The Cousin, impeccable speller (she is particularly precise with the accent aigu) and avid writer, has been one of the few recurring characters on tentimestea, having witnessed and aided in all sorts of strange baking experiences from disaster cake to vaguely okay cake. Over the winter break we once again tried our hand at baking something and these éclairs were the result.
That’s not all though. The Cousin and I both also share some involvement, in some capacity or another, with various forms of social media. In fact, The Cousin recently began her own blog, and thus as a more formal introduction, please meet The Writographer. She kindly complied with my request for her to write a guest post. Quite flatteringly, as I said that she could write about anything she pleased, The Cousin seemed to have found our baking session itself worthy of the blog post–sufficiently such that we have a play-by-play capture. As a writer and photographer, partial photo credit also belongs to her for this post!
Do take it from here cousin. Greetings readers of tentimestea.
This is The Cousin and today I will be doing a blog entry for my cousin since she is feeling so tired and barely has enough energy to do the actually baking.
While visiting my cousin over the holidays, I was reminding her that she hasn’t been baking much recently. So we agreed that we could bake something together and that I would be allowed to write something for her blog.
To decide what to make we headed to our good friend Google Images and started looking at photographs of amazing desserts, all of which my cousin either called ‘too complicated’, ‘too long’ or just replied by saying ‘no’. After a few minutes of searching, my cousin finally decides to bring up the fact that she’s been thinking of making éclairs. I searched for some images of éclairs, and as expected because of the complexity, they were all shut down and we settled on making bubble éclairs. After a lengthy debate about flavours, my cousin decided we’d do a chestnut pastry cream and perhaps a matcha one, depending on our laziness (although I prefer matcha over nuts). (tentimestea note: It was a one-sided debate. I can be a bit authoritarian when it comes to this sort of thing.)After agreeing on what to bake, we decided to play some games with each other. The first game was the board game called Codenames. A brief summary of this game is that someone gives their teammates hints so the others can guess the codename of the undercover agent before the other team finds their agents. We played on the same team and my cousin is definitely better than I am because all of my hints sucked. After a few rounds of that game, we decided to play Monopoly. Summary is that this game is the longest game ever which encourages people to make money. We only played for an hour and my cousin had the most money but half of her properties had been mortgaged (and I owned Boardwalk, so I’m happy). (tentimestea note: 1. The Cousin could have nothing but the Boardwalk and still be happy. And she did very well at Codenames too!)The next day during our baking session, our first goal was to try and complete a culinary crossword in a magazine. Once we failed at getting anywhere near the end of the puzzle, we decided that we’d actually try and get some baking done. My cousin, who is a super organized person (except when it comes to her room), made a list of everything that we have to do for the éclairs:
- Cream puff cookies (really, she’s just adding extra work for us)
- Pastry creams (originally chestnut and possibly matcha if we get the chance)
- Choux pastry (I do not have any interesting side notes for this one)
To start off on the cream puffs, my cousin started making a list of the ingredients that we’d need. When she listed white pepper and I admitted that I had absolutely no idea what that was, my cousin got me to try white pepper vs. black pepper. In the end, my mouth tasted like pepper, I had coughing fits and I still could not tell the difference between the two different types peppers. (tentimestea note: Curiously enough, I distinctly recall that the Cousin coughed only once.) After we had finished the cream puffs, we started on the pastry cream. My cousin had to get the chestnut purée out of the fridge and all of a sudden, she gasped, and dropped it onto the floor. She informed me that it was moldy and she couldn’t look at it, as she went to the other side of the room to hide from it. When I looked at the tin of purée, it was indeed covered in mold. I told my cousin that I didn’t want to look or touch that tin and that she was going to have to throw it away. My cousin heroically grabbed a towel, picked up the tin and threw it in the garbage, warning me to not look inside the garbage if I had something to throw away. I tried to convince my cousin after that the moldy chestnut purée was some sort of sign that we should just use a matcha pastry cream. However, she told me that because of the spices in the rest of the recipe, we had to make a chestnut pastry cream, despite my complaints that I dislike nuts of any kind. As my cousin opened a new tin of purée I looked up online wether chestnuts are nuts or fruits (they are nuts and fun fact, coconuts are fruits). (tentimestea note: I’m still deciding whether or not to feel embarrassed that the majority of this post details the moldy puree.)
