So I am finally breaking down and doing my first recipe. I know that this sounds like I’m as excited about this as I am about going to the dentist and having them tell me I need 2000 dollars worth of work done on my teeth. You see the smile on the dentist face and you begin to wonder whether or not it would be cheaper to have someone else torture you. Also, you swear you hear him humming “Son Be a Dentist” from Little Shop of Horrors, and are hoping he doesn’t have a plant named Audrey.
But I’m really not upset about finally putting up a blog on a recipe that I have made. I’m terrified. It’s one thing to tell people they should go to Disneyland, or eat a brunch on the Queen Mary. That’s like a no brainer. It’s like telling people they should brush their teeth and floss at least twice a day or they will get cavities. It’s so obvious that even when the cavities do come, you can’t be mad if you didn’t do what you were told. And you won’t be sending posses to my door with guns and a rope, or giving me the black spot, if you were so inclined.
I’ve even reviewed cook book recipes and told people what I liked about the recipes inside. But that was cheating. I was reviewing the book and not the recipe itself. So even though I would say I had made some of the recipes from the book(And I had. I wasn’t lying.), I could blame the recipe fails on the book and not me. It’s like saying your grandmother makes the most amazing lasagna. You can love it. No one will disagree with you. Even if they do, they won’t say it aloud, and they won’t look at you strangely for thinking your grandmother’s dish was amazing. They might want to have the doctors check out your taste buds for degradation. But they won’t blame you.
So here I am, nervously going to put out my first recipe. I will say that my daughter likes it enough that when they did a family cookbook in her class, she insisted that I put my recipe in the book. I’m not sure that gives you great confidence in my cooking skills, or this recipe, but at least she’s a fan. And when your kids are fans of what you cook, then you go with it. Hopefully you don’t beat it into the ground so that the very mention of what you are making gives them chills. You make it often enough that they appreciate it, but not so often that they pick at it with a fork until what you had placed on their plate looks more like modern art, and less like food.
Trying to discourage food art, my first recipe I write for this blog is one for my eclairs. I make them every Christmas for my daughter and for a work party. I’m not sure how I ended up doing it for the yearly work party, but my boss insists that it be among the items made. I know that for some of you this means rolling your eyes and thinking again about that large dentist bill with the humming dentist. I am not going to say that this would never cause cavities. But I think you should be able to make good things to eat and enjoy from time to time, and not only healthy things. Sure, you can survive on birdseed now and again, but could you do it all day, every day?
Being the nerd that I am, I will go into the history of this recipe, and the changes it has undergone. First, I must pay tribute to my favorite nerd boy chef, Alton Brown. Without his inspiration, I would never have come up with this recipe. My ex wanted me to make the same thing for Christmas that she had made since she was a little girl. I am all for tradition. I just felt like I wanted to create new traditions when I had my own family.
So I was watching Alton Brown on Good Eats. (My favorite cancelled Food Network show. Darn you Food Network!!! I know Alton wanted to do other things but I could still watch re-runs.) He was doing pate a choux recipe on the show, and he was talking cream puffs or other more savory things you could stuff in the puff pastry. It gave me an idea of what I could do instead of the other item people demanded I make.
So the first thing I had to do was get the request to make something different past my ex. This was always an iffy proposition because if it didn’t turn out better than she had expected I had to expect ridicule for the next twenty years. (It’s one thing if you are ok with a days worth of torture. Twenty years worth and I would question my own sanity. And definitely go to a therapist to seek pills for panic attacks.). So I agreed to do both recipes, that way I could get out of doing the other one if this was a success.
Then I had to adapt the recipe. I added a bit more sugar. I modified cooking times and temps for the recipe. Alton Brown talked about doing pastry cream. Bleh! And I thought about doing whipped cream, but I didn’t want it to melt inside the eclairs if the pastry was too hot. So I compromised and did a half whipped cream, half chocolate pudding filling. And then to top it off I would drizzle chocolate all over, because you can never have enough.
Well it turned out to be a big hit. My father-in-law was happy he wasn’t going to be pressed into service. And my ex didn’t torture me for the next twenty years about a failed recipe. Other things… not so much. So without further ado, here is the recipe for my chocolate eclairs.
Chocolate Eclair Recipe
Puff Pastry Ingredients:
1 cup of water
3/4 stick of butter
3 Tablespoons of Sugar
1/8 teaspoon of salt
5 3/4 oz of flour (Bread flour is a must here!!!)
