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Sunday, December 29, 2013

vanilla bean cream eclairs.

A few years ago, I was obsessed about making eclairs and cream puffs. I tried a whole bunch of different recipes, tweaked oven temperatures, adjusted baking times, to achieve the perfect (i.e. doesn't collapse and tastes good) eclair/cream puff. In the end, I remembered that Pierre Herme's choux pastry recipe made the most flavorful ones - deliciously buttery - so that recipe is the one I went ahead with for these eclairs.

It's been a while since I've baked choux pastry and I forgot just how much they can puff up when baking. Clearly, I overestimated the size I needed to pipe and they ended up extremely unglamorous-looking. Instead of uniformly slender eclairs, I had fat stubby ones. Lesson learnt: I can afford to use a smaller round piping tip.

I whipped up a batch of vanilla bean pastry cream and folded in a bit of whipped cream to lighten it up. After filling the cooled pastry with the cream, I placed them in the fridge for the cream to firm up a little while I made the glaze, which I decided to tint a pale blue for the festive season. Unfortunately, the coloring didn't quite dissolve properly and there were tiny little blue specks distributed throughout the glaze. I tried to warm up the glaze again but they still remained. Maybe the gel sort of coloring is not good for dissolving in glazes and such.

So, following the dip in glaze, I gave the eclairs a white chocolate drizzle and peppering of snowflake-shaped and gold sprinkles. It is never the most immediate to me but I realise that eclairs are a good option to turn to when you have the urge to just decorate. (I usually make cakes.)

So these are my Christmas themed bakes this year! Merry (Belated) Christmas!

Vanilla Bean Cream Eclairs
makes about 15 fat mini eclairs (and probably about 20 skinny mini ones)

For the choux pastry:
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
1/ 2 stick butter, cubed
1/8 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup flour
2 1/2 eggs, at room temperature, beaten

For the vanilla bean cream:
1 cup whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup heavy cream, whipped to stiff peaks

For the white chocolate glaze:
90g white chocolate, chopped
17g oil

Make the vanilla bean cream: Combine the milk and vanilla bean in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pan and turn off the heat and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.

Whisk the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together in a medium saucepan. Remove vanilla bean pod from the milk. Slowly drizzle the milk into the yolk mixture while whisking constantly. Place the pan over medium heat, still whisking constantly, until it reaches a boil. Let the mixture boil for 1 to 2 minutes, still whisking constantly. Remove from heat and scrape the pastry cream into a bowl.

Let the pastry cream cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. When it is about 140F, stir in the butter.

Stir in the whipped heavy cream and refrigerate the cream until completely cold, at least 4 hours.

Make the choux pastry: Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheets.

In a saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil. When the mixture reaches a rolling boil, at all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. Stir for another 2 to 3 minutes to dry the dough. It will be very soft and smooth.

Transfer dough to a bowl. Beat in the eggs a little at a time, incorporating each addition before adding the next, until all of the eggs have been added and dough is thick and shiny.

Pipe the dough using a round piping tip into 3 inch strips. Bake for 10 minutes. After 5 minutes have passed, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door of the oven to keep it ajar. Rotate the baking sheets and then bake for another 6 minutes or until the eclairs are puffed, golden and firm.

Make the white chocolate glaze: Place the white chocolate and oil together in a bowl over a pot of simmering water and heat until the chocolate has almost fully melted, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stirring, let the residual heat complete the melting. Let the glaze cool until thick enough, when a small amount dropped from a spoon mounds a bit before smoothly disappearing into the mixture, before using.