Week 7 | 3.29.2010
Let’s talk eclairs. I love eclairs. I don’t remember how I first came across them – something along the lines of my mom bringing home a fancy treat for us kids to try…
Not all eclairs are made equal. The variations appear in endless combinations of cream-filled ugh, and custard-filled, chocolate or vanilla, glazed with fondant or glazed with ganache, skinny and fat forms… A few years ago I scouted out a perfect eclair, a pretty stellar creation from the iconic Tartine Bakery of the SF Mission district. Puffy, eggy choux dough, runny vanilla custard, thick and dense dark ganache, and a sprinkling of cocoa for some glamor.
Recently, however, a wonderful little French deli-bakery on Solano Ave. in North Berkeley upset my biased against chocolate-filled eclairs (I tend to think that chocolate inside and out is excessive). I couldn’t keep from laughing with delight over an extremely fat and stubby eclair (huge cross-section) inflated with airy but rich chocolate pastry cream. <– This experience is what I will be trying to recreate for you in the coming week.
Research. How to make chocolate pastry cream light and fluffy without being overpowered and weighted down by the richness of chocolate? I was planning on whisking melted chocolate into prepared vanilla pastry cream or into the yolks before tempering the mixture with milk, but just to be sure I asked the owner of La Bedaine (the French Bakery on Solano). Luckily so too, he explained his usage of cocoa powder mixed into the milk as it warms. Cocoa! of course.
I spent my morning chopping up chocolate for the ganache that will glaze the pastries come Thursday. Chop chop chop. A sturdy serrated (bread) knife does wonders [and leaves little flakes of chocolate on my slice of toast to boot].
Pâte á choux is a simple dough and loads of fun to work with. Butter, water, milk, pinches of salt and sugar are boiled before all the flour is dumped in at once and stirred vigorously to form a paste. Edible playdough – try it. But it gets better…a bunch of eggs are incorporated one at a time giving choux it’s amazing expanding characteristic when baked. Supposedly you can freeze choux after piping and forming, but I was skeptical so I fiddled around with a tester batch. No expanding 10 min into baking but by 15 min I was staring at a gorgeously plump eclair shell, as short and stubby as I had envisioned. I whipped together a second batch after to celebrate.
Many batches of chocolate pastry cream. A counter covered in cocoa powder, sugar, dribbles of egg and vanilla pods can only mean good things.
More choux. My freezer is uncomfortably full…
Swimming in a sea of choux. Smells amazing.