4 Large Eggs plus two egg whites
Tools – Mixer, 4 quart pot, cookie sheet, parchment paper, piping bag
Preheat the oven to 435. First take the water and butter as well as the sugar and salt and put it into a 4 quart pot. I prefer stainless steel for this recipe. Bring everything to a boil When you bring everything to a boil, incorporate flour into the liquid and turn off the heat. Make sure that you measure the flour with a precise scale for weight and not for size. Baking is a precise task and so measuring the flour for weight produces much better results. Once the flour has soaked up all the water, turn on the heat and continue stirring until the flour becomes a round ball in the pan. Turn off the heat and transfer to the electric mixing bowl.
Have all of the flour rest there for about 5 minutes. You do not want it to be too hot when you start incorporating the eggs in, or you will turn the mixture into scrambled eggs and flour. As interesting as that sounds . . . no. . . it doesn’t really sound interesting. So don’t do it. Have all of the eggs and egg whites in a measuring cup with a handle. This makes it easier to pour one egg and a little bit of egg white into the mixture. After the 5 minutes are over, turn on the mixer with the wire attachment and set it on medium to low speed. Add one egg in at a time. Make sure that it fully incorporates into the dough before adding the next egg. Keep doing this until you have incorporated all of the eggs.
The dough should look a little bit like yellow pastry cream and be a bit sticky. Put into bags to pipe onto your cooking sheets. ( I use Ziploc bags and cut the corners out.) Cut out parchment paper the size of the cookie sheet and dab the four corners with a little of your flour mixture. It will make the parchment paper adhere to your cookie sheet. Pipe eclair shaped dough onto the parchment paper and then place inside the oven. Cook for 12 minutes. Then pull out and rotate the cookie sheet in the over. Turn down the heat to 360 and cook for another 12 minutes. Pull out of the oven and take a paring knife to let the hot steam out and it allows you to have a place to pipe the chocolate pudding cream inside. Let it cool.
Just one caution that I have here. You really need to make sure these cook long enough or the hole that it creates collapses and then you have egg dough and you may or may not be able to put a little cream inside. Get a feel for what your oven does. I know I have had supposedly precise ovens and the pastry collapses. And then I had imprecise ones and they made the most amazing pockets to pipe in the cream. The best oven I ever had for this was an apartment complex oven that I could barely know what settings worked on it. Get the feel for it with your first batch. And letting it cook a little longer usually isn’t a bad thing. Just don’t let it burn. They should be a nice golden brown color.
Let them rest. (No, don’t give them a nap. And don’t let your dog guard them. Because guarding is not what he will do.)
Whipped Chocolate Pudding Cream Ingredients:
1 Pint of Whipped Cream
2 Cups of Powdered Sugar
1/2 box of Jell-O Instant Chocolate Pudding
Tools – Mixer and piping bag
Add all three into the mixer with the whip on it. Put it on medium speed and let it whip for a couple minutes. You can add more of the chocolate pudding here. Really its about putting enough chocolate in for taste and to thicken the cream some more. Do not whip too long. Chocolate butter actually does sound interesting, and weird. Maybe I will try it for my bagels sometime.
Put into a piping bag and pipe into your puff pastry.
Chocolate Drizzle Ingredients:
1 12 oz bag of Semi-sweet chocolates
1 Tablespoon of Vegetable Oil
3/4 stick of butter
Tools – 4 quart pot, another bowl that won’t melt and fits on top of your pot, or just a double boiler.
Put 2 cups of water into your base pot and turn on the heat until it begins to boil. Put all the ingredients into the other bowl and stir slowly. Eventually, the chocolate heats up. Stir until all the butter and vegetable oil are completely incorporated into the chocolate.
Drizzle over your chocolate stuffed pastry and put in the freezer or refrigerator to set for at least an hour. I prefer putting them in the freezer. For some reason I like the taste better and it hardens the chocolate drizzle more when you do that. Just make sure that you have enough room in either of them to put whatever you have the pastry on easily inside. If you freeze the pastry, they can be ready whenever you need them.
Continue The Conversation
Hope you enjoy the recipe. And feel free to share it with whomever might be interested. Of course I would love to hear how any of this turned out for you. So if you do make this, drop me a line after you have and let me know what you thought.
Until next time. This is me, signing off.
David Elliott, Single Dad’s Guide to Life