Unfortunately, I was--again--distracted by many other equally good recipes out there. Whoa, it took me almost 10 months to FINALLY try pâte à choux!? LOL, that's me! During the spring break in March, I got my first and only cookbook in the U.S. It was Paris Sweets by the lovely Dorie Greenspan. (I don't think overloading my luggage with cookbooks is a good idea when I'm about to head back home for good.) I'll flip through the book whenever I can to try out some of the recipes, get inspirations or just read about the anecdotes on the wonderful pâtisseries and boulangeries in Paris. I hope I get to visit France someday ... and end up in Le Cordon Bleu!!?? (Just being silly here ...)
Anyhow, I managed to try out a recipe from the book. It was the éclairs au café from Fauchon! These éclairs were filled with espresso-flavored pastry cream and glazed with espresso-flavored fondant. (Yea, I was overdosed with caffeine after having these little pastries LOL!) I love everything about them except the fondant ... It was TOO sweet. I'm unsure whether it was because of my Asian blood or what. Despite that, my American friends still found the sweetness acceptable. Hmm ..., it was actually quite predictable though if you look at the recipe ... A little bit of espresso, a squirt of lemon juice and nothing but LOADS of powdered sugar!!! Was I on the verge of getting diabetes? You bet!
Nonetheless, I'll definitely replace the coffee fondant with something else if I were to make coffee éclairs again, such as with bittersweet chocolate ganache. I love the espresso pastry cream though. Chocolate with coffee ... who can beat that combo! I'm sure we can make the pastry cream for something else besides pâte à choux. Other than that, everything else is definitely a keeper. The following recipe was slightly modified to adapt to my situation.
Éclairs au Café (adapted from Fauchon, in Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan)
For the pâte à choux:
115g unsalted butter, cut into smaller chunks & at room temperature
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar
140g all-purpose flour
*I used bread flour for its higher protein content; hence, better water absorption
5 large eggs, at room temperature
For the espresso pastry cream (this is my way of doing it to work with what I have):
6 large egg yolks
100g sugar (I may reduce the quantity slightly the next time ... But, that's just me.)
45g corn flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g unsalted butter, cut into a few pats & at room temperature
80g espresso, cooled (I added some Kahlúa to the mix for a stronger flavor. It was eyeballing.)
For the espresso fondant:
600g powdered sugar, or less depending on the situation
60g espresso, cooled (I added some Kahlúa to the mix for a stronger flavor. It was eyeballing.)
A squirt of lemon juice
- To make the pastry cream:
Fill a larger bowl with ice cubes; set aside a smaller bowl that can hold the finished pastry cream and to be placed in the ice bath. Get a fine mesh strainer ready, too.
Bring the milk just to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, in the meantime, whisk together (B) thoroughly
When the milk has just started to boil, remove it from the heat and gradually pour it into the yolk-sugar mixture through tempering--whisking well all the time as you pour in the hot milk to avoid scrambling the eggs; stir in vanilla extract
Return the milk mixture into the saucepan and place over low-medium heat, whisk vigorously as you cook it. Stop cooking when it's thickened and firmed
Remove from heat and press the pastry cream through the strainer and into the smaller bowl, then set the bowl into the ice-water bath and stir it frequently until it reaches 60C/140F
Whisk in the 50g butter into the pastry cream, then continue to whisk till it's cooled; lightly whisk in the 80g espresso, then press plastic film against the cream surface to seal it tightly and prevent a "skin" from forming.
To store, keep refrigerated till use. Can be kept for up to two days. Whisk to smooth the chilled cream upon using
- For the pâte à choux:
Line baking sheets with parchment paper and have large pastry bag with a large star tip fitted ready nearby, preheat the oven to 190C/375F
Bring (A) to a rapid boil in a large saucepan over high heat, then add in the flour all at once and lower the heat to medium-low; stir energetically with a wooden spoon--the dough will come together and a light crust will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep stirring vigorously for another two minutes to dry the dough. It should be very smooth by then.
You can either do this in the stand mixer or by hand, mix in the eggs one by one--mixing well after each addition. The dough will come together as you keep adding and mixing in the eggs to the dough. Stop adding when the mixture has become thick and shiny because you may not need all the five eggs.
Work quickly while the dough is still warm, spoon it into the pastry bag and pipe out thin fingers of dough that are about 12cm/5 inch long and 2.5cm/1 inch wide onto the lined baking sheets, leaving 5cm/2 inches of space between them.
*You can now freeze the piped dough on the baking sheets. Once they're frozen, you can slide them out of the baking sheets and store them in a Ziploc bag. There's no need to thaw them; just bake them longer for two more minutes.
Bake them for 8 minutes before slipping a wooden spoon into the oven to keep the door slightly ajar. At 12 minute mark, rotate the pans from front to back and top to bottom; continue baking till the éclairs are golden, firm and puffed for another 8 minutes or so.
Turn off the oven and leave the éclairs to cool thoroughly in the oven with the door slightly ajar before assembling or storing. They can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.
- For the fondant:
Pour the 60g espresso into a small bowl, then add about 2/3 of the powdered sugar little by little, stirring constantly. Mix in lemon juice, then add in as much additional powdered sugar as needed to produce a fondant that evenly coats the top of an éclair and stays where it's spread
- To assemble:
Carefully cut the éclairs horizontally in half (a natural cut line can be found at the puff point of each éclair,) lift off the tops; spoon or pipe the pastry cream to fill the éclair base
One by one, hold the éclair tops over the bowl of fondant and working with a small icing spatula, spread them with fondant. Settle each éclair top on a filled base and refrigerate the éclairs for at least 1 hour upon serving.
Filled and glazed éclairs are best served the day they are made