Sunday, August 19, 2007

Making pâte à choux (aka éclairs)

When I was a wee lad, my mom used to make these things called cream puffs. There were these pastry globes just smaller than a hardball. The tops would be cut off and the insides stuffed with whipped cream. They were very good and we only had them occasionally (but never for guests I don't think).

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I was surfing the information super highway and I came across this post about éclairs. These éclairs sure looked a lot like the cream puffs my mom used to make, except these had chocolate on them. A quick conversation with my mom confirmed that all those years ago, mom was making éclairs, sans chocolate! Way to go mom!

So where does "pâte à choux" come in? That's the french name for the dough paste that is baked to form the pastries. "Choux" is french for cabbage (and I'm sure you've heard of pâte). The pastry does look a little like little cabbages after it comes out of the oven.

Anyways I tried my hand at the following recipe this Saturday. I whipped up a nice custard filling, a chocolate glaze and the pastries. It took about 3 hours start to finish, but I think I could reduce that significantly once I'm not so nervous about screwing it up. It wasn't terribly hard - about the same difficulty in a home made pie. I'm sure each one of you could make this (and if you are trying to woo a young lad or lass, these would go over well in that endeavor).

Without further ado, here is the recipe for the éclairs- the pastry at least. I can post recipes for the filling and chocolate too if anybody is interested, but they are run-of-the-mill recipes.

Chocolate Éclairs (derived from the Joy of Cooking)
(preheat oven to 400F)

1 C pastry flour
1/2 C milk
1/2 C water
1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
3 C pastry cream, boston cream, vanilla cream, banana cream or whipped cream
1 C chocolate glaze

1. Measure out your flour.
2. Bring the milk, water, butter and salt to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.
3. Dump the flour in the boiling liquid and stir rigorously, over heat, until the dough clumps together and pulls away from the wall of a the saucepan. Cook for another minute and then remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Beat in the eggs, one at a time into the dough (either by hand or with a mixer). Make sure the egg is completely incorporated before adding the next one.
5. Put the dough into a pastry bag (I used a zip lock bag with a hole in the bottom) and pipe out 12-14 large pipes onto a cookie sheet.
6. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes and then reduce the temp to 350 and back for another 20 minutes or so. After the 20 minutes, turn off the oven and leave the pastries in for 10 minutes longer. Remove to a rack and cool completely.
7. Cut pastries in half. Stuff the bottom with cream and dip the top in chocolate before returning the top to the bottom. Store in the fridge until ready to eat. That's all there is too it!

These are best the same day as they were made, but they can do well in the fridge for a day or two if need be. I've also heard that they freeze well, but that is unconfirmed.

These pictures aren't the highest quality but I was more focused on the recipe than the photography. And for the nit-pickers, pâte à choux is just the dough, and the éclair is the combination of the dough, cream and chocolate. They say you can make a savory pastry with chicken stock - that sounds interesting....

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This is what the dough should look like after the heat

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Pre bake, post bake, post stuffed and dipped

Mmmmm, mmmmm goooood.....


Chubby Little Limey said...

And they taste soooooooooo good.

Thank you for saving the last of the batch for me :) What a nice chap this Richard is.

Anonymous said...

That's funny... about a month ago, I asked mom for the recipe for cream puffs, and I made a batch, stuffed with strawberries and whipped cream. Great minds think alike, but I guess I think faster than you!


Anonymous said...

Richard: Since we'll likely be camping out when you come up on the September long may have to bake "before you come" because we won't have the facilities for me to try making your recipes with you. Of course any sort of goodies ... you know biscotti, eclairs, whatever you fancy will do ... no pressure of course :) Talk to you soon...luv mom R