The scene was set. Tension was building. The ingredients were all ready to mingle. Enter me. Novice éclair chef with with so much hope and enthusiasm to make this a success. Absolutely no chances were taken on this mission. Ingredients were measured to the millilitre and gram, utensils and trays were prepared. The KitchenAid (cheating a bit to save my already muscular arms!) was ready to purr into action. And most importantly, the oven was preheated (it’s surprising how often I overlook this step!).
The National Éclair Day bake off began. After some initial concern over the consistency of the choux in the mixer, it all of a sudden pulled itself together and formed into a beautiful golden ball. Just like it was supposed to. Then there was a dilemma of whether to add the fifth egg. But I remembered my (2 hour not so intensive) training in Paris to do the claw test with the choux. Scoop a little bit out with your finger (with the mixer off of course!) and the top should fall back slowly and form a ‘claw’. That looked great so I knew the choux was good.
Then for the piping. I did not want to make my éclairs too big in case I ended up with a tray full of éclairs stuck together. Not ideal. So I went for shorter, and somehow, fatter éclairs (maybe it was a sign?!). I popped them into the oven and waited. I was told in my cooking class that they should look browner than you think they need to be – well I certainly achieved that! None were burnt, but all ovens vary, so I am thinking 3 minutes less in the future would be perfect. Éclairs were cooled and crème patissiere made. Too easy. And because it was so easy, it only made me wonder more about the craze with whipped cream. Bizarre.
The ganache was the only hiccup of the day, with it requiring some time in the fridge to thicken slightly. But it is so good! The other tricky part (and I now realise I need to make more crème patissiere next time and get a longer piping attachment) was filling the éclairs. Come hell or high water I was not cutting them in half for the ‘salad roll’ look, but with the help of previously disgraced sister, we got there.
Now for the important part – the taste test. I can see areas for improvement (more crème patissiere and 3 minutes less cooking time). But they are very good if I do say so myself. My fellow testers (sister and brother-in-law, so completely impartial) said they were ‘good’ but neither of them are big on words! They did concur with me that I need more crème patissiere. Noted. Now for me to inflict them on my colleagues in the office tomorrow…they will love them I hope!