I have been on a baking spree, I am sure you can't tell! Have I mentioned that I love my baby, the still unnamed, Kitchen Aid? Is it possible to love an object this much? Apparently it is, and I am not feeling guilty by this. She is everything I ever wanted out of a kitchen appliance. We are basking in our honeymoon phase still.
I have loved a certain pastry for about as long as I can remember. Mom use to make these little puffs of golden clouds, with cream in the middle..Cream Puffs. I love them. I even like the Costco kind that come frozen, which I don't buy because let's face the truth here, I will eat the whole entire container if they were to find themselves here in my house..so no big container of cream puffs. But even more than cream puffs, I adore eclairs. I wanted to make some and did. This is not the first time I have made this pastry. But it has been a very long time. I don't ever think about making them, cupcakes and cookies have been on my mind..bet you can't tell that either! And really for anyone just starting out in the baking arena, I would highly recommend making pate choux. It is simple and pretty straight forward. If you want to get super fancy with these, you can make your own pastry creme to sandwich in the pastry, and you can even get fancier and make some chocolate ganache glaze to go on top. Like so many things baked at home, these taste about 100% better than store bought ones. And it probably takes less time to make these, than it would to drive to Costco, find them in their maze of a warehouse, stand in the long line at the check out and even longer line ...so that some stranger can look at your receipt and drive all the way home. chances are you also have the ingredients for these in your pantry right now.TRY these, THEY WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE..or at least, they will make you significant other love you even that much more! (trust me on this people! I have a previously ornery husband who actually smiled, said Yum and ate more of these babies,and he was happy! *wink*)
Recipe for the Pate Choux:
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter, cut into small cubes
1 cup of flour
in a pot over medium heat, stir together the milk, water, sugar and salt. Heat until boiling. Turn down the heat and Add the 1 cup of flour and stir until it is well incorporated, and forms a dough. Place the dough in a mixer fitted the paddle, on medium speed, start adding your eggs, add them one at a time waiting untl each is incorporated, the batter will at first look like it is seperating, just keep adding the eggs, by the last egg it should look wet and more like a thick cake bater. Place your pastry dough in a pastry bag, fitted with a tip (depending on the size you want your eclairs/cream puffs to be) And pipe out the dough on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper..or you could do what I did and spray it nonstick spray. In the recipe I found online, it said to bake both baking sheets, (you'll get around 20-24 Eclair size) at a time, in a preheated oven set at 375. Let's just say, next time I will bake them one at a time. Bake for 20 minutes, rotating half way through the baking process. You want them to be puffed up and a nice golden color. Let them cool before you slice them and fill them. See, easy!
On to the filling. I found this recipe at you know where, Meet Me In the Kitchen. (I spent two hours looking at her recipe catalog on Saturday.) I changed the recipe just the slightest, instead of using vanilla bean, I used just plain old vanilla extract because that is all I had on hand
Vanilla Pastry Cream:
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, (or about 2-3 tsp of extract)
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbls cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
4 Tbls butter cut into small cubes
In a bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar,and cornstarch. In a sauce pan, heat the milk, vanilla and salt until it comes to a boil. When the milk has come to a boil, you need to add this to the egg mix, but here's the part that can be a little tricky. You have to temper the eggs first. If you poured the whole thing of hot milk into the eggs, you will get scrambled eggs. You don't want that! If you slowly add the milk in a steady stream than you won't get that problem. Once the milk is fully incorporate in the egg mix, you want to add that all back into the pan you used for the milk and cook, whisking until you get the thick consistency that you want. (and let me warn you, you have to whisk and stand right there, baby this sucker, do not walk away even for a second, it might seem like it is taking a while to thicken, you might be tempted to do something else, but don't! When this cream wants to thicken, it thickens like THAT! *snap*) Pour the cream in a heat proof bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the cream so that a skin doesn't form, and let it chill in the fridge until you are ready to use it. I made mine in the morning, and then made the pate choux after church. Either way, you want to let your cream chill.
Chocolate Glaze..an Eclair would be incomplete without some yummy glaze of chocolate on top. I used a simple ganache, equal amounts of dark chocolate chips and heavy whipping cream that has been warmed up, not boiling. Let the warm cream melt the chocolate and then just stir until all the chocolate is melted and it is smooth.
Assemble your Eclairs, by cutting the pastry in half, piping on the pastry cream and then top it with the other half of the Eclair, (you can add another step, and separate the top and bottom of the eclair-wich and frost the top with the glaze and while you are waiting for the glaze to set, fill the bottom with the cream, or whip cream, or pudding..you get the picture..but I just assembled my eclairs and drizzled the top with the glaze, it still looked good enough to eat!)
You can make these as simple as you like. I grew up with my mom just filling cream puffs with cool whip, sometimes it was pudding. You could get super fancy and do even more with these simple pate choux, and fill them with all sorts of yummy goodness. I actually whipped up some cream and put that on top of the pastry cream and they were super delicious. TRY THESE TODAY..TRY THESE TODAY.