Monday, 14 July 2014

Salted Caramel Eclairs with Creme Patissiere


Don't you think Marie wants herself one of these?
I love France. And I love French things. I (not so) secretly wish I lived in the 1700's in France as a lovely, posh Princess of the Blood...but before all that head chopping business. Speaking of head chopping business, today is Bastille Day! Joyeux quatorze juillet! In celebration of Bastille Day, and because I recently bought a special tray I was dying to use, I made éclairs!
This was the first bit I had and I literally danced around the kitchen with happiness!
Not just any type of éclairs, Salted Caramel Éclairs! Salted caramel is a very traditional French flavour, it's in fact very American but the French were supportive of the American War of Independence so I don't think they'd mind.
The crisp, buttery cross section of an éclair! Follow me into the world of this French delight!
These took me about four hours to make. I did have a drama to start which set me back but I would advise doing these on a leisurely weekend, not an after work project. They're not hard, just time consuming. A lovely process to get pleasantly lost in. 
Caramel, vanilla, butter and salty sweetness. What a combination!
Éclairs are made out choux pastry and filled with crème patisserie, French for pastry cream. I'd never made choux pastry before and did a ton of research. It's really not as scary as I thought it was! I do have some tips to share with you though.

The Choux Pastry

There are no rising agents in choux pastry. The way that choux rises is through steam. It's a very wet dough and the moisture creates steam, causes the pastry to rise along with making the egg proteins expand. Because the dough uses protein, I chose to use Strong Flour which has a higher gluten content. This gives the egg protein something to bond to. The result is a crisper éclair!
All the ingredients before the magic happens!
During my research, I found that some recipes called for half milk and half water to make up the liquid in the choux pastry. Milk will give a softer finish; water only will make it crustier. For éclairs, the desired result is a crisp finish, I recommend using water only along with the strong flour for this particular recipe.

I'm really happy with this picture of butter. Butter makes me happy.
Before adding the butter and water to the pan, I chopped the butter into small pieces. This is so the butter would melt quickly and that not much water will evaporate, as liquid and steam is essential in the leavening of the pastry.
And as I am a prepared little petit lapin, I sifted my flour and salt and kept them at the ready. The flour should be dumped in all at once as soon as the butter and water is at a rolling boil. A rolling boil is a very fast, hot boil.

Once this stage is reached, get your flour which you so cleverly prepared earlier and dump it all in at once, then stir, stir, stir. This is the next crucial stage. The flour should be mixed thoroughly, press it up against the sides of your pan and bring it in.

The choux pastry starts to form a ball. Good pasty, you're so well behaved.

 
You'll see it starts to collect in the middle of the pan, forming a ball. This happened quite quickly for me but I kept it on the heat, pressing and stirring for 5 minutes. You want to make sure the flour is cooked and this will help break down the starch and develop the gluten. And remember, gluten and protein are meilleurs amis. BFFs.

This is the desired texture you want for the choux. Sticky but not slick or greasy.
After the dough takes a rest, it's time to add the eggs. Beat the eggs lightly in a bowl or a jug and add them in 4 additions. That's about 50ml at a time, if your jug has measurements on it. Now here, I hit a stumbling block. I added 3 eggs in and my dough was so wet and greasy. I thought I'd done something wrong! I dumped the dough in the bin and started again - but there was nothing wrong! The dough will look wet, but with the addition of another egg, the dough will become soft, a little sticky and stretchy but not wet and greasy. Don't panic if this happens to you! A moments silence for the éclairs that could have been.
Oh the anticipation!
Then comes the fun part! Pipe the little babies onto a tray lined with baking paper or onto a special éclair tin if you're using one! I used a Wilton #1A tip. Then into the hot oven! Once you've baked them for 15 minutes, take a metal skewer and poke a little hole in each one for the steam to escape during this drying out period. This will help prevent them from collapsing later on too.
This fills me with such delight! The order of these éclairs, lined up like little French soldiers!
Once this is done, take the petit bébés out of the oven and let them cool. 
The éclairs cooling in the pan, with their friends waiting for them in the background!
The crème patisserie and the salted caramel are straight forward and pretty fool-proof. I made the crème patisserie first.
Here is the washing up for the choux! It's worth it, believe me!
The Crème Patisserie

Crème patisserie, or pastry cream, is used of a range of French dessert such as cakes, cream puffs, Napoleons, tarts and of course - éclairs!

The recipe calls for a real vanilla bean, cut down the middle and the wonderfully flavourful seeds scraped out. The real vanilla beans give the lushest flavour to the crème and it truly is satisfying to see all those little black seeds in the creamy tones. Adding the pod into the milk ensures you get the most out of them, as they can be a little expensive.
Glorious vanilla! These little seeds are so deceptive!
 There’s not much to watch out for with the crème patisserie. The cornflour helps thicken the crème and also makes it quite stable. Perhaps one of the only two things to ensure is to adding a little of the hot cream and milk mixture to the eggs to ready them for the heat of the pan, called tempering. This will prevent them from becoming scrambled!

The second tip is to ensure that the crème doesn’t burn! Once the eggs go in, keep mixing constantly, scraping the bottom. The goal is for a thick, smooth custard and burning it will ruin all your hard work!
The crème patisserie, dreamily dotted with vanilla seeds.
Pouring the hot cream into a baking dish will give your crème a greater surface area, cooling it quicker and more evenly. If you’re really in rush, you can cool the crème by stirring it in a bowl over another bowl, filled with ice.
The crème patisserie aftermath! 

