Fools do rush in…

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With the best intentions of updating my blog regularly while I was in France, it just did not happen 🙂  But now I am back home and sorting my photos of the eclairs I did try on my French sojourn.

In typical fashion when there are eclairs nearby, I moved quickly on my arrival in France. The setting of my first éclair, was a small park where I sat in the (low UV) sun and ate lunch, with the éclair tucked away for dessert.  This park was a little scant in the inspiration department for a photo background, so I had to settle for where I was sitting which faced a children’s green frog toy.  Admittedly, this is not my best shot.  And it was a precursor for what lay ahead.

Things took a nose dive when I started eating the éclair. I was not rewarded with the smooth, creamy crème pâtissière that I have come to love, encased in light and sweet choux, rather a stodgy choux with what seemed like ‘Yogo’ dessert filling.  That’ll teach me to rush for the first éclair I see!

Well, this was day 1 after all, so I reassured myself that I had much more time to find eclairs…and that I did 🙂  This day was still lovely though, with a quick stroll on the way home to a lovely park. Ahhh, France in spring time.

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Home-style hot chocolate: I need your tips

Now the weather is starting to warm up (earlier this year which will cut hot chocolate season short), I will feel less inclined to zip around every café I see for hot chocolate 😦 So, I thought this would be a good time of year (thinking of the cool spring nights) to ‘test drive’ some hot chocolate that can be made at home 🙂

So, what is your favourite hot chocolate to drink at home?

I have good supply of Mörk 85% Even Darker at home (the only place I have found that stock this in Hobart is Norman & Dann). Mörk also make 70% Original Dark, 65% Dark Milk & River Salt and 50% Junior Dark (I am pretty sure you can get all of these at Norman & Dann).

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Recently, I picked up some Coal River Farm dark hot chocolate and have started experimenting at home with this. I plan to try this with some ginger to hopefully achieve a nice ginger hot chocolate (once I get the balance right).

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So, rather than try out just these two so I can provide a comparison across taste and price ranges, send me some tips on which brands/styles of hot chocolate you make at home or want me to have a go at creating 🙂 I will happily share all (successful) recipes.

Thanks for the thanks, Pembroke

Wow! Following on from my recent blog about the éclairs I found in Wanaka, New Zealand, Pembroke Patisserie have been kind enough to add a link to my blog (and a lovely thank you) to their website. Evidence that eating éclairs leads to good things 🙂

For anyone planning to go to New Zealand, make sure you visit Wanaka on a Thursday and call in to the Pembroke Patisserie stall at the weekly Wanaka Farmers Market. You too can sit back and eat éclairs while taking in this magical view.

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Clever Cristel of Cafe de Paris

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A few weeks ago, my friend Samantha’s sister, Cristel, set up a mini patisserie at the Glebe Market in Sydney, Cafe de Paris. I am very envious of Cristel. She is a smart cookie (or macaron perhaps…!), and makes amazing éclairs. And the macarons look good too.

There is only one thing wrong with Cristel, and that is she now lives in Sydney but really should move back to Hobart and open a patisserie. Goodness knows it is needed and there is definitely a gap in the market!

To prove how clever she is, I have posted some pictures of Cristel and her lovely French treats, which were taken at the Glebe market.

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Hayley the pâtissier…c’est possible?

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Who needs a local pâtisserie (which we don’t have), when I am around?! Last weekend I attempted for only the second time, to make éclairs. Armed with all the ingredients, a spare afternoon and a slightly unreliable oven, I set out to improve on my last effort which were slightly overdone and contained crème pâtissière which was a bit too thick. The first tray of éclairs into the oven were interesting shapes. It took a while to get used to using the piping bag again, but by the second tray, I had it down pat. Éclairs cooked, it was time to move onto the vanilla crème pâtissière and for wait for that to cool before I could squeeze it into the pastry. Waiting, waiting, waiting…and then it was ready 🙂

Once the crème pâtissière was in and the éclairs were nicely puffed up with the filling, I made chocolate ganache to top them off. The 70% dark chocolate was a nice bitter accompaniment to the sweet filling – and also a sticky mess!

Since I made these éclairs, and had spent most of the afternoon in and out of the kitchen, my thoughts on how good they were may be biased. But they were pretty good. The pastry was much lighter than my first attempt, the crème pâtissière was a good consistency and tasted great, and the chocolate helped balance out the sweetness. I actually went as far to claim to my sister that the pastry might have been better than Jean-Pascal’s…at which point she told me not to get too excited (I still think it was).

The only downfall was that I forgot to double the crème pâtissière recipe, so I ran out. I filled the good éclairs (batches 2 and 3) and left the others (batch 1) unfilled.

Since I am quite quick to critique other éclairs on this blog, I thought it only fair that I seek an independent review. I took three éclairs to work with me for three ‘testers’ to try. The feedback was good. Tester 1, Ben, claimed they were better than La Maison de L’Éclair in Sydney (thank you Ben), Toni said she could have eaten another one (thank you Toni), and Tegan provided me with a written review…so here is what she thought:

1. Looks proper. Good weight. Smells like chocolatey goodness!
2. First taste. Soft pastry with perfect choux. Even though it’s been refrigerated the chocolate is still melting onto fingers which is a good sign.
3. Two bites in. Deargodvanillabeancustardi’minheaven.
4. Three bites in: I am having trouble typing because my eyes are rolling back in my head from pure bliss.
5. Five bites in. It’s nearly over and I’m getting a little upset….
6. It’s finished. I’m coming to eat Ben’s.

Overall: Utterly delicious. The best part was that it wasn’t too sweet, the chocolate had a good level of bitterness which complimented to silky smooth custard perfectly. Even straight from the fridge it was very flavourful (I was too impatient to wait for it to warm up).

Well done Hayley! Consider me your future guinea pig for all treats!

Here is a photographic journey of my afternoon…

Step 1: Get all the bits ready
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Step 2: Stand back and marvel at all the odd sizes and vow to get better next time
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Step 3: Make crème pâtissière and hope it works
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Step 4: Get ganache on the go and wonder if this all took so long last time
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Step 5: Decide against waiting for ganache to set and bite into éclair. Consider career change…
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Winter is coming…

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…or so they say multiple times an episode in Game of Thrones! But it really is coming soon and I need to start getting ready so I am adequately prepared for both winter and hot chocolates. I found this ‘lovely’ jumper online…are there any knitters out there (hello, Karen!) who would like a project to take on? I cannot knit straight lines to save myself, but imagine how fantastic I would look in this?! Now, if it had a hood…