Thursday, August 8, 2013

Eclairs!

This is my problem, I watch too much of those cooking competitions. Currently semi-addicted to Master Chef (even though I just finished Hells Kitchen... I'm detecting a common theme here, no worries, I haven't picked up Kitchen Nightmares... yet...), and one of their elimination challenges were to make 6 eclairs in 60 minutes... holy goodness I would've failed. 


I just get so excited watching people make eclairs that I wanted part of the action...then when it was my turn I realized TV and real life is not quite the same... For one, there's no video editing to make what I'm doing that exciting and two, when I was making my eclairs, I kept having to look at the recipe whereas it looked like those contestant had the recipe memorized... I wonder if they get hints...


Luckily for me, I wasn't going to get eliminated if mine doesn't meet expectations though I still strive for perfection. The pâte â choux pastry dough had always been a hit and miss for me, though its finally starting to behave, still, unfortunately this experiment wasn't without flaw.


I think I've mentioned this in the past, but if I haven't, here it is again, unlike most people who baked with traditional full sized ovens, I have a toaster oven. Yup, all my experiments are baked in a toaster oven. In fact I don't think I've baked with a big oven in years (at least 3-4)! Its not that I don't want to... just not very accessible. I started out with one of those tiny toaster ovens but about a year or so later, I upgraded to one that was big enough for a 12" pizza which isn't bad at all (Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven). For the most part, that little guy gets the job done! However, because it's smaller and has a smaller cavity,  it heats up pretty quick and it also baked quicker too so you have to be careful. 


Anyways, the whole point of that random (or not so random) fact is that with eclairs there are several heat stages in the baking process. During the first 20 minutes, you want to blast it with high heat so that the pastry dough will rise, then you want to set it at a lower temperature so it doesn't burn while it continues to bake, then depending on what recipe you're looking at, it goes on to bake at one more temperature lower. TV completely cut out this part of the process...  

Despite the noted road blocks, I managed some decent looking eclairs. I probably would've still failed the challenge on TV because the eclairs didn't quite poof like they were suppose to, I sort of puffed them when I filled them with cream...so I cheated a little... hey they still turned out decent!


Eclairs

Makes approx 14

Adapted from Life Made Simple

Ingredients:
Pâte â choux:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
8 tbsp. (1 stick) butter
4 eggs
1 c. water
¼ tsp. salt

Vanilla bean pastry cream:
¼ c. + 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
6 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. butter
3 egg yolks
1½ c. whole milk
1 tbsp. vanilla bean paste

Chocolate glaze:
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, melted
½ c. heavy whipping cream, plus more if needed
pinch of sea salt

Procedures:
  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.  
  2. To make the pâte â choux, place a medium size saucepan over low heat. Add butter, sugar, water and salt, stirring frequently. Turn heat up to a low boil, remove from head and add in flour. Stir vigorously until the mixture forms a thick paste and no flour pockets remain. Place over medium heat and cook for 1-2 minutes stirring constantly to prevent burning (a thin film will form on the bottom of your pan).
  3. Place hot paste into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes until it becomes slightly cooler.
  4. Then add the eggs one at a time until incorporated. The mixture will look shiny and will stick to the sides of the bowl. Beat for an additional 2 minutes on medium.
  5. Scoop dough into a large piping bag fitted with a large tip (around a ½" in diameter). Pipe 4"-5" logs onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing each two inches apart to prevent spreading & baking into each other.
  6. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Reduce the heat to 350˚F, bake for an additional 10 minutes. 
  8. If needed reduce heat again to 300 ˚F and bake for 10 more minutes.
 

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