Thursday, August 27, 2009

How to show you care.

One of my favorite times to bake is when I'm baking to make someone feel better. It could be that they are sick, they had a bad day, or they just look like they need a treat. Baking is my way of showing that I care. I bake with love and when I share my treats I share my love. There isn't much that is better than surprising someone with a goodie and watching their face light up.

My father-in-law has been sick lately so I asked my husband what I could make that would make him feel good. He hasn't had much of an appetite so I didn't want to go overboard. My husband said that he remembered his father liking the eclairs at MacDonald's Bakery in Gardiner (weep weep, sniff sniff, how I miss you). I think I made eclairs once in high school but it was my mission to make the very best for my FIL!

Of course, I pick one of the hottest days of the summer to make these. Of course, the pastry cream didn't set up properly so I had to heat it back up. Of course, the chocolate glaze didn't thicken and I had to give it an ice bath. All of it was worth it! Including the look on his face when he bit into that eclair. I knew...for the briefest moment that he forgot how sick he was.

Source: Butter Sugar Flour Eggs by Gale Gand
Yield: 8

2 cups whole, 2 percent fat, or 1 percent fat milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

1 cup water
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 eggs, plus 1 extra, if needed (I needed it)

Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons water
Chocolate Glaze:
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

Filling: In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and vanilla bean to a boil over medium heat. Immediately turn off the heat and set aside to infuse for 15 minutes. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the cornstarch and whisk vigorously until no lumps remain. Whisk in 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture until incorporated. Whisk in the remaining hot milk mixture, reserving the saucepan. Pour the mixture through a strainer back into the saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until thickened and slowly boiling. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Let cool slightly. Cover with plastic wrap, lightly pressing the plastic against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Chill at least 2 hours or until ready to serve. The custard can be made up to 24 hours in advance. Refrigerate until 1 hour before using.

Pastry: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan, bring the water, butter, salt and sugar to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. When it boils, immediately take the pan off the heat. Stirring with a wooden spoon, add all the flour at once and stir hard until all the flour is incorporated, 30 to 60 seconds. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Scrape the mixture into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use a hand mixer). Mix at medium speed. With the mixer running, add 3 eggs, 1 egg at a time. Stop mixing after each addition to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy and the eggs are completely incorporated. The dough should be thick, but should fall slowly and steadily from the beaters when you lift them out of the bowl. If the dough is still clinging to the beaters, add the remaining 1 egg and mix until incorporated.

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip, pipe fat lengths of dough (about the size and shape of a jumbo hot dog) onto the lined baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between them. You should have 8 to 10 lengths.

Egg Wash: In a bowl, whisk the egg and water together. Brush the surface of each eclair with the egg wash. Use your fingers to smooth out any bumps of points of dough that remain on the surface. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake until puffed up and light golden brown, about 25 minutes more. Try not to open the oven door too often during the baking. Let cool on the baking sheet. Fit a medium-size plain pastry tip over your index finger and use it to make a hole in the end of each eclair (or just use your fingertip). Using a pastry bag fitted with a medium-size plain tip, gently pipe the custard into the eclairs, using only just enough to fill the inside (don't stuff them full).

Glaze: In a small saucepan, heat the cream over medium heat just until it boils. Immediately turn off the heat. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm. The glaze can be made up to 48 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use, and rewarm in a microwave or over hot water when ready to use.

Dip the tops of the eclairs in the warm chocolate glaze and set on a sheet pan. Chill, uncovered, at least 1 hour to set the glaze. Serve chilled.


Kacey said...

These probably wouldn't ship that well to me, huh?


bldvdb said...

Maybe I could ship myself to you! I miiiiiisssssss you, my friend!

Wilesthing said...

These look awesome, but FIL is right, MacDonald's were THE BEST EVER! Their eclairs are the single thing that I miss most about my hometown and childhood, followed closely by their warm chocolate sugared donuts on a Sunday morning. You need to find a way to replicate their chocolate frosting. That was what made it unique!

Anonymous said...

Hi There! I somehow stumbled across your blog and saw these. I died and went to heaven. I have to bake gluten free, and will be attempting to make these bad boys (gluten-free). They look delish!

Thanks for sharing :)

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