Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Sunday cookery extravaganza part two: chocolate éclairs

We made it...eventually

I’d never made choux pastry before; it was another one of those things I had assumed was too tricky to be worth the effort. However, I found a recipe for chocolate éclairs in HFW’s River Cottage Family Cookbook, and as the book is designed for culinary-inclined children rather than adults, I figured I might just be able to get my head around it.
I thought it would be so easy. I was wrong.
How not to make eclairs

The first batch Laurie and I whipped up were...how can I put this?  COMPLETE AND UTTER FAILURES. They came out of the oven looking distinctly un-éclair-like. In fact, they resembled burnt biscuits more than anything. And pretty horrible burnt biscuits at that. We followed the recipe so faithfully too...oh Hugh, it pains me that you would do this to me. You have never failed me before!
In hindsight, we decided that the mixture was simply too runny, and this was what was causing our éclairs to go awry. Determined not to be beaten (and especially not by a recipe meant for a child) we mixed in a bit more flour and tried again.
Thank goodness we did.
The resulting éclairs, whilst not the most photogenic of pastries, tasted bloody gorgeous. And filling them with cream and spooning over the chocolate sauce is great fun. I would definitely recommend having a go at these as a Sunday afternoon project. Just make sure your mixture is stiff enough before piping onto the baking tray!
Chocolate éclairs
From River Cottage Family Cookbook by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (don’t worry Hugh, I still love you)
Makes 24
For the choux pastry and cream filling:
75g butter
200ml water
100g strong plain flour
Pinch of salt
3 medium eggs
250ml double cream

For the chocolate sauce:
100g caster sugar
100ml water
50g dark chocolate
25g butter

Preheat the oven to 200º / gas mark 6. Grease a baking tray. Make the choux pastry by melting the butter in a saucepan with the water, then tipping in the flour and mixing like crazy. Take off the heat, let cool for 5 minutes, then add the eggs, mixing well between each one.

Melting butter in the water...
....add some flour and eggs and you got YOU some CHOUX!

Now, this bit is very important: make sure the mixture is stiff enough, so that when you pipe it it stays in little sausage shapes and does not collapse. If you think it is too runny – beat in a bit more flour.

Put the mixture in a sandwich bag, snip off about 1cm of one corner, and voila – instant piping bag. Pipe your mixture into éclair-y looking shapes on the baking tray, then stick in the oven for half an hour.

Yeah...these ones look a lot better

To make the chocolate sauce, dissolve the sugar in the water in a saucepan, then add the butter and chocolate and stir over a low heat until melted together.


Once the éclairs are cooked, cut a slit along them (straight away – if you don’t do this as soon as they’re out the oven they go soggy, the little blighters!) and leave to cool.

See the stiff peaks there? Yeah. That's what you want.

Laurie doing some good work there.

Whip your cream until it forms stiff peaks. Use a knife to fill the slits in the pastry with cream, then drizzle on the chocolate sauce. DONE!

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