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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Crème de la crème of ice cream from Mrs Whippy

Creme Brulee toffee
Summertime. That time of year when we look forward to flashing our legs, kicking on our thongs (flip flops just in case anyone gets the wrong idea – hello to my American readers!) and sitting outside around the barbeque – or just amongst the flies. Dining becomes al fresco and the sunlight seems endless (yes, even in Tasmania). This however, is not ideal hot chocolate or éclair consuming weather – they are more suited to the cooler months, which we get plenty of.

This dilemma aside, it is the season for ice cream and I just so happen to live with my very own Mrs Whippy! Granted, her whippyness only reappeared last weekend after a long hibernation and without Greensleeves music to herald her return, but she has not lost her touch with the ice-cream machine – or her fondness for what I would call ‘encouraging words’ in the kitchen to all appliances, crockery and ingredients! The kitchen can apparently be a stressful place…

So over the weekend, during my seasonal departure from hot chocolate and éclair sampling, I was able to satisfy my sugar-craving with homemade crème brûlée ice cream, made by my lovely sister (aka Mrs Whippy). And without any partiality, this was magnificent ice cream, tasting exactly like crème brûlée except a frozen version and with more toffee to get stuck in your teeth for hours. Unfortunately, we ate the whole bowl so I am hoping this is only the start of a summer filled with frozen delights 🙂 

Sit back and listen to the soundtrack of childhood summers with Greensleeves – the song guaranteed to have kids running onto the road in 5 seconds flat (regardless of fence height, yelling parents or oncoming traffic).

Creme Brulee icecream

Six ways to boost office productivity

La Maison de l'eclair8Last week was a particularly busy one.  In the busyness of preparing for our Welcome to Port celebrations at work to welcome RV Investigator to Hobart, sugar was one of the main ingredients to keep us moving (no time for a fruit run unfortunately).  On Thursday, at the peak of craziness, Samantha arrived from Sydney with six éclairs from La Maison de l’éclair in Bondi!  Somehow, she thought I was going to eat them all…that was never going to happen!  It was late afternoon before the éclairs were removed from the fridge, after a few queries from some ‘helpers’ about when we would be eating them.

The six éclairs were hazelnut, Mars Bar, Cherry Ripe, Bounty, pistachio and lemon meringue, and three were complete with macarons.  But pretty as they were, the challenge was too big for me.  Jenna took control of the Mars Bar éclair with salted caramel sprinklings on top, Ben devoured the Bounty éclair and told us all about how sweet it was with a pained look on his face all afternoon (practice needed for Ben!), Samantha (‘I will only have half please’) ate the full Cherry Ripe éclair in nearly less time than I ate mine, Tegan managed half of the pistachio éclair (I will sort out the second half), and I devoured the hazelnut éclair – macaron and all!  Lemon meringue still to go…

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These were the sweetest and prettiest éclairs I have tried since Paris and I am looking forward to visiting Sydney in the new year to visit La Maison de l’éclair and sample some more (perhaps their more petite versions so I can try the whole range – in a healthy way!).

I am quite sure that these éclairs helped us all get through a busy day and perhaps even kept us buzzing through to Friday…and we needed it!  Thank you Sam xx

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La Maison de L'éclair Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

An éclair found where?!

PNG Eclair deck
When I think of Papua New Guinea, visions of dense forests, beautiful water, tribal communities and heat spring to mind. Éclairs certainly do not! But they have a tendency to pop up in the oddest places…including Papua New Guinea! A friend of mine, Christine, and her family recently left Australia to live in Papua New Guinea, and she sent me this account of her surprise encounter with a Papua New Guinean éclair…

Since moving to Lihir Island in Papua New Guinea a month ago, I have come to realise that despite the idyllic surroundings, there are some things that are hard to come by. Like chocolate. And potato chips. And decent bread. And French pastries. And did I mention the horrifying lack of chocolate in this tropical paradise? But I digress…

Jason was out at a work dinner last night, and arrived home bearing a gift… not one, but three éclairs! It was certainly not what I would have expected to find on Lihir. I left my tasting until after lunch. My usual éclair companions were either at school or asleep, but I decided to go ahead regardless. Oh, who am I kidding. I had no intention of sharing!

