Making Choux pastry is a fun and pretty easy thing to do. The crisp hollow texture of a perfect choux pastry bun allows the inventive baker to adapt it to all manner of fillings and toppings. We are rather partial to this pastry, and enjoyed it as part of our wedding – Croque-en-bouche is a traditional dessert in French Weddings so of course our ceremony had to include this. It is composed of layers upon layers of cream filled choux buns shaped around a cone, glued together with toffee and then decorated with spun sugar and fruit.
We had a bit of a challenge trying to carve up our croque-en-bouche for the guests at the wedding. Attempts at slicing or stabbing into it failed to dent its glory, and it had to be taken into the kitchen for an unceremonious breakdown by the chefs with a little more force. Biting through the sweet toffee coating into the pastry and vanilla cream, it was a light and delicious end to the wedding meal, more to our taste than a heavy, fondant laden wedding cake. Wedding stories aside, unless you are a master baker you may want an easier choux challenge and since eclairs seem to be the new macarons, why not try this simple but summery variation. So here is a step by step guide to how we make choux pastry. On this occasion the choux was used to fashion some Raspberry eclairs with a citrus scented cream with a twist…
Raspberry Eclairs with Sicilian Cream.
If you have ever had a Pannetone at Christmas you will know the scent of Sicily. Oranges, Lemon and a hint of sweet vanilla. I had ordered some Sicilian Pannetone Aroma- a wonderfully scented essence – some time ago to recreate this festive bread. Pannetone is a Christmas time staple in our house, yet its origin is from vanilla and citrus fruit growing on sunny hillsides facing a deep blue Mediterranean sea. We thought the extract would work with summer fruit. Certainly lemon and vanilla are good pairings with Raspberry, so we decided to add the essence (we got it from Bakerybits) to the cream as an alternative to a traditional Creme Patissiere in the filling.
Now when it comes to toppings, traditionally you need a fondant glaze. This gives a slick and shiny topping that remains soft. Raymond Blanc’s recipe is a perfect one to try if you want to try that out. In the absence of fondant icing in our kitchen, we decided to top the eclairs with melted chocolate. As you can see from the pictures, they still look shiny but the chocolate sets hard so best to keep the topping as light as possible.
For the Choux pastry:
150g flour – sifted
100g unsalted butter
250ml cold water
4 medium eggs – beaten
Half a teaspoon salt
One Teaspoon sugar
- Preheat the oven to 180Deg C (170DegC for fan assisted ovens)
- Heat the cubed butter, sugar and salt in the water
- When it is melted, tip all the flour into the pan in one go. Mix it fast with a wooden spoon on the heat until it becomes a doughy mass that comes away cleanly from the edges of the pan
- At that point, put the mixture into a food mixer with the beater attachment (on our Kenwood mixer this is the K-Mix attachment)
- Beat the mixture at a medium speed for about 1 minute to cool down the mixture then add half the beaten eggs (2 eggs) : add 1/4 at a time and wait for the first 1/4 to be incorporated before adding the next.
- Then add the another 1/4 of the beaten egg. When it is almost fully incorporated, add the rest of the egg. Continue beating until the egg is fully and evenly incorporated.
- You need to judge the amount of egg needed to get the consistency right. You may need slightly less or more. The best way to tell is to take a plastic spatula and scoop up a lump of pastry. Turn the spoon over and the lump will fall. The way it falls should create a V shape and have a dropping consistency. If there is a broken shape (more of a W than a V) then it means there is not enough egg. If it is too thin and runny then you have added too much egg.
- Use a piping bag to create your shapes: Spoon the pastry into a piping bag and allow to cool slightly. When Piping Choux pastry, make sure the pastry drops onto the sheet rather than letting the tip touch the paper to make sure you get an even rise and keep lots of air in the pastry. For eclairs, pipe them using a 1cm nozzle to a length you want. (we made small versions around 6 cm long, but traditionally they are around 10cm).
- The pastry will stick to your finger if you try to smooth it so wet your finger before patting down down any imperfections created during piping
- Bake for around 25 minutes (less if you pipe smaller shapes, a little more if you pipe long eclairs) until the pastry is golden and sounds hollow when you tap it lightly. You can store these eclairs in the freezer at this point.
Now to make the Raspberry Eclairs with Sicilian Cream…
One punnet of raspberries
100ml Double cream
2 drops Pannetone aroma (if you do not have this, Vanilla powder or extract and a drop each of lemon and orange essence).
1 to 2 tablespoons caster sugar
100g dark chocolate (70%)
- Whisk the cream until it comes to soft peaks
- Add the sugar and flavouring gradually whisking as you go. Check the taste and adjust adding a little more or less according to your preference.
- When the cream becomes thicker and fuller (just past the soft peak stage but careful not to overbeat as the fat will start to separate out), spoon the cream into a piping bag with a 1cm nozzle
- Cut a slit along the sides of the eclairs
- Pipe the cream into the eclairs and add a few rasberries
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the bowl).
- When it is melted, allow to cool for a few minutes then take each eclair and lightly dip the top of each one into the chocolate. Allow the excess to drip off and then place the eclairs on a rack to allow them to cool
This recipe is a little belatedly being added to June’s One Ingredient (Raspberry) blog event hosted by myself and Laura at How to cook good food (where we managed to mispell the one ingredient on the blog badge…. oops!)
And how could we not link to this month’s Classic French Baking Challenge over at Jen of Blue Kitchen Bake’s where the theme is Eclairs . This month’s host is Sarah from Maison Cupcake.