The Salted Caramel

The final delicious element is the salted caramel glaze. I decided to use 50/50 of both castor sugar and brown sugar. This gives such a rich, dark caramel with delightful depth of flavour.
Mmm caramel.
The recipe calls for half a teaspoon of fleur de sel, which is enough to give a nice aftertaste to the glaze. Trust that this small amount is enough. I am a salt fiend and if I can taste it, I guarantee you will to. Also, I recommend scattering a few flakes on the top of the éclairs before serving.
The fondant in this recipe will thicken the caramel and give it a wonderfully glossy finish.
Fleur de sel ready to take it to the next level! You go, Fleur! Do your thang!
This recipe makes enough caramel for all of the éclairs and then a little left over. I highly recommend it on ice cream. At room temperature, the caramel is thick and firm but a minute in the microwave will turn it into a delectable, pourable sauce.
Practically no washing up at all!
 
Assembly

Wow! You’ve made it this far! Now all your hard work is going to pay off! All of the elements should be cool. Remove the crème patisserie from the fridge and give it a whisk in a bowl to return it to its creamy, smooth state. The caramel should be cool and spreadable. 
All the elements ready to go!

With a serrated knife, cut most of the way through an éclair. I found that if I cut it too much, they would break apart. Using a piping bag or the corner of a freezer bag with the tip cut off, pipe the crème generously into the éclair.
That all éclair is all like, "I'll see you soon, salt"
Finally, add the glaze. I found the best way to do this was with the smooth side of a butter knife. Then sprinkle some fleur de sel flakes on top, ever so judiciously.

Ooooh! Get in my belly!
I almost feel this is an adult photo! Sensuous!
The filled éclairs really are best eaten the day they are prepared as the crème will cause the éclair to soften. The unfilled éclairs will keep 3 days in an airtight container – however I really don’t think they’ll last that long!
The little babies ready to go to their new homes - hungry stomachs!
 
Choux Pastry

1 cup (150g) strong flour, sifted
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of sea salt
1 cup (250ml) water
½ cup (125g) unsalted butter, chopped
4 free-range eggs, room temperature

Prep time:
25 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins
Total time:  45 mins

Servings: 24 éclairs
     1.    Preheat oven to 220°C
2.    Sift together the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl and set aside.
3.    Add the eggs to a jug and lightly beat.
4.    Place water and butter into a saucepan over a medium-high heat and bring to a rolling boil.
5.    Once the water and butter is boiling, remove from the heat then quickly add the flour mixture all at once and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough is completely smooth.
6.    Return to the heat and cook, stirring, until the dough comes away from the side of the pans. Do not worry if there are dry bits sticking to the pan, the dough should to be drying out. This should take a two to three minutes.
7.    Set mixture aside for 5-10 minutes to cool.
8.    Add eggs to mixture in 4 additions, mixing very well after each addition. Make sure eggs are well incorporated.
9.    Fit a pastry bag with a large, open round tip (I used a Wilton 1A) and pipe out 12cm long shapes or onto an éclair pan if using one.
10. Bake at 220°C for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 180°C, open the oven and quickly poke each pastry with a metal skewer to let steam escape.
11. Bake for another 5 minutes or until éclairs are golden and sound hollow when tapped.
12. Remove from the oven and cool.
Crème Patisserie

2 cups (500ml) full cream milk
2 cups (500ml) double cream
8 yolks from large, free range eggs
260g sugar, in 2 lots of 130g
½ cup (80g) cornflour
1 vanilla bean
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins

Total time:
  25 mins

Servings:
About 1 kilo of crème patisserie – enough for 24 éclairs.


1.    Line a shallow baking dish with cling wrap.
2.    Place the milk, cream and 130g of sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan.
3.    Take the vanilla bean pod and split down together with a sharp knife, the run the blade down each half of the bean, scraping the beans together and put them into the milk and cream in the saucepan along with the scraped pod.
4.    Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
5.    Remove from the heat.  Beat the egg yolks with the remaining 130g of sugar, once combined well, add the cornflour and mix well.
6.    Remove the pod from the milk and cream.
7.    Add 1 cup of the hot milk and cream mixture to the eggs while beating constantly.
8.    Add the egg and milk mixture now, back into the milk and cream mixture in the saucepan and return to the heat.
9.    Whisk the mixture slowly while bringing the heat up, being careful not to burn the crème. Whisk constantly until the mixture thickens and becomes smooth and glossy. This should take around 4 to 5 minutes.
10. Pour the cream into the prepared dish and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely cool.
11. Before use, put the cream in a bowl and whisk until smooth


Salted Caramel Glaze
1 cup (230g) caster sugar
1 cup (230g) brown sugar
¾ cup (180g) salted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
1 cup (250ml) double cream, at room temperature
½ teaspoon fleur de sel plus extra
100g white fondant

Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 10 mins
Total time:
  25 mins

Servings:
3.5 cups
  1. Add sugars to a heavy bottomed sauce pan, stirring occasionally, until the sugars melt and becomes smooth.
  2. Add the butter and whisk until the butter is melted and stirred through.
  3. Remove from the heat and slowly pour in the heavy cream.
  4. Return to the heat and allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute.
  5. Remove from heat and stir in salt and then add the fondant and mix until it forms a smooth paste.
  6. Allow to cool down before using.

Assembly


1.    Take an éclair and cut half way through
2.    Take a piping bag (I used Wilton tip #10) or freezer bag with the corner sniped off and pipe a generous amount of the crème patisserie into the cavity.
3.    Spread a liberal amount of caramel on top.
4.    Finish with a sprinkling of fleur de sel, if desired.


  • Unfilled éclairs will last 3 days in an air tight container.
  • Filled éclairs best eaten day of preparation.

2 comments:

  1. OMG CASS that salted caramel recipe. *def saving for later*

    They look AMAZING.

    ReplyDelete
  2. these sound amazing! And quite simple to make, thanks for sharing this recipe.

    Simon

    ReplyDelete

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