They didn’t look too bad, and the top was covered in chocolate, rather than icing or glaze. Something I welcomed given my current chocolate “situation”. First bite revealed the pastry to be nice and light, however a little on the dry side. The cream patisserie was smooth, but distinctly custardy and bright, almost fluorescent, yellow. Obviously the chef had made good use of the “egg yellow” colouring available in the local supermarket. I finished the éclair while sitting on my deck taking in the view. It makes anything taste good!

It certainly wasn’t the best éclair I have ever eaten, but it wasn’t the worst either. Not a bad effort considering I was never expecting to write an éclair review in PNG!

Check out Christine’s adventures living on a tropical island at Our Life Is An Adventure
PNG eclair

Have cake, will travel

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Mums – they are special that’s for sure.  I am not going to claim having the world’s best mum (no offence mum!), but it is quite an overused expression.  I just have my mum (and a dad of course who is equally special) and she is a goodin’.  Last Friday was my birthday and I was supposed to travel home with my sister to stay with my parents for the weekend.  Unfortunately, on Friday morning, my sister woke with a migraine that had been persistent for over 24-hours.  The road trip was off, which was fine – we would just have a quiet weekend at home instead. I sent mum a text to tell her we would not be visiting after all, and no less than an hour later she called me to tell me that she was about to pack up the car and my dog, and as soon as dad was home from work THEY were hitting to road to come to us.  This, I will say, is totally unlike my mum.  She is a planner and does not do things like this at the last minute.  For a few moments, I morphed into my mum and was the one worrying about what I would cook, where they would sleep, how it was all going to work.  Mum was the relaxed, ‘it will be fine, I have food with me and we will work it all out when we get there’ type.  I must say, this is more dad-like behaviour.

And yes, this post does have something to do with food.  I am getting there!

So then mum gets to the real reason for her enthusiasms (aside from seeing her two lovely daughters).  She had made her first successful sponge cake for my birthday, and HAD to bring it down so we could see it!  Bless her.  So about 8 hours later with food, my dog, bedding and dad in tow, she arrives bearing the fruits of her labour – the sponge cake.  And her perseverance had paid off.  It was a great sponge – and who can go past a freshly made sponge filled with jam and cream?  That’s right – no one. It is like scones on speed really. And made all the better from mum’s enthusiasm and proudness of finally conquering her nemesis. Now, for her to teach me since my last attempt was hard as a rock and complete with lumps of egg and flour…

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From France, for choux…

Aix en ProvenceFriends. They are the people you can rely on to be brutally honest, listen to you ramble about nothing for hours, laugh with you until you cry, and so it would seem, sample éclairs in France in your absence. This friend is one of the best kind. And this is my friend, Samantha. During her visit last week to see her family in the south of France, Samantha bravely checked out the éclair scene and provided me with the following report (merci Sam)…with an interesting and slightly shocking ending

Well Aix-en-Provence proved to be a minefield of hidden gems, in the form of delicious French patisseries. Here was cake heaven! Having ‘popped my head’ into every sweet smelling boulangerie and patisserie we passed on the narrow cobbled streets, I finally gave into the smell of freshly baked baguettes & brioche and fell victim to the mini sized patisseries on display. As is always the case when in France, the array of choice makes it impossible to decide which treat to opt for, therefore I was obliged to buy 15 mini patisseries in order to not leave any feeling left behind (disappointingly they did have to be shared at a family gathering).

At this point I spotted a couple of ‘baby’ chocolate éclairs looking rather lonely. As a favour to my good friend Hayley, I just had to have them! My sister kindly assisted me in this important quest and also opted to have one. It was definitely, as the French would say, très bon! Nice light choux pastry, filled with chocolate yumminess. In fact I’d have been quite happy if it had been filled with more crème pâtissière.

All in all it was a good éclair and frankly it’s life span was pretty short. However, (never thought I’d admit this) I still find it hard to top Hobart’s Jean Pascal version

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The éclair revolution: taking over one Tasmanian kitchen at a time

The éclair revolution continues, with my friend Deb (and her friend Vicki), recently hitting the kitchen to whip up their very own éclairs which they dubbed, ‘Éclair Rustique’! Sounds like it was a fun afternoon…check out the full breakdown on Deb’s blog Living Life Large