Some days, I wish I had gone to pâtisserie school, rather than to teacher school. I seriously considered it, before deciding that I would have to get up too early in the morning if I was going to be a pâtissier.
Which, really, is a dumb reason to have changed my mind.
I'm not sure that making pastries for a living would be as much fun as doing it at home.
I definitely get an enormous sense of satisfaction from making something like eclairs without any help at all (except from Julia Child, of course).
I get this satisfaction even though eclairs aren't as difficult as I'd imagined them to be.
I've wanted to make choux pastry ever since I saw the Croquembouche on Masterchef, but I always thought it was going to be outrageously difficult. But they lied. It isn't that difficult to make.
And after being in Sydney last week and eating far too many chocolate eclairs, I decided it was about time that I made some myself.
I'm glad that I did.
Despite these actually looking like profiteroles, I'm going to call them eclairs. But we don't need to argue about this. Just eat them.
I gave some of these to my family, and took some of them into work.
They were very well received, and for good reason, too. They are impressively tasty, if I do say so myself.
Adapted, ever so slightly, from Julia Child's 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking'.
Using these amounts, I made 17 puffs: all of different sizes. I did this because I wanted to see which size I preferred (the smaller ones were better). I'm going to say that the choux mix would make roughly 20 puffs measuring 10cm across (once cooked). I actually didn't have quite enough custard to fill all the puffs, but the ones I did fill had a bit too much custard. You could either double the custard quantities and have some left over so that each puff got filled with a large amount of custard. Or use this amount and fill each puff a bit less, to make sure that each puff gets filled. Or you could just fill the remaining puffs with icecream.
For the choux pastry:
1 cup water
85g butter (3 oz)
1 tsp sugar
3/4 cup plain flour
In a large saucepan, bring water, butter, salt and sugar to the boil, until butter has melted.
Take off the heat and add the flour. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until thoroughly mixed.
Place over a medium heat and continue beating until mix leaves the sides of the pan and forms a mass.
Remove from heat. Make a well in the centre and crack in one egg. Beat thoroughly until mixed. At this point, it looks almost like the eggs won't incorporate, but just keep mixing. I promise it will all come together!
Continue mixing in the eggs, one at a time. Beating thoroughly after each one.
Preheat the oven to 210C.
Spoon the mix into a pastry bag and pipe onto a lined baking tray, either into circles or oblongs. The dough will double in size as it cooks, so take this into consideration when piping them. Leave a decent space between each puff.
Alternatively, use two teaspoons to scoop balls of dough onto the trays. (This is what I did, but the piping bag method is neater).
Paint beaten egg or milk onto the tops of the puffs, flattening them down slightly.
Bake for 20 mins. They will be brown and crispy and doubled in size when ready.
Take the trays out of the oven and spike each puff with a sharp knife to release the steam (Otherwise they go soggy). Place back on the tray and leave in the turned off oven for ten minutes with the door ajar, before removing to a rack to cool completely.
For the chocolate custard:
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup flour
1 cup boiling milk
80g dark chocolate, chopped very, very small
1 tsp vanilla essence
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs.
Gradually beat in the sugar using a whisk. Once all incorporated, continue beating until eggs are pale and thick (about 3 mins).
Mix in the flour.
Gradually mix in the milk, beating continuously.
Pour the mix into a saucepan and set over moderate heat.
Continue stirring until mixture boils. It will start to become lumpy, but it'll smooth out as you keep beating.
Turn the heat down to moderately-low and cook for 2-3 minutes, making sure the mix doesn't scorch on the bottom of the pan.
Add the chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate is melted.
For the glaze:
90g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
70g unsalted butter, diced
Place the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Make sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl.
When the butter has melted and the chocolate is mostly, but not completely, melted take the bowl off the pan and stir until the chocolate has melted and the mix is smooth.
Fill a piping bag with custard.
Take a cooled puff and stick the nozzle of the piping bag into the slit you made in the side of the puff.
Fill with custard.
Top the puff with chocolate glaze.
Leave to cool before eating.