With the festive season coming to an end I’m both excited and nervous. The beginning of a new year has the promise of a fresh start, as well as the burden of resolutions unfulfilled . Most of you are already on vacation or just returning from one and whether you’re planning on hosting a new years eve party or just attending one I have the perfect crowd pleaser for you!
It’s a mouthful really, a mouthful of chocolaty goodness that is. I was recently approached by 2 clients and friends to make éclairs for an event that they were hosting. After months of planning, I was finally ready to have my way with one of the most magnificent desserts that the French have to offer.
Choux pastry (pronounced shoe) is a light and crisp pastry that is made using flour, water, butter and eggs. The term choux refers to the appearance of the pastry, no matter how you pipe it, it will always look like a cabbage. It uses steam as a raising agent and then a temperature reduction to be cooked through. There are 2 popular shapes, éclair – the long shaped one and the profiterole- the round shaped one
Croquembouche is simply profiteroles filled with either whipped fresh cream or cream patisserie, dipped or drizzled in chocolate. Which is then arranged in the shape of the cone and wound with golden strands of caramelised sugar
I have encountered many problems with this dessert, firstly it is almost impossible to find a tall enough polystyrene cone in Johannesburg. Secondly you need super human strength to mix such large quantities of choux pastry. Also I keep burning myself with hot sugar, every time.
I have tried a number of choux pastry recipes from all parts of the world, but my favourite would have to be the one from the (Red) Indian Delights Book. For those of you that are not from South Africa, this is a staple in every Indo-African housewives kitchen. This recipe book really has everything! From traditional Indian breads and curry’s to western desserts and grills. Get one now if you don’t already have one.
Recipe (via Indian Delights)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sifted cake flour
- ½ cup butter
- 4 eggs
- Pre heat your oven to 200 ᵒC
- Grease a baking sheet and keep aside
- In a saucepan boil butter and water together
- With a wooden spoon, Vigorously stir in the flour until it starts to leave the sides of the pan and forms a single mass
- Remove from the heat and start to add the eggs one at a time , beat them in until the mixture is velvety smooth
- If you’re making éclairs you can pipe long shapes, for profiteroles pipe ball shapes.
- Bake in the oven at 200ᵒ for 25 mins for the initial puff, then reduce the temperature to 150ᵒC and bake for an additional 20 mins until crisp
- Remove from the oven and let it cool
- Once cooled , use a piping bag and suitable metal nozzle to directly inject the filling into the éclair or profiterole (petal nozzle or a medium diameter writing nozzle)
For the ganache
- 100 ml fresh cream
- 150 g of chocolate
- Break your chocolate into small pieces and microwave for 30 seconds, remove and give the chocolate a good stir, put it back in the oven for 15 seconds this time . heat and repeat until all the chocolate pieces are completely melted. Be careful to not burn the chocolate. alternatively you could melt your chocolate au bain marie (over a water bath)
- Add in the cream and mix until uniform in consistency
- Dip your éclairs or profiteroles directly into the chocolate , alternatively you can just drizzle the chocolate over
If you’re adventurous enough to try the croquembouch
- Arrange the profiteroles around the cones using tooth picks to mount them. insert the toothpicks at an angle so that the éclairs are more stable
- Melt about half a cup of sugar in a pot until golden brown. Do not burn the sugar.
- Using a spoon , spin trails of sugar webs around the entire cone of profiteroles
- On the base of a bowl gently trail the sugar from one end of the bowl to the other, creating a nest like structure. Once cooled gently scrunch it all up to form a spindle of golden sugar fibres. Place this at the top of your cone.
- Fill in any gaps with flowers or strawberries.
N.B PLEASE be extremely careful with the sugar do not handle it with your hands as it will leave you with some terrible burns!
I wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year and I look forward to keeping you company in the kitchen in 2015!