I seem to spend a great deal of time looking at food. I look at food on the shelves in grocery stores and in the cases of bakeries and on the menus of restaurants. I look at pictures in cookbooks and oh gosh so so so many pictures on food blogs.
The thing is, I enjoy it.
I had a lot of fun doing just that last Saturday (or so it was when I wrote this… now I think it’s been a month or two. Huh.). We ended up visiting three bakeries, each with so many tantalizing pastries on display…and I just continued to look at things. Partially because I was too busy being jealous of how beautiful the pastries were and thinking about making them myself and of course because of the price. There was one bakery/restaurant we went into that was so beautifully well-designed–the roof had angled windows letting in some lovely diffuse sunlight. It felt like a greenhouse. I wanted to sit there forever, but to do that I’d have to buy something. And so I looked at the éclairs.
I found them to be a bit much. I couldn’t justify the price for one lone éclair as absolutely lovely as it looked (and much better piped than my attempts). My imagination started racing. Was this bakery a mere pretty facade on some sort of extortion scheme surrounding overpriced pastries?
Anyways, I will refrain from getting into whether or not that was a reasonable price. Especially as now that I’ve thought about this eclair for long enough I don’t know what to think. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn’t. It doesn’t really matter any more.
This is not at all to put down the bakery (to call it pretentious only makes me the pretentious one). I’d like to go back now that I’ve gotten over my surprise at the prices.
Though it does seem a bit passive aggressive of me to have made some éclairs the next day, doesn’t it?
Somehow piping the éclairs–a straight line–was very challenging for me. However the pastry cream went a bit better…I quite recommend this way of piping. It may not look very pretty from above, but I think it looks quite nice from the side and doesn’t require anything tricky like changing the amount of pressure you apply (I really should learn how to do this and stop coddling myself).
The rhubarb keeps coming in so it was the obvious choice, and I also thought it was about time I give baking with sage a go. The sage flavour came out very, very well in the pastry cream, and I cooked the rhubarb down into a thick jam with some dried rose flower.
Visually I preferred the ones dusted with icing sugar, and also the lightness they had as the pastry cream ended up quite rich–I think I would recommend this. However I also quite liked the éclairs that I dipped in white chocolate as I did not sweeten the jam and pastry cream excessively, so the additional sweetness was welcomed.
And one more thing: happy Fiesta Friday!
Rhubarb and sage eclairs
Pâte à choux
The pastry is adapted in equal parts from David Lebovitz and from the kartoffelkage recipe in Scandinavian Cooking by Trina Hahnemann to something vague and in between. I did two batches as in my first I piped the éclairs too wide–and found that I used rather different quantities of egg each time. Makes 10 éclairs.
150 mL water
pinch sugar, salt
60 g butter
75 g flour
2-3 eggs (I used 2.5 first time, then only 2 the second time)
Heat the water, sugar, salt and butter in a saucepan until the mixture is boiling.
Remove from the heat, pour in the flour, and beat with a wooden spoon until it has formed a cohesive ball.
Beat in the eggs one at a time. If you need more than two eggs, beat the third in a small bowl and then pour it in a little bit at a time. The pastry should be shiny and drop from the spoon into the saucepan, though still hold its shape.
Fill a piping bag fitted with a large ridged tip. Pipe 10 éclairs–try to keep your pressure constant in order to pipe even lines. I discovered from batch number one that your éclairs should be relatively thin (i.e. don’t pipe any thicker than how thick your large tip pipes already); otherwise the explosive hollow considerably deforms the éclairs.
Bake at 375F for 30-40 minutes. Make a hole in the bottom of each with the tip of a paring knife to let the steam escape and let cool on a wire rack.
Sage pastry cream
Another pastry cream adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation further adapted to fit the egg bits I had leftover. I was impressed with how well the sage flavour came out. Makes more than enough to generously fill 10 éclairs.
200 mL cream, divided
200 mL milk
handful sage, sliced and rolled between palms to crush
1.5 eggs + 2 yolks
3 tbsp sugar
25 g cornstarch
Heat 100 mL of the cream and the 200 mL milk in a small saucepan until steaming. Add the sage, cover, and remove from the heat. Allow to steep for 30 minutes.
Whisk the eggs with the sugar and cornstarch until there are no more lumps. Reheat the infused milk mixture, then gradually pour into the eggs, whisking to temper. Return to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until the pastry cream is well thickened.
Press through a sieve with a rubber spatula. Cover and chill.
Whip the remaining 100 mL of cream until stiff. Beat the pastry cream with a spatula until softened and smooth. Fold in one scoop of the whipped cream to lighten, then the remaining cream.
Rose and rhubarb jam
Should make enough to fill 10 éclairs.
4-5 stalks rhubarb
a couple small dried rose flowers
Thinly slice the rhubarb and place in a small pot along with the dried rose and a good spoonful of sugar. Heat gently until the juices have started to come out of the rhubarb. Cover and let it cook until completely softened, a couple minutes. Remove the cover and stir, letting the jam simmer to cook off the excess liquid. Cook until thick; taste for sweetness and add sugar as desired.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a star tip with the pastry cream. Melt some white chocolate, if desired, in a bowl.
Slice each éclair in half. Press a spoonful of jam into the bottom of each éclair and spread evenly. Pipe a generous layer of pastry cream overtop, and some sliced strawberries if desired.
The top half of the éclair can be dipped in white chocolate and then garnished with sage leaves. Or simply put the top half in place and dust generously with icing sugar.