It is amazing what a good creme pâtissière will do for a bad relationship.
As I mentioned earlier, we have known Claire for some time after we were cast to play her BFFs in Romeo + Juliet. Life started to imitate art and Baz got jealous that his leading lady/young ingénue was spending all of her time with the bit players, rather than sipping tea in the trailers with the stars.
We have had our issues with Claire over the years (I don’t want to bring it up again, but ask Mary-Louise Parker), but I will always say how humble she is with those she connects with in such a deep way.
We decided that following the aforementioned ugliness of the last decade, we should make something sweet and inviting (like Billy Crudup wa…sorry, we’ve moved on) to put Claire at ease in the Bitchin’ Kitchen.
We also thought a coffee date was most appropriate to commence rebuilding our friendship, as she could bail quickly if it turned to crap.
Thankfully one batch of Éclair Danes were enough to get us back on track and at the end of our date our hearts were as light and fluffy as the pastry and the love between us restored.
Our dear friend Martha Stewart gave us a great tip when baking éclairs (we joke it is one of her prison rules), run a fork down the top to help them raise evenly and look perfect.
We obviously listened (not just because we are scared to disobey Marth) because you can’t use misshapen pastries to mend fences.
75g butter, chopped
¾ cup (180ml) water
¾ cup (110g) plain flour
Seeds scraped from ½ vanilla bean (you can make vanilla sugar with the other half)
190g egg yolks
190g caster sugar
75g unsalted butter, chopped and softened slightly
125g dark chocolate, chopped
40g butter, chopped, extra
Preheat the oven to very hot (240°C). Combine the butter and water in a medium saucepan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter is melted. Bring to the boil — do not let the water boil for longer than necessary while melting the butter as it will evaporate and affect the balance of ingredients. Immediately add the sifted flour and salt — all at once. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon over medium heat until the mixture leaves the side of the pan and forms a smooth ball.
Transfer mixture to small bowl of an electric mixer. Add three of the eggs, one at a time, beating on low-speed until combined. Lightly beat remaining egg and add enough to form a thick, glossy dough.
Using a piping bag with a 1.5cm plain tube, pipe 11cm lengths of pastry, 3cm apart, on greased oven trays; cut ends neatly with wet knife. Bake in very hot oven for about 10 minutes or until pastry has tripled in size. Reduce temperature to moderate (180°C), bake for 20 minutes or until pastry is lightly browned and crisp.
Cut the éclairs in half, remove any soft centre, then return to the oven for about 5 minutes to dry out. Cool the éclairs on a wire rack.
Heat the milk and vanilla seeds in a medium saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling. Remove from heat.
In a bowl, whisk the yolks, sugar and cornflour until thick and pale. Gradually whisk in the hot milk.
Return the mixture to the pan and whisk continuously over medium heat until the custard comes to the boil. Boil for 1 minute.
Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it onto the surface to prevent a skin forming and cool until 50°C, then whisk in butter until smooth
Cover with plastic wrap as before and refrigerate to cool completely. Whisk prior to use.
Chocolate Glaze (and assembly)
Melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl over a pan of just simmering water.
Spread the top half of each éclair with chocolate mixture, allow to set. Just before serving, spoon custard cream filling into bases and replace chocolate tops.