The Christmas experimentation has begun. I decided to tackle one of my least favourite pastries and that is choux. I love eating choux, I don’t even mind making it, however when it comes to piping and cooking it, something always seems to go wrong.
Thank goodness for Edd Kimber, the recipe for choux in his new book Patisserie Made Simple has the best cooking instructions of all the choux recipes I’ve tried so far and I’ve tried a lot. From Paul Hollywood, Richard Bertinet, Philippe Conticini and Christophe Felder, the majority of them have a very short cooking time, or the quantities were wrong for the recipe being made.
After now understanding how to cook choux pastry correctly, I will go back and try some of these recipes again, but if you want a foolproof way to bake choux, you should definitely check out Edd’s book. The detailed instructions are great for anyone attempting choux for the first time.
So, what makes these eclairs christmas themed? It can’t possibly just be the little bits of holly I’ve stuck on the top. That’s right, the inside of the eclair is filled with a Brandy Mincemeat Chocolate Creme Diplomat (to be referred to as BMCCD from now on). This makes the filling very festive, with a burst of brandy soaked fruit and dark chocolate.
The creme diplomat for the filling was a bit ambitious and I wasn’t sure of the quantities I would need to fill the eclairs, so I had a huge amount of filling leftover. In hindsight, I think I over complicated things and these eclairs would have been just as good with a brandy creme diplomat.
To make the BMCCD, I used shop bought Brandy Mincemeat from Waitrose. I had to cook the mincemeat first to cook off the suet, I warmed some through in a pan with a small amount of brandy to loosen it and then liquidised it with a stick / immersion blender.
I then made a chocolate creme patissiere, I’ve made so many of these now, it is a patisserie staple. I heated the milk and added some chopped chocolate until it had melted. Egg yolks are then mixed with brown sugar, corn flour and plain flour until pale and creamy. The chocolate milk is then added and mixed in thoroughly.
The entire mixture is then put back into a pan on the heat and whisked until it thickens. I then added the pureed mincemeat to the mixture and gave it another blitz with the immersion blender, to make it even smoother.
When the creme patissiere is cooled, whipped cream and brandy is added to lighten it, the finished BMCCD is then put in the fridge to cool.
The choux pastry was very simple to make and I have included the recipe below, the differences to note with this recipe are that Edd uses a much longer cooking time than normal and he allows the choux to cool in the oven for 30mins after it is cooked. This helps the choux to dry out even more.
Instead of cutting these eclairs in half and filling them, I scored holes in the bottom and filled them with the BMCCD until it almost burst out, OK with some of them it did burst out and I had to do some strategic icing!
Normally I decorate my eclairs with fondant icing, see the ones I made from Patisserie Maison by Richard Bertinet. It was my intention to decorate these with fondant icing also, but when I checked the cupboard the amount of icing I had was nowhere near enough.
I was really annoyed with myself by this point as I had been to Waitrose earlier that day picking up some deliveries. If only I’d checked the cupboard before I went! So, I had to use normal icing sugar and water and try my best to get the consistency right, so the icing wouldn’t drip down the sides of the eclairs. This sort of worked, but it would have looked a lot better with fondant, so if you’re ever icing eclairs I would recommend using fondant or melted chocolate for the job.
The last touch was to add the holly sprigs that I had made out of my fondant icing, I used these great holly cutters, I got mine from Hobby Craft, but they don’t seem to have them on their website. Take a look in store, I also got my red and green icing from there.
There you have it, the finished Christmas eclairs, I would make these again, but with a different filling. It tasted nice, but I couldn’t get the mincemeat as smooth as I would have liked. My boyfriend also said the brandy tasted too strong. I thought it was fine, but perhaps I just like brandy more than him.
So the next time I make these, I will include a sort of brandy sauce or brandy creme diplomat.
As promised here is the choux pastry recipe from Patisserie Made Simple by Edd Kimber. It’s a great foolproof recipe and it makes 12 eclairs 14cm in length.
- 60g Unsalted Butter, diced
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- 1 Tsp Caster Sugar
- 40g Plain Flour
- 45g Strong White Bread Flour
- 2-3 Large Eggs
- Preheat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) Gas 4 and line two baking trays with baking parchment. Draw six 14cm lines on the back of each sheet of parchment to act as your template.
- Put the butter, salt, sugar and 120ml water in a medium pan over a medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted and the mixture is at a rolling boil, add the flour and quickly stir together with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a dough.
- With the pan still on the heat, stir vigorously for 2 minutes, then tip the dough into a bowl and beat for a few minutes until it stops steaming. These two actions help to cook the flour and dry out the dough, which in turn helps it to absorb more egg. This helps the choux pastry to expand properly as it bakes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully absorbed before adding the next. Depending on the flour used and how much water evaporated as you made the dough, the choux pastry will need varying amounts of egg, so the above is given as a guide.
- With this recipe I usually add two eggs and then very slowly start adding the remaining egg, checking the texture of the dough after each addition. You are looking for a dough that has a shine and when it is lifted from the bowl, it should fall from the spatula in a ribbon that forms a "V" shape. If the dough doesn't contain enough egg, it won't expand properly and will be prone to cracking as it bakes; if there is too much egg, the dough won't hold its shape and will collapse as it bakes.
- To prevent the dough from drying out and forming a skin, immediately put the dough into a piping bag with a 1.5cm plain round piping tip.
- To pipe, hold the piping bag at a 45 degree angle and with the piping tip touch the parchment pipe 12 straight lines. Brush each eclair with beaten egg, then bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Turn off the eclairs and leave in the oven to cool for 30 minutes before filling and decorating.
Thanks for reading.