Friday, September 16, 2005

SHF#12: Cooking Up Custard - Mocha Eclairs

Do you have a pan especially for making custard? I do! Sort of, anyways. I mean, I can cook other things in it, I'm sure -

- but it's PERFECT for custards. Which is one of the reasons why I was thrilled, when Elise of Simply Recipes announced this months SHF-theme: Cooking up Custard. How can one not adore that velvety smooth, sweet and lovely scented creamy dessert? I for one love it!

Which brings me to a little ah-em. I'm not sure what I made would fit the classic category of custard. I mean, sure, it's got egg yolks, sugar, milk and cream - but it's also got corn starch. Actually, I'm pretty sure what I made would be classified as a creme patisserie. But heck - In Elise's mind, custard had something to do with egg yolks, sugar and milk/cream - she even said using custard powder was okay, so what harm might a little corn starch do??;-) Otherwise, I have a couple other suggestions for custardy desserts you can have a look here and here.

On to the project I took on for the 12th. edition of SHF (and btw - congratulations to my favorite on-line event! A whole year! May there be many more of them!!) Mocca Eclairs. My Stepmom taught me to eat these. I think I was 13 or 14 when she first introduced me to them, in a small patisserie somewhere in France. Coffee was not something I drank at that time, nor something I ever wished to learn how to drink - I thought the smell alone was bordering on vile - but these, OMG. Squidgy and soft in the middle, with a crispy and flaky exterior, topped with a tooth-achingly sweet layer of icing on top - it was love at first bite.

While it would have been only natural to make these for the last SHF, at that time, it just didn't spring to mind. So thank you Elise, for giving me an excuse to try making these myself!

Mocca Eclairs - adapted from Camilla Plum

For the Choux Pastry:

100 g. butter
300 ml. water
pinch of salt
1 tsp. sugar
100 g. all purpose flour
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 200 C. (Not fan-oven, these are little light creatures so they'll just whizz around in the oven if the fan is on!)

In a pan, bring butter, water, salt and sugar to the boil. Whisk in the flour - you'll have a sorta gummy-textured batter in the pan. Cook it thoroughly for a couple of minutes, while beating with a wooden spoon. Leave to cool.

Beat together the two eggs. Once the batter has cooled, add the egg, little by little, incorporating each splash before adding the next. It takes a lot of beating, but it will incorporate. You have to end up with a smooth, but not runny batter. I only used the equivalent of 1½ egg.

Transfer the batter to a piping bag, and pipe neat little rows of choux pastries out on baking sheets. Be sure to space them well apart, as they'll rise quite much when baking. I got about 14 (but lost a couple, see later)

Place in the oven, and bake for 20 minutes. Take one out, and see if it deflates (this is the part where your choux's might go down in number - I think I tried 2 or 3 like this). If it does deflate, give them another 5 minutes, then try with a new one. I ended up giving mine a total of at least 35 minutes - maybe my oven is not as warm as it prides itself of being! I like mine to be a little on the wet side when I take them out. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

For the coffee-infused custard:

4 egg yolks
85 g. sugar
small handful of (not-ground!) coffee beans
330 ml full-fat milk
25 g. corn starch
250 ml. whipping cream

In your pan, whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar. Add the coffee beans. In a bowl, whisk the cornstarch with a little of the milk, then add this and the rest of the milk to the egg yolk-mixture, whisking again.

Bring to the boil, while continuously whisking. Boil for about 5 minutes, until you have the desired thickness. Leave to cool.

When the creme is cooled, pick out the coffee beans. You could probably sieve it without problems, but I was afraid it might thin it more than I wanted, so I picked out each one, sticking my fat little fingers into the custard - which was quite a joy in itself! ;-)

Whip the whipping cream until a little harder than soft peaks form. Fold together the whipping cream and the custard. Transfer to a piping bag.

Now, for the assembly:

Pipe the custard into the cut-open choux pastries, using a piping bag (or if you have a nozzle that willl fit snugly into the pastry without you cutting it open, try filling them this way) Put back on the "lid", then drizzle with a mocca frosting, made by stirring a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar together with 2 or 3 teaspoons made coffee - voila!

They we're lovely! I brought them for our Friday Cake Club - a couple of girls at school and I have decided to jazz up our very long Fridays with a little cake, taking turns to bring something. The cream had a tinge of coffee, and the icing too - obviously. You could probably use a larger amount of coffee beans for infusing the custard - when I first tried it, without having added the whipped cream, I was afraid it might have too much coffee in it. Then after adding the whipped cream, I thought it might have been good had it been a little stronger. You could also add a little powder coffee to it, I suppose, but I didn't have any, so I left it as it was. I made the custard and the pastries on Thursday night, then folded in the cream and assembled the cakes Friday morning. Worked a charm and there was a lot of ooh-ing and ahh-ing.

I can't wait to see all of the custardy, smooth dreamy confections conjured up by all of you! Luckily, Elise has already started the round-up! Mmmmm, cream....


Cathy said...

Wow - those are impressive and sound delicious! I'd have never thought of mocha eclairs, but they look amazing!

Shauna said...

Oh my goodness. That first photo actually made me instantly, physically hungry. And the entire post--so thoughtfully done. I'm so very impressed. My first custard-making experience was a disaster. You're a pro!

Great job.

Dagmar said...

Mmmm, looks wonderful! And I just LOVE your pan!!

Zarah Maria said...

Thanks Cathy! And ugh - I just realized I've misspelled mocha all through the post - so much for spell check! Well, it will just have to do - if I start changing it now, the permalink will change, and I've already sent it to Elise. But y'all know what I mean, don't ya?:-)

Shauna - sorry 'bout that!;-p And I'm definitely no pro when it comes to custards - I'm always so darn afraid it will curdle! With this version, that's not a problem (because of the cornstarch), but as I said in the post, it's not really custard - you can't use it for say, crème brulée for example. And, as I alredy told you, yours might have been a disaster, but taught you something else that made it all worthwhile!

Dagmar - thank you! I love the pan too - it was a birthday present from Martin a couple of birthdays ago. I hadn't wished for it, but he saw it in the shop and fell in love with it, and figured I'd love it too.

Ana said...

Zarah Maria those eclairs look so good. You're a pro girl!

babe_kl said...

gosh they looked so scrummy

keiko said...

Hi Zarah - such gorgeous/perfect looking eclairs! I love coffee flavour in it, have you tried any other interesting flavours? (if so, please post about it for me...)

Nic said...

Hi Zarah. I don't know how I missed these earlier in the week, but they sound terrific! Great idea.

chili&vanilia said...

Hi Zarah,
I'm a regular reader of yours.
These eclairs look fantastic and I just want to let you know that after the review of the round-up of SHF I'm writing on my blog that from all 70 recipes this and another one I like the best. Sorry, it's in Hungarian.

Lori said...

These look too good. I don't really like eclairs, but I'd try yours. :)