Monday, January 26, 2009

Practice Eclairs

I had made pate a choux, vanilla pastry cream, and chocolate glaze before, but I had never made them all at the same time in the form of an eclair. I decided it was high-time I do so, and I grabbed Wayne Harley Brachman’s Retro Desserts for a recipe to follow. I’ve had this book since it first came out in 2000, and it’s full of fun, well-known desserts with everything from cakes and pies to ice creams and candies. The book is described as bringing together kitsch desserts for today’s kitchens and letting you make your remembered favorites entirely from scratch. The cream-filled devil’s food cupcakes bring back Ho Ho’s. I’ve never had cherries jubilee, but it’s in the book too. I’ve made the banana pudding which was fantastic, and I’ve always wanted to try the banana peanut butter sandwich cake. Then, there’s the rocky road pizza pie and the white-chocolate grasshopper pie to try. I could go on and on, but I was explaining about the eclairs.

I’ve named this post Practice Eclairs because these were so far from perfect. In fact, they were so ugly only their mother could love them. When it came time to pipe the dough into eclair shapes, I rather failed at the task. They ended up too wide and too flat and didn’t puff up enough to make them look any better after baking. I also made a few minis which were kind of cute, and I would love to make an entire batch at that small size. The mini version is shown at the top of the post. Making the pate a choux was easy enough. I’ve made Ina Garten’s gourgeres, and her technique involves a food processor to incorporate the eggs. Brachman suggested using an electric mixer which also worked fine, and either method is much easier than stirring in each egg by hand. So, making pate a choux is no problem; piping it into appropriate shapes still needs work.

The vanilla pastry cream was also not a problem. I’ve followed the recipe in this book several times, and it always turns out great. For filling the eclairs, this recipe suggests slicing the top off each one, pulling out some of the interior dough, and spreading the pastry cream on the bottom piece. Then, the top pieces were dipped in the chocolate glaze and set aside to dry. Tops found bottoms, and they were done. Slicing the eclairs to fill them, instead of hollowing them with a skewer and then piping in the filling, seemed like cheating. I think it also contributed to their unsightliness. However, the look of them stopped mattering as soon as I tasted them.

Freshly made eclairs are a wonderful thing. The pastry cream made with a vanilla bean had incredible flavor, and the chocolate glaze with espresso was amazing. I want to try again and do a little better job of piping the dough into eclair shapes. And, I want to try some other recipes to compare and contrast and fill them without slicing, but deliciousness won out over ugliness with these for certain.


15 comments:

  1. be still my beating heart....I so want to try and make these after looking at yours...wow - well done!

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  2. freshly made eclairs do sound like a wonderful thing!

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  3. i wouldn't call these ugly. ever. they're more lovely than my best attempt could ever be. :)

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  4. I think your eclairs look wonderful! It's my favorite dessert of all! I've made profiteroles before but not yet eclairs.

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  5. So ugly only their mother could eat them? :) It's already been said, but there's nothing homely about these eclairs. Very elegantly done. And that cookbook sounds dangerous!

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  6. Thanks everyone; you're all too kind. I did have to choose very carefully among my photos. They really were ugly!

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  7. I agree--they look delicious, especially with those vanilla specks.

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  8. I think they look fantastic! In the end it's the taste that matters anyway:-)

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  9. Eclairs, are my favorite. I would take an eclair over a doughnut, cake, pie almost anything. Yours look so delicious!

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  10. I can't tell they were practice eclairs, they look very nice, good job ^o^

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  11. Even if you say they were ugly, I bet they tasted wonderful (better than the other way around!)

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  12. My goodness, I think they look fantastic, bet they sure tasted good! Terrific job, better than my best could ever be!!

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  13. I bet they were good. They look good to me. But now you have the kinks worked out and they will be perfect next time around.

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  14. Oh, you are so in trouble...now I will have to try these, my hubby is crazy for any thing to do with custard filled desserts...and they are right, these are not ugly, the fact you tried it is beautiful!

    I was thinking about your love for cookbooks, my hubby's mom gave me this 500 lb book called 'Gourmet' written by Ruth Riechl, and I just made Salmon Rilletes from the book, she has so many good things I have not ever made before, but makes them seem so simple!

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