I was feeling strangely in the mood for a challenge this afternoon, and decided to attempt a recipe with three components that I was capable of  screwing up: chocolate eclairs. I was tempted to make these after reading Gary Mehigan’s excellent book “Comfort Food” that I picked up for under $25 at Target. Regular readers of this blog will know that I had great success with Gary’s triple chocolate brownies – he’s also the reason I’m considering watching Australian MasterChef this year.

First I made the choux pastry, using the recipe from Gary’s book:

ingredients
125ml milk
125ml water
pinch of table salt
100g unsalted butter, chopped; plus 30g softened
150g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon caster sugar
4 free range eggs

method

  1. preheat fan-forced oven to 180C (355F).
  2. Bring the milk, water, salt and the 100g butter to the boil in a heavy based saucepan over high heat. Add the flour and sugar and, using a wooden spoon, stir for 1 minute or until it thickens and begins to leave the side of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and cook the mixture for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly – it should leave the side of the pan and be quite smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.
  3. Beat the eggs into the paste one at a time with a wooden spoon, making sure the paste is smooth before adding the next egg. Add the 30g soft butter and beat in.

I was happy with my finished choux mixture, and the next step was to pipe twelve eclairs onto a baking tray in 9cm lengths using a 1.5cm nozzle. Not having such a nozzle, I decided to use the so-easy-when-they-do-it-on-TV plastic sandwich bag with the corner cut off. But we didn’t have any of those either. Thankfully I managed to find one that was being used to store some hundreds & thousands, so into the bin they went and on with the show. Perfect! Until the bag split after piping the second eclair.

After a quick tantrum I arranged the remaining mixture in log-shaped lumps using my hands, in a fashion that would no doubt have several great French pâtissiers turning in their graves. With nothing left to lose, I placed them in the oven as per Gary’s recipe at 180C for 25 minutes, followed by 10 minutes at 160C (320F) to dry them out.

The two that I piped looked like this:

And this one looked like a dead hamster:

Gary’s recipe uses fondant for the chocolate coating but I didn’t have any, so I hit the web for a few suggestions and ended up melting 60ml cream and 200g of Nestle milk chocolate melts over a low heat, then stirring in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to produce a glossy spreadable chocolate mixture. For the cream filling I followed Gary’s recipe and whipped together 200ml cream with 50g caster sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (in place of the 1/2 vanilla pod).

Against my better judgment, I decided to be fancy and try to inject the cream into the eclairs using my Tupperware squirty thing rather then cutting them in half. I found it quite hard to judge how much to put in; in the end some were underfilled and some disturbingly ruptured mid-squirt. Whenever I’ve seen chefs do it on the TV it never looks like they’re putting much in; now I know why.

So here they are, filled with cream & covered with chocolate goo – and surprisingly tasty. Anyone for a chocolate coated dead hamster?