Monday, July 20, 2009

The Real Thing....

The last time I posted here, I was tooting the horn of a mock chocolate éclair dessert. And as ‘toot-worthy’ as that dessert is, nothing can beat the above…..real chocolate éclairs – well, these are ‘crème puff’ size, but éclairs all the same. The thing that’s so fun about these tiny, crème puff éclairs is that you just pop’em in your mouth! No multiple bites to allow filling to squirt out, nothing to get on your fingers….just a perfect one-bite ‘pop’ of heaven.

Éclairs are easy-schmeezy, but they’re not really ‘hot weather camping fare’ - that’s what instigated the need for a simple, cool treat that is the mock éclair dessert. But for a deliciously fun and really pretty impressive end to a meal, genuine éclairs/crème puffs are a great way to go. I made crème puffs this past weekend because my mom was coming for a late afternoon dinner and I wanted a fun dessert...something people don’t get to eat every day. And the big plus of making so many little puffs? There were enough left over to take a good 30 or so to a get together later in the evening with some friends.

You begin with a basic Choux (pronounced ‘shoe’) pastry – then, with a simple filling and an easy chocolate glaze, you can whip up a batch of éclairs in no time. Give’m a’ll be so glad you did!
Chocolate Éclairs – Crème Puffs

Choux Pastry:
1 cup water
1 stick butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs – room temp is best

1 small box vanilla, fat-free, instant pudding (prepared per package instructions)
1 16 oz container Cool Whip - thawed

Chocolate Glaze:
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 T butter
1 t. light corn syrup
1 t. milk
Preheat oven to 375. To make the pastry, put the water and stick of butter in a saucepan and bring it to a boil, completely melting the butter. Remove pan from heat and add the cup of flour all at once, immediately stirring it with a wooden spoon until it forms into a mass and comes away from the sides of the pan. It’s gonna smell sorta funky – don’t let this put you off. Next, begin adding the eggs – ONE AT A TIME – stirring in each egg thoroughly before adding the next. By the time the last egg has been completely incorporated, the dough will be smooth and satin.

Line a sheet pan (or two depending on their size) with parchment or a silpat as this makes removing the puffs a breeze. To form the puffs/or éclairs, it’s easiest to use a pastry bag or a large Ziploc bag – but you can also use a couple of spoons to form the shapes you want, so don’t sweat it if you don’t have the bags. I used a large Ziploc fitted with a couplar & small round tip – if you don’t have tips, just cut off the corner tip of the bag. For éclairs, you’ll want to make a bigger corner snip, about an inch cut, for crème puffs, a small snip, say a quarter inch cut. Fill your bag about half way with the pastry dough (I used half the dough, then refilled the bag for a second piping), twist off the top of the bag so the dough doesn’t squirt out the top, and begin piping. For éclairs, using medium pressure, pipe out a straight line of dough about 1” wide and 3 to 4 inches long. For puffs, pipe a little ‘blob’ then encircle it atop itself to make a little mountain of dough that is only about the diameter and height of a quarter. The amounts you pipe will seem small on the pans, but believe me, they GROW in the oven – so leave an inch and a half or so between each piped dough shape (if you have no bags to pipe your dough use spoons and simply spoon out the pastry dough into lines or small mounds of the afore mention measurements). Once the pan is filled, place it in the oven to bake: 20-25 mins for the puffs, 30-40 mins for the éclairs. They should be light golden brown on top when they are perfectly done.

While the puffs bake, make the filling and the chocolate glaze. For the filling, make the instant pudding according to package directions and chill it in the fridge. Thoroughly fold in the entire container of Cool Whip just before filling the puffs. For the glaze, combine all glaze ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium low heat, stirring constantly until it’s smooth. Set the glaze aside…do not chill.

When the puffs are done baking, remove them to cooling racks until completely cooled. Use a tooth pick or the like to ‘drill’ a little hole in the middle-side of each one – or in the (short) end of each éclair shape (making a hole in each makes it easier to insert a piping tip & squirt in the filling). Fill a pastry or Ziploc bag - fitted with a small round tip - with the filling mixture and insert just the ‘tip of the tip’ into the ‘predrilled’ hole in the puff/éclair and gently squeeze, to fill the puff/éclair with the creamy pudding mixture. This might take a couple of practice ‘fills’ as it’s easy to over fill, causing some the filling to overflow back out of the puff after you remove the tip. If you don’t have tips to fill your puffs/éclairs, you can also slice the top 1/3 of each puff/éclair) and fill each using a bag with no tip or using just a spoon.

Now, it’s time to glaze! If the glaze has been sitting aside for some time, you may need to reheat it or nuke it a bit – it should be runny, not thick and stiff. If you have made puffs and used a piping tip to fill them, here’s the way I like to glaze them. I put the glaze in a very small, rather deep, glass dish – I nuke the glaze till it’s warm and runny, then I take each puff and dip the top of each one in the glaze. I give it a gentle shake to drip once, then set each one back on the cooling rack to dry. If you have made éclairs or have sliced off the tops of your pastries, you’ll want to use a small spoon to top each with the chocolate glaze. Once all the pastries have been glazed, chill them in the fridge until ready to serve. You can make these ahead of time, but don’t make them too far in advance as over time (like over night), they can become a bit soft. They’ll still taste great, but they’ll be softer than you want. Absolutely fresh-made is the best time to eat these...yum!

I know I said these are easy-schmeezy, then what do I do but toss a big, long set of directions at you. But trust me – éclairs and crème puffs are as easy as making, piping & baking the dough. then filling and glazing them. And since you can make the filling and glaze while the pastries bake, it’s all ready in a small amount of time, really. You’re first time might take a little longer….but once you’ve gotten a batch under your belt (literally and figuratively!), you’ll make them again and again!

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