The reason I first lifted a whisk and tied the apron is Raymond Blanc. I always loved watching cookery shows on TV but I never really thought of doing something about it myself till I watched this man create edible pieces of art in his kitchen. Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets used to air on BBC Entertainment (India) till one day they decided to announce the demise of the channel. Well, what can I say? It’s a shame really. And if you haven’t seen ‘Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets’ yet, you really are missing something in life; especially if you love food. While the context is still appropriate can I also admit that I terribly miss watching The Graham Norton Show?
Anyway, in the show, Raymond converses with his ingredients. He says, food can always be bought off the shelf but making it from scratch shows that you actually care for people you love. How true? Isn’t that the whole point of cooking?And he makes cooking seem so simple and satisfying. There are other chefs and presenters who deliver their love for food on screen, but many a time, most of them seem bigger than food itself. But this show is all about food, baring his charming French accented English and his old school approach to cooking- the man prefers using a wire whisk in place of a beater and you know what? It works! It’s like he is actually teaching you how to make these delicious recipes in person, thanks to the brilliant team behind the show.
In one of the episodes, he shares his love for baking and he makes chocolate éclairs. I’ve always wanted to make them since I saw the episode and this week I finally had it in me to make it and can I say it’s the easiest and the most rewarding dish I’ve ever baked?
I started this blog with his recipe, well sort of, and it’s been a little over a month now and I’m 14 recipes down. This 15th recipe, I dedicate to Raymond Blanc for having inspired me through my journey of baking.
There are three elements to making an éclair- choux pastry (the encasing), crème patissière or pastry cream (filling and a basic recipe every baker should know), chocolate glaze (the glamour quotient). I might have changed a thing or two in the original recipe but it is still pretty much the same.
The recipe only seems daunting but if you have the recipe right, it’s so simple! In the episode Raymond says there is a 99% success rate with éclairs..mine I’d say is close to 80%.. Would Raymond approve of it? I think he just might 🙂
Here is a link to the original clipping from Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mr5JFkWIHgk
For the choux pastry
100 g plain flour
4 tbsp water
4 tbsp full fat milk
50 g butter, unsalted
3 eggs, beaten
Pinch of salt
1 tsp caster sugar
For the crème patissière
350 ml whole milk
1/2 pure vanilla extract
4 eggs, yolks only
65 g caster sugar
15 g plain flour
15 g cornflour
1 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted
20 g unsweetened chocolate, 100% cocoa solids
For the chocolate glaze
100 g unsweetened chocolate chips
2 big table spoons honey
Makes 12 éclairs
Note: I made the pastry cream the previous day and let it cool in the fridge. I suggest you do the same thing so that you don’t have to cram everything in the same day.
For the crème patissière , beat the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy(5-6 mins). I used a wire whisk, but you can use an electric beater. Add both the flours, whisk again and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla extract to a boil. Pour half the milk mixture to the eggs mixture very slowly while whisking simultaneously. If you don’t whisk and pour all the milk at one go, the eggs will curdle. Whisk until the mixture becomes one smooth, glossy liquid. Then return this mixture to the remaining milk and switch the heat on to low. Keep whisking until the mixture thickens and reaches a custardy texture. Turn off the heat and transfer the crème patissière to a clean bowl.
Sift the cocoa powder into the patissière. Grate the chocolate into it. Mix well. Refrigerate after it completely cools down and make sure you cover it with a lid.
For the choux pastry, preheat the oven to 170 C. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and set aside. You will need, a plain tip nozzle (left in the image below) to pipe the choux pastry and a flat nozzle (right) to pipe the glaze.
Bring the butter, milk, salt an sugar to a boil and remove from heat. Quickly add the flour and stir with a wooden ladle until the mixture becomes one single ball. Return it to heat (low flame) and continue to stir for about a minute.
Turn off the heat. Allow the dough to cool for about 2 minutes. Start adding the egg mixture and continue to whisk. Now this must be done carefully. You might not need all the 3 eggs. Pour the egg mixture little by little while stirring with a wooden spatula until the mixture drops off the ladle. Your cue to stop adding the eggs, is when the pastry drops off the ladle. At no cost should it run off the ladle, which means you’ve added too much of the egg mixture.
Take a piping bag (I find it convenient to use a disposable piping bag) and fit the plain tip. Fill the piping bag with the choux pastry. Now I made myself a little template to pipe the éclairs. I drew 12 4-inch straight lines on a parchment paper with a gap of 3 inches between each line. I lined that on the baking tray first and lined another sheet of parchment paper over it. I piped the éclairs over the visible lines. Hold the piping bag at a 45 degree angle and just squeeze the piping bag gently, drawing straight lines. Take the tracing sheet out in one quick motion.
Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven until the éclairs have turned golden brown. Now, I glazed the éclairs with beaten egg for the extra golden shade before baking them. You can skip this step if you want to.
Allow the éclairs to cool for 10 minutes. Using a piping nozzle (plain tip) drill two holes on either ends of the underside of the éclairs. Fit a piping bag with the same nozzle. Fill it with the chilled crème patissière. Now, pipe the cream into the éclairs by squeezing it into the drilled holes.
For the glaze melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Add the honey and give it a quick stir. Fill it in a piping bag fitted with flat nozzle (see image above). Gently pipe over the prepared éclairs.