be thick, but you have to take caution not to burn it. And the ganache is just a simple blend of melted chocolate with heavy cream finished with butter for a shine but it should be poured (or dipped in this case) at just the right temperature or it will melt off (I've done it) or it won't pour.

Familiar knowing. I think "to know" is better said in French or Spanish, languages that have two words for "to know." Connaitre (or conocer) means to know a person and to me evokes this feeling of having met someone, talked to them, been in their presence. Whereas savoir or saber is to know about something, to have a well of information. Perhaps I'm being cavalier with my translations, but when I think if savoir, I think of reading. And when I think of connaitre, I think of doing. I would like to connaitre pastry cream. I'd like to connaitre it so well that I can transform it into other things. Something with a different flavor perhaps. Strawberry, saffron, lavender. I'm not there yet with chocolate eclairs. These are just plain ol' pate a choux with vanilla pastry cream and straight-up chocolate ganache.

Pate a Choux: yields 12
4 ounces butter
8 fluid ounces water
5 ounces flour
3 to 5 eggs

Preheat the oven to 400. In a small sauce pan, bring the butter and water to a boil. Stir in the flour with a whisk, let the mixture get pretty dry with the excess water evaporating out. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer. Let it cool down a bit, until the bowl is just warm to the touch. Add the eggs one at a time being sure they fully incorporate each time, until the consistency is pasty and not too runny. You'll be pipping it out, so it has to hold its shape. Using a pastry bag, pipe into logs or rounds (those can be cream puffs) and bake at 400 for 15 minutes and then reduce heat to 350 and bake until they're dried out and nice and brown.

Pastry Cream:
12 fluid ounces milk
4 fluid ounces cream
3 3/4 ounce sugar
5 egg yolks
1 ounce cornstarch

In a heavy saucepan, bring the milk and cream up to a boil being careful not to scorch it. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and cornstarch. Once the milk boils, carefully and slowly pour one-third of it into the eggs mixture to temper it while whisking. Once the eggs have warmed slightly, pour it all into the saucepan with the milk and return to heat. Bring to a light boil and continue whisking (do not stop whisking) until the mixture thickens up quite a bit. Remove from heat and refrigerate.

Chocolate Ganache:
1 part chocolate
1 part whipping cream
a couple tablespoons butter

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Add the cream slowly until you reach a desired consistency, which should take no more than the same amount of chocolate you used. Finish by melting in some butter. Pour over cakes or pastries once it has cooled to 90 to 100 degrees, which is barely lukewarm.


Meg said...

oh. my. golly. those. look. so. gooooooood! :-)

Maria said...

Will you please make these when I come this summer? Plus make pretty much everything else you've ever posted on your blog (minus the meat).