Saturday, October 4, 2008

Eclairs – Super-size me!

Last Friday's éclair making practical did not bring me to the same euphoric results as the chaussons. The stars were misaligned or I was half asleep…..or whatever.

My pate a choux was particularly wet that day. The recipe was slightly altered vs the St. Honore, using all water for the éclairs instead of half milk and half water quantities as we’d done for the St. Honore. More importantly, I don’t think I’d dried the liquid-flour mixture enough on the stove top before adding the eggs, so that when I got to the piping stage for forming the éclairs I had dough oozing rather than being pushed out the tip of my pastry bag. As a result, I couldn’t pipe out neat lengths of the paste for the éclairs. Mine got quite fat in diameter, or in a couple of regrettable instances, resulted in having bulbous ends. I recalled the Chef Cotte’s commentary on this from the demo…but there was really nothing I could do about it now.

The saving grace was that my chocolate crème patissiere was divine. The last time we’d made crème patissiere was for the gateau basque, and I wasn’t particularly impressed with the results of that effort – the crème was too thick and starchy for my liking. This time however, the crème was very unctuous and smooth, I am sure this was partially enabled by the addition of couverture chocolate…also because Chef Cotte revealed a secret that stirring through a small touch of full cream to the mixture before covering with plastic film and letting it cool. In any case, it was perfect!

My éclairs emerged from the oven looking like small logs, so I ended up using the entire recipe of crème patissiere to fill them. Despite their large diameter, they were quite perfectly cavernous & hollow inside. So the edges of the pastry were super thin, allowing more of the delicious crème flavor to come through when tasting them.

Applying the fondant to the tops as the final garnish further re-enforced the fact that less is more when it comes to éclairs. Basically you dip the top of the éclair down into the pot of warm fondant, then run your index finger over the top surface to smooth away the excess, then your middle finger around the perimeter of the fondant to make a smooth & clean edge. Longer & fatter éclairs are much harder to lift out of the gluey fondant, and have a tendency to try to break somewhere in the middle. Fortunately I avoided breaking my éclairs in the fondant pot, but I could feel the vortex strength of its grip and realized how easily this could happen.

Everyone back in Geneva was impressed and the éclairs didn’t survive past 9pm. Enjoying them as dessert for a casual dinner with friends, atleast the taste was perfect and no one seemed to complain about the large size….more to love I suppose.

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