As nothing interesting has happened in the kitchen since the moldy purée, as entertainment, my cousin and I decided to listen to Spotify while she baked and I worked on this blog post for her.Oh, The Cousin. Tell me, what did the éclairs taste like? I suppose I will tell you instead: they were quite good! The whole wheat choux was once again lovely in flavour and warmly coloured. The cookie crust on top, flavoured to be a speculoos craquelin, was sugary and crisp, thicker than I expected, but so perfectly reminiscent of melon pan. The chestnut pastry cream had a smooth, silky texture, and the little bit of rum and caramel made it quite nice. It was, however, very runny! It was quite unpipeable, so any piping detail had to come from the generous amounts of whipped cream.
The éclairs are generously sized, though the bubble shape means that each can be divided into three portions quite easily. Next time I would make smaller bubbles or just make cream puffs (which would be delightful with the craquelin). Something to watch out for: the rounds should be touching when they are piped, but if they are too close, they may turn out a bit more oblong. So long as they touch edges, that should be sufficient. The craquelin can also be cut smaller than expected–the craquelin should not overlap between each mound of choux, especially as too much in the joint between the bubbles can make them more prone to coming apart (though into cream puffs!).
I think the cousin enjoyed them even though they were chestnut, not matcha.
chestnut éclairs with speculoos craquelin
Makes 6 very generously sized éclairs. Alternatively, would make around 18 rather nice cream puffs. The bubble éclair shape is inspired by Dorie Greenspan and her book Baking with Dorie.
whole wheat choux
A riff on the whole wheat and brown butter choux that I adored from last time. I made 6 oversized éclairs. I would suggest piping mounds that are smaller–maybe 2-3 cm in diameter instead of 3-4 cm for more reasonably sized éclairs.
65 g butter
150 g water
1 tbsp sugar
80 g whole wheat flour
around 2 eggs
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Place the butter in a saucepan and cook, stirring, until the butter solids and browned and fragrant. Add the water, sugar and salt (add carefully to avoid any splashing or spitting of the butter). Return to the heat and bring to a boil. Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until it forms a cohesive ball. Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs, a bit at a time, until the consistency is one such that the batter drops from the spoon.
Transfer into a piping bag.
Pipe 4-3 cm mounds. Top each with a round of frozen craquelin (see below).
Bake around 25 minutes or until well browned. Cut a small slit in the bottom and allow the steam to escape, and let cool on a wire rack.
Adapted from the cream puff cookie topping from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel.
85 g brown sugar
75 g whole wheat flour
a pinch or sprinkle each of ground cinnamon, cardamom, clove white pepper & nutmeg
50 g butter
Mix all ingredients together until it forms a cohesive dough. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a quarter sheet pan, place the dough on top, and cover with a second sheet of parchment. Roll out very thinly until the dough roughly fills the parchment paper in some sort of oval-type shape (1/16″). Slide onto the pan and then freeze until firm.
Cut out rounds around 3-4 cm in diameter (match to the size of the choux mounds).
chestnut and caramel pastry cream
Makes an excessive quantity of pastry cream. The pastry cream itself was too loose. I’ve been making very eggy pastry creams lately so this one has less egg.
140 g chestnut puree
270 g milk
50 g heavy cream
4-cm length of vanilla bean
25 g sugar
27 g cornstarch
15 g rum caramel (something made previously and lying around…recipe to be linked in future)
Press the chestnut puree through a fine sieve. Set aside.
Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the milk. Heat the milk mixture until steaming.
Whisk the eggs with the sugar and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly whisk in the steaming milk, then return to the saucepan. Cook, whisking constantly, over a medium heat until well-thickened and the starch tastes cooked.
Add one large spoonful of the pastry cream at a time to the chestnut puree and mix until smoothly incorporated. Lastly, mix in the caramel to sweeten to taste.
Whip the cream until stiff and transfer to a piping bag fitted with a star tip.
Slice each éclair in half. Dollop a generous spoonful of chestnut pastry cream into the bottom of the éclair. Pipe a generous amount of whipped cream over top, then cover with the top half of the éclair.