I've missed several Bake Alongs and I've decided not to miss any more this time! (Okay, partly also because I'm dying to bake some choux as I love cream puffs and éclairs very much, so this Bake Along came just in time to satisfy my choux cravings!)
In case you're wondering, Bake Along is an event hosted by Joyce from Kitchen Flavours, Lena from Frozen Wings and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids. They will decide on a theme (can be a general theme like éclairs or a specific recipe from a cookbook) and we'll bake them and blog about it on the stipulated date. It's a great avenue to try out recipes that you've always wanted to try, but didn't have the motivation to do so!
Filled with vanilla pastry cream - classics never go wrong!
After my experience in baking cream puffs, baking éclairs is pretty straight forward to me now. I used the same recipe for my choux and pipe strips instead of mounds. As for the filling, I filled half of the éclairs with vanilla pastry cream and the rest with chocolate pastry cream. My friends are chocoholics, so they actually preferred the chocolate ones to the vanilla, while I personally like them both the same.
Filled with chocolate pastry cream - for the chocoholics out there!
A side note from the éclairs - I received an award some time ago in October, but finally got around blogging about it now - I know, I know, I'm such a huge procrastinator... But it's never too late, right? 😉 And I think I might have missed out some of the awards that are being passed on to me, so do let me know, okay? Would love to give some credit to you guys!
And so, a huge thank you to Suzanne from A Pug In the Kitchen for nominating me this award! Suzanne is a lovely and sweet foodie who is currently blogging a lot of Christmas treats (I'm so in love with the Chocolate Rugelach and the Triple Threat Chocolate Squares!) She also has two really adorable dogs (wish I hope to see more photos of them on your blog, Suzanne!) Do hop over her blog to see what she whips up in her lovely kitchen!
As part of the rules, I'm supposed to name 15 blogs that inspired me in my blogging journey, and here they are!
- Bake for Happy Kids
- Baking with Sibella
- Bam's Kitchen
- Blue Jelly Beans
- Choc Chip Uru
- Emily's Cooking
- For the Love of Feeding
- From the Bartolini Kitchens
- Girl in a Food Frenzy
- Her Frozen Wings
- I-Lost in Austen
- I Love, I Cook, I Bake
- Jo the Tart Queen
- Just a Smidgen
- Kitchen Flavours
- Mimi's Bakery House
- Min's Blog (in Chinese)
- Not the Kitchen Sink
- Piece of Cake
- Simple Baking
- Yummy Chunklet
Okay, this is more than 15, but all these blogs are definitely worth visiting (there are so many other blogs I want to list!) Do hope over to their blog and say hi! For those nominated, it's not compulsory to pass it on, I just want to let you guys know that I'm a huge supporter of your blogs and am always inspired by you guys!
Vanilla Pastry Cream
Chocolate Pastry Cream
- 60 grams ⅓ cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
- 60 ml ¼ cup heavy cream
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Line baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Combine milk, butter, sugar and salt in a pot. The butter is softened and chopped to little pieces so that it melts fast during heating. Heat the mixture over high heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, and bring it to a rolling boil – the mixture should be boiling and bubbling vigorously until the layer of butter is no longer floating on top.
- Working quickly, add in all the flour at once, turn off the heat and stir quickly with the wooden spoon to mix in all the flour.
- Once the flour has been mixed in, turn on the heat to medium-low and continue mixing with the wooden spoon (do not stop!) until the mixture forms a soft dough and that you can see a layer of dough at the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat and transfer the dough into a mixing bowl.
- Using an electric mixer, mix the dough on low speed for 5 seconds, then add in the beaten eggs, a little at a time (I estimated one tablespoon each time). Make sure the dough has fully absorbed the eggs before adding more. The dough will first seemed to separate but will come together eventually into a thick, smooth and piping consistency – and that’s choux pastry!
- Transfer the choux into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip (about ½-inch).
- Pipe the choux onto the baking sheet in 3-inch strips, spacing them 2 inches apart. You'll end up with about 20 choux. If you get little tips after piping, dampen your finger in a little water and flatten the tip of the choux to prevent it from getting burnt during baking. Spray the surface of the choux with a little water immediately before baking – this helps the éclairs to expand even bigger during baking.
- Bake the éclairs for 20 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius. Reduce the heat to 175 degrees Celsius and bake for another 20 – 25 minutes until the éclairs are golden brown and well-risen. During baking, no matter how excited you are, do not open the oven to check them as it will cause them to deflate and it’ll be the worse thing to happen ever.
- Turn off the oven, leave the oven door ajar and let the éclairs cool in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack. (I usually place an oven mitten between the door and the oven to keep it ajar.)
