Sunday, March 25, 2012
Recipe courtesy of Tartine
For the choux paste:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
5 large eggs
For the pastry cream:
1 cup milk
1/4 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/8 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons corn starch
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For the chocolate glaze:
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
Makes 12-16 éclairs
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Butter a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
2. In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, milk, water, salt and butter 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 some of the moisture has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl of a standard mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time and mix at medium-high speed, incorporating each egg before adding the next. Once all the eggs have been added, transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a half-inch tip. Pipe out fingers about 5 inches long and 1 inch wide, spacing them about 2 inches apart. If you end up with a bulge or tail at the end of the piping, smooth it over with a damp fingertip.
3. Bake the fingers 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, an additional 12 minutes. 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. Let the shells cool on wire racks.
4. To make the pastry cream, pour the milk into a heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds from the pod halves into the milk. Add the salt to the mixture, place the pan over medium-high heat, and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally and making sure that the milk solids are not sticking to the bottom of the pan.
5. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth. When the milk is ready, slowly ladle about one-third of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking over medium heat until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream. Remove the cream from the heat and immediately pour it through a sieve into the bowl. Let cool for 10 minutes, sitting occasionally to release the heat and prevent a skim from forming on top.
6. Cut the butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. When the pastry cream is ready, whisk the butter into the cream 1 tablespoon at a time, always whisking until smooth before adding the next tablespoon. To cool the cream, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the top of the cream, and place in the refrigerator. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days.
7. To make the chocolate glaze, 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.
8. To complete the eclairs, stir the cooled pastry cream until smooth and then spoon it into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch opening. Fill the shells by splitting them in half lengthwise with a serrated knife. Dip the top half of the shell in the glaze and then place upright on a wire rack and allow the glaze to set. Pipe the cream into the bottoms of shells and replace the glazed tops. Serve the pastries at once, or refrigerate for up to 6 hours before serving. Ideally, they should be eaten the same day they are filled.
With so many wonderful recipes available online, old-fashioned cookbooks can often be neglected. The beautiful photos, relatable descriptions, and daily updates of food blogs make it easy to forget about the dusty stack of books scrunched in a corner of the kitchen. So how was it that I woke up yesterday morning, picked Tartine off the shelf, and decided to make a pastry tucked away in the back of the book without a single accompanying photo? Well, I had the feeling, the emotion that only a baker can describe when a recipe just feels right. When an item speaks to you immediately: no second-guessing or unsureness, no mental processing if you have all the ingredients on-hand, just eagerness to get to work and eventually enjoy the fruits of your labor.
With that mindset, I embarked upon making this quintessential Parisian dessert. I performed each step slowly and carefully to ensure that I created the perfect éclair. My diligence paid off in the end; these delicate puff pastries were fabulous. The dough is barely crisp on the outside and turns soft as you sink your teeth into the decadent vanilla bean pastry cream on the inside. And of course, everything is better when dipped in chocolate. As a result of this experience, my cookbook collection has earned a more prominent spot in my kitchen.