Sunday, September 8, 2013

Recipe: Chocolate Éclairs

It's difficult to beat a good éclair covered with a layer of silky, shiny chocolate icing or even a beautiful pale brown coffee icing. What some people may not realise is how easy it is to bake a batch yourself at home whether it's for birthday parties, dinner parties or even as a nice gift for friends wrapped in a nice ribbon with a little note attached. Lots of people avoid baking them at home but I really don't know why because they really are very straight forward. Better still, when the pastry is cooled it can keep for days in an airtight container and takes no time at all to rustle up if you fancy a sneaky mid-week snack.


Éclairs are made using a pastry known as choux pastry which is a very light pastry used to make profiteroles, éclairs, choux puffs and so much more. Choux pastry is very straight forward and really, it just requires diligence, alot of speed and not forgetting the most important kitchen tool... your strong arm! Once you have mastered choux pastry then you'll be making éclairs all the time and maybe before too long you'll even be attempting to make croquembouche.


(Serves 18)

Ingredients

Choux Pastry:

- 150g Strong White Flour (Sieved) 
- 100g Unsalted Butter (Cubed, Room Temperature)
- 250ml Water
- Pinch of Sea Salt
- 4 Free Range Eggs (Beaten together and set aside)
- Egg Wash

Crème Chantilly Filling:

- 300ml Double Cream
- 1 Vanilla Pod (split lengthways)
- 75g Icing Sugar (sieved)

Chocolate Ganache:

- 175g Dark Chocolate (70% Coca)
- 175g Organic Double Cream
- Pinch of Sea Salt

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 220c / Gas mark 6. Sift the strong white flour onto a large piece of parchment paper, twice and set aside for later.

2. Place the water with the butter into a medium-sized saucepan over a gentle heat and stir gently with a wooden spoon. When the butter has melted and the mixture has just reached boiling point, take the pan off the heat immediately (too much boiling will evaporate some of the water resulting in a grainy mixture).

3. Quickly tip the sifted flour into the saucepan; using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture vigorously until it forms a soft ball. It will appear messy at first but it will quickly come together within a few minutes.

4. Next, add in the egg mixture in stages beating vigorously leaving you a thick and shiny ball known as a 'panade' which should have a slight dropping consistency. If the panade is too stiff; it will result in heavy éclairs but the panade is too wet you won't be able to shape the éclairs.

5. Place the dough into a piping bag with a 5-8mm nozzle and pipe 10cm long fingers spaced an inch apart (as the éclairs will expand during baking). Brush the éclairs lightly with egg wash, sprinkle the parchment paper with water and bake for ten minutes before reducing the oven temperature to 200C / Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 15mins until golden brown and crisp. Place a small hole in the side of each éclair to let the steam escape and return to the oven for a further 3-5mins. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.


Crème Chantilly Filling:

For the Chantilly cream place the cream into a bowl, cut the vanilla pod in half lengthways with a sharp knife and scrape out the pods. Add the pods to the cream and whip until it forms soft peaks. Fold in the sieved icing sugar, taste and add more icing sugar if needed.

Ganache Icing:

Bring a saucepan of water to a fast boil then simmer. Place the chocolate in a medium sized Pyrex bowl over the saucepan of water but make sure it does not touch the water. Gently heat the cream in a small saucepan until it reaches the shivery stage before pouring over the melted chocolate. Allow to cool at room temperature but stir every so often. Allow the ganache to thicken slightly before icing the éclairs.

Serve:

Coat the top of the éclairs with a layer of chocolate and allow to set before piping the Chantilly filling. Using a small piping nozzle. Fill the éclairs with the Chantilly filling through the hole which was made earlier.