- Once the éclairs have cooled completely, pipe some pastry cream into the éclairs. Dip the top of the éclairs into the chocolate ganache and serve. The éclairs can be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
- Make ahead (choux): After piping the choux pastry on the baking sheet, freeze the choux for 1 hours. Remove the choux from the baking sheet and wrap with 2 layers of cling film (plastic wrap). Keep them in a freeze-proof bag and keep them frozen for up to 2 months. When ready to bake, bake them (no need to defrost) at 200 degrees Celsius for 20 minutes then at 175 degrees Celsius for 30 – 35 minutes.
- Make ahead (unfilled éclairs): Place the unfilled éclairs in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze for 1 hour. Transfer the frozen éclairs into a freeze-proof bag and keep them frozen for up to 2 months. When ready to use, remove the éclairs from the freezer (no need to defrost) and pop into a preheat oven of 160 degrees Celsius for 5 to 10 minutes. Let cool and use as needed.
- Make ahead (filled éclairs): Place the filled and ganache-d éclairs in a single layer on a baking sheet. Freeze for 1 hour. Transfer the frozen éclairs into a freeze-proof bag and keep them frozen for up to 1 month. When ready to serve, remove the éclairs from the freezer the night before and let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight. If urgent, let the éclairs defrost at room temperature for 20 minutes. (If you fill the éclairs with ice cream, just serve them straight from the freezer.) The éclairs will be softer as compared to freshly baked ones.
- Prepare a large bowl of ice water (enough to put a pot in). Set aside.
- Combine 40 grams of sugar with the egg yolks in a large bowl. Whisk immediately with a wire whisk until the mixture is pale and smooth. Sift in the flour and whisk till smooth. Set aside.
- Combine the milk, butter and the remaining 10 grams of sugar in a medium pot and warm over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat.
- Pour the hot milk, little by little, bit by bit, into the egg yolks, whisking constantly until ¼ of the hot milk has been added. (Don’t add the hot milk too fast, otherwise it’ll scramble the eggs and you’ll have to start over.)
- After ¼ of the hot milk has been added, add the hot milk in a slow and steady stream, whisking constantly – until ¼ of hot milk is left. This whole process is called tempering.
- Once the egg yolks have been tempered, pour the egg yolk mixture back into the pot and whisk to mix them altogether. Place the pot back on medium heat and with a wooden spoon, stir the mixture constantly until the mixture has thickened and has started to boil – you’ll see huge air bubbles popping out of the custard – that’s a sign that the pastry cream is ready.
- Remove the pot from heat and place it in the bowl of ice water. Stir the pastry cream constantly until it has cooled down. Stir in the vanilla paste / extract and melted chocolate if using.
- If using immediately, spoon the pastry cream into a piping bag and keep it refrigerated until needed. If not, transfer the pastry cream into a container, place a plastic wrap (cling film) directly onto the surface of the pastry cream (to prevent a skin from forming) and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
- Place the chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl.
- Heat the heavy cream in a saucepan until it starts to simmer (small bubbles began to appear on the side of the saucepan). Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and let stand for 1 minute. Whisk until all the chocolate has melted. Let the ganache cool slightly (it will thicken as it cools) before using.
- If the ganache is too stiff, place it in a warm water bath and stir gently till it is smooth.
Super Naggy - Choux:
- You can substitute milk with water, but milk aids in the browning of the éclairs – makes the éclairs darker and more golden brown in colour.
- The milk mixture must be boiling vigorously such that the melted butter is no longer floating on top so that when the flour is added in, it’ll absorb the milk and not the oil. Sifting the flour onto the parchment paper makes it easier to add the flour in one go – you cannot add more flour after the first addition as it’ll become lumpy and the dough would be unusable.
- You can mix in the eggs by hand instead of using an electric mixer, but it’ll take a slightly longer time to be incorporated. You may not need to use all of the eggs, so it’s important to know the consistency of the dough and know when to stop adding eggs.
- The first bake at 200 degrees Celsius is to help the éclairs rise rapidly to form an outer shell with a hollow interior. Once the outer shell has dried, it will rise no more, hence if you want even bigger éclairs, spray the surface with a little water to give the éclairs more rise. The second bake at 175 degrees Celsius is to allow the exterior to turn crisp and the interior to dry out.
Super Naggy - Pastry Cream:
- You can use vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract / paste. Simply split ½ of a vanilla pod in half, scrape the seeds off the vanilla pod. Add the seeds and the pod into the milk mixture and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let the vanilla pod steep for 15 minutes to infuse the milk with flavour. Remove the vanilla pod and proceed as per normal. Rinse and dry the vanilla pod – place it in a jar of sugar and let steep to get vanilla sugar!
- You don’t have to cool the pastry cream in an ice water bath – you can let it cool in a large shallow pan, but do cover the top with clingfilm to prevent a layer of skin forming on top.
- If you’re making a large batch of pastry cream, when the pastry cream is cooking in the pot, you must stir it constantly and pretty vigorously, scrapping the bottom of the pot all the time so that it doesn’t burn at the bottom.
- Do head over here for the YouTube video filmed by the author herself!