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Saturday, 26 November 2011

Mini Eclairs With Custard Filling

Mini Eclairs! What a fabulous treat?
Light as a feather, like chewing on little pillows made of clouds, while the Creme Anglaise oozes into your mouth in tiny dollops to sweetly cool and refresh your palate, followed by hints of chocolate to round up the whole experience... it must be a dream! But no, it is Eclair!

Starting with pate a Choux; a delicate kind of pastry that is made to perfection with patience and love, with the gradual and continuous stirring of eggs to incorporate into a roux, then shaped and baked to a perfect golden puff... Moving on to making the custard that will fill those puffs, as if they need more delicateness, yet to draw upon and intensify the dreaminess of this experience. The melt in your mouth softness of custard just takes you further into the realm of heavenly food. Topped with a generous pouring of Chocolate Ganache, to add a little creaminess in case you have missed it, and hints of the exotic for an otherwise fair experience. In a blind moment, my senses are softly awakened with nothing short of a floating amongst angels! This is perfection! And it comes in bite size!

I have been invited by my friend Sally, to join her Custard Mingle - as part of Meeta's Monthly Mingle - where I would share a recipe that uses custard. I have also been advising a couple of my friends on making Eclairs, so I thought a blog post about this marvelous treat is in order. So here you go, a step-by-step tutorial about Mini Eclairs filled with Creme Anglaise (Custard Sauce). I love this recipe and get rave reviews every time I make it. I am hoping that you will try it and see for yourself, it is Fabulous!

Many are intimidated by Choux Pastry! Don't be. Choux pastry is very easy to make, provided you do follow  the instructions. Provided that you are patient, as you will be doing quite a bit of stirring, and provided that you do Gradually add the eggs, the pastry will turn out perfect every time. If you get impatient and decide to just go for all the eggs at once (especially when making large batches of pastry), your pastry won't work, or if it does will turn out tough which ruins the whole experience. Choux pastry is delicate and airy, it should never be the texture of a cake or bread! That is only established by the gradual addition of eggs and the continuous stirring (not beating or whipping).

In the same effect; making the Creme Anglaise is also quite consuming in the sense of continuous stirring. But all the effort is worthwhile in the end, as the creamy softness of the custard, matches the delicateness of the choux, making the whole experience heavenly. When making this, I usually put myself in a zone, where the clock slows down, and am just so into the mechanical motion of it all. I am telling you it is therapeutic, kind of like meditation! It is my time with myself, when I can't seem to otherwise spare a moment in a crazy busy life style.

Pate a Choux - Choux Pastry
You Need
Makes 12

5 tbsp butter, cut into small cubes
2/3 cup water
3/4 cup all purpose flour, sifted
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 400F. Line a cookie sheet with baking paper and set aside.

Make a roux: In a medium saucepan, place the water, vanilla and the butter, over medium heat. Gently heat until the butter melts. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Remove the sauce pan from the heat and add all the flour at once, beating well until the mixture pull away from the sides of the pan and looks like dough.

Cool slightly, about 3 minutes, and gradually stir in the eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition until well incorporated. You want to keep on stirring until the egg is no longer separate and visible before the addition of the next egg. The addition of the egg will form a smooth mixture that is somewhat shiny.

Once you have incorporated all the eggs, and the mixture is well incorporated, smooth and shiny, it is then ready to be shaped and baked.

Sprinkle the lined sheet with a little water (just a sprinkle not a shower). Place the Choux pastry in a large piping bag, and pipe out 2 inch lines on the lined baking sheet, spaced about 1 inch apart. Repeat till all quantity is finished. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden and sound hollow when gently tapped.

Carefully make a slit down one side of the baked Eclair for filling, then place on wire rack until completely cooled. Do not attempt filling Eclairs before being completely cooled.

Creme Anglaise - Custard Sauce
You Need
Makes about 2 cups

5 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split open, seeds scraped
1/4 tsp nutmeg (optional)

In a heavy saucepan, stir together the egg yolks, sugar, milk and vanilla seeds. Cook over medium heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon. You should be able to draw a clear line - in the centre of the custard coating on the spoon - without the custard reattaching.

In order to stop the residual cooking, you have to quickly place the saucepan in a large bowl containing ice and water, stirring continuously for 2 minutes.

Pour 1 cup of the custard into a piping bag, and pipe into the opened slit of the cooled eclairs to fill. Set aside.

TIP Pour the remaining custard into a glass container, cover the top of the custard with cling film in order to prevent skin formation. Refrigerate. Serve this custard on top of fresh fruits, as a side to tarts, or with buttered toast.

Make Chocolate Ganache, Dip the tops of the filled eclairs with the Chocolate Ganache, and place on serving platter. Chill till ready to serve, if you can resist...

If you like this post and would like to go into more details of making choux pastry with varieties of it, as well as varieties of fillings, join Dima's Course Afternoon Tea.

Do you like Eclairs? Have you ever made Choux Pastry? Do you think that you will go for making your own from now on? Let me know, leave a cooment...