Sunday, August 5, 2012

Eclairs or Cream Puffs? That is the question.

I so love these things.  They really are quite easy to make if you don’t mind the clean up afterwards.  That is always the part I like the least.  Of course the part I like the most is eating and sharing them so I'm sharing them with you today.  I don’t know which I like the most.  Which is your favorite, éclairs or cream puffs?


Cream Filling

2 cups whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla
¼  tsp. salt
¼  cup cornstarch
½  cup + 1 tbs. sugar
2 large eggs
4 tbs. butter

Have a bowl ready for cooling the pastry cream with a fine-mesh strainer resting in the rim to strain it so there are no lumps.

Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan and add the vanilla and salt.  Place the pan over medium heat.  Bring it to just under a boil, stirring occasionally and making sure that the milk solids are not sticking to the bottom of the pan.  The larger the batch, the more careful you need to be.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar.  Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.

When the milk is ready, slowly ladle about 1/3 of the hot milk slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly.  This is tempering your eggs so they do not scamble.  Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking over medium heat until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream, about 2 minutes.  In order for the cornstarch to cook and thicken fully, the mixture must come just to the boiling point.  You want to see a few slow bubbles.  However, if the cream is allowed to boil vigorously, you will curdle the pastry cream.  Remove from the heat and immediately pour through the strainer into the bowl.  Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to release the heat and prevent a skin from forming on top.

Cut the butter into 1 tablespoon pieces.  When the pastry cream is ready (it should be about 140 degrees), whisk the butter into the pastry cream 1 tablespoon at a time, always whisking until smooth before adding the next tablespoon.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the top of the cream.  This will prevent a skin from forming on the cream filling.  Chill in the refrigerator until cold.

Pâte à choux Pastry 

½ cup milk
½ cup water
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
½ cup butter
1 cup flour
5 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat (I love these things).

In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, water, salt, sugar, and butter and place over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a full boil.  Add the flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon.  Keep stirring until the mixture has formed a smooth mass and pulls away from the sides of the pan and becomes a ball.  This will take about 3 minutes.  This is what the French call  Pâte à choux.

Transfer the Pâte à choux to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  The mixture needs time to cool down before adding eggs or the eggs will scrabble.   Add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium speed, incorporating each egg before adding the next.  When all the eggs have been added, the mixture will be thick, smooth, and shiny.  If making by hand (makes less mess and saves work, but you need elbow grease and muscle), add the eggs one at a time and mix with a wooden spoon, incorporating each egg before adding the next.

Transfer the contents of the bowl to a large baggie, adding only as much to the bag as is comfortable to work with.  Cut about a 1 inch tip in the baggie and pipe out fingers about 5 inches long and 1 inch wide, spacing them about 2 inches apart on your sheet pan.  If you end up with a bulge at the end of the piping, you can smooth it over with a damp fingertip.

Bake until puffed and starting to show some color, about 10 minutes.  Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until the shells feel light for their size and are hollow inside, about 12 minutes longer.  They should be nicely browned all over.  Remove from the oven and, using a metal skewer, poke a small hole in the end of each shell to allow steam to escape.  This keeps the shells from collapsing.  Let cool on wire racks.  They should be used as soon as they are cool enough to fill.

Chocolate Glaze

1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 Tb light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream

Combine the chocolate and corn syrup in a heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to just under a boil in a small saucepan.  Pour the cream over the chocolate.  Let the mixture sit for about 2 minutes without stirring until the chocolate melts and then stir gently with a rubber spatula until smooth and shiny.  Let cool until just warm.  The French call this a chocolate ganache.

To fill and glaze the éclairs, stir the pastry cream until smooth (it must be very cold) until smooth and then spoon the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with a very small opening.  It is easiest to start with a hole in each end of the shell and fill from both ends if necessary.  Sometimes pockets inside the shell prevent the pastry cream from filling the entire shell from a single hole.  Fill the shells until they feel heavy.  To glaze the éclairs, dip the top of each filled éclair into the glaze, shaking gently to allow the excess to drip off.   Place them upright on a wire rack and allow the glaze to set.

Serve the pastries at once, or refrigerate for up to 6 hours before serving.  They should be eaten the same day they are filled.
Butter Cream Filled Cream Puffs 

1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
Pinch of salt
½ tsp. vanilla
3 tablespoons diced butter
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream

Butter Cream Filling

Combine sugar, egg, vanilla and pinch of salt in heavy small saucepan; whisk to blend. Add butter. Stir constantly over medium low heat until mixture is hot and thick enough to coat spoon (do not boil), 4 to 5 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat the whipping cream in another medium bowl until peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whipped cream into the cooled egg mixture and then another 1/3 and then the last of the whipped cream.  Cover and chill filling 1 hour.   You should make 2 hours ahead so it is well chilled.

Use the same recipe as above for the éclairs for the pastry except when you pipe the pastry out you pipe out small round mounds.  Bake the same as the éclairs also.

For assembly cut each puff horizontally in half; pull out any soft dough. Fill puff bottoms with cream filling. Press on the tops to adhere.

You can melt dark chocolate or white chocolate and drizzle over each cream puff or keep it simple and just sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Each the same day and keep refrigerated.

Variation – You may add other flavorings to your cream filling like a squeeze of fresh lemon or melt some chocolate into the filling for chocolate cream filled.  Add fresh fruit like raspberries to the filling and serve with just powdered sugar and a few fresh raspberries on the side.  You can make these large or small bite sized.  You get to make a lot of choices here and call them your own. 

Want to really impress a group, take these to a pot luck or gathering.  I bet you won't bring any home with you.  They are great for a brunch.  Make them small bite sized and pile them high and set on a buffet.  

Have a great day, be happy and may God bless you and yours. 

No comments:

Post a Comment