Tuesday, June 1, 2010
My test drive of Tartine is winding down, and it has definitely earned a spot on my bookshelf. It's full of easy and accessible recipes, but this isn't one of them. While the final batch of eclairs was a delicious treat, this is definitely a labor of love. There are a LOT of steps. And ingredients. And it's a bit of a mess. Ok a huge mess. But when all was said and done and the final pastry had been dunked in chocolate, and the boy took a bite and grinned from ear to ear, I knew we had a winner.
We'll start with the pastry cream. It is sooooo delicious I'd eat it on its own. Set a strainer over a bowl. This will come in handy later when you need to cool your custard.
For the pastry cream:
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup + 1 Tb sugar
2 large eggs
4Tb unsalted butter
Have a bowl ready for cooling the pastry cream with a fine-mesh sieve resting in the rim.
Pour the milk into a heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and use the tip of a sharp knife to scrape the seeds from the pod halves into the milk. Add the salt, place over medium-high heat, and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally and making sure that the milk solids are not sticking to the bottom of the pam. The larger the batch, the more careful you need to be.
Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and sugar. Add the eggs and whisk until smooth.
When the milk is ready, slowly ladle about one-third of the hot milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking over medium heat until the custard is as thick as lightly whipped cream, about 2 minutes. In order for the cornstarch to cook and thicken fully, the mixture must come just to the boiling point. You want to see a few slow bubbles. However, if the cream is allowed to boil vigorously, you will curdle the pastry cream. Remove from heat and immediately pour through the sieve into the bowl. Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to release the heat and prevent a skin from forming on top.
Cut the butter into 1-tablespoon pieces. When the pastry cream is ready (it should be about 140F), whisk the butter into the pastry cream 1 tablespoon at a time, always whisking until smooth before adding the next tablespoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap directly onto the top of the cream. Chill in the refrigerator until cold.
For the choux paste:
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all purpose flour
5 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk, water, salt, sugar, and butter and place over medium heat until the butter melts and the mixture comes to a full boil. Add the flour all at once, stirring vigrously with a wooden spoon. Keep stirring until the mixture has formed a smooth mass and pulls away from the sides of the pan and some of the moisture has evaporated. This will take about 3 minutes.
Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time and mix on medium-high speed, incorporating each egg before adding the next. When all the eggs have been added, the mixture will be thick, smooth, and shiny. If making by hand, add the eggs one at a time and mix with a wooden spoon, incorporating each egg before adding the next.
Transfer the contents of the bowl to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip, adding only as much to the bag as is comfortable to work with. Pipe out fingers about 5 inches long and 1 inch wide, spacing them about 2 inches apart. If you end up with a bulge or "tail" at the end of the piping, you can smooth it over with a damp fingertip.
Bake until puffed and starting to show some color, about 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375F and continue to bake until the shells feel light for their size and are hollow inside, about 12 minutes longer. They should be nicely browned all over. Remove from the oven and, using a metal skewer, poke a small hole in the end of each shell to allow steam to escape. This keeps the shells from collapsing. Let cool on wire racks. They should be used as soon as they are cool enough to fill.
For the chocolate glaze:
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 Tb light corn syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream
Combine the chocolate and corn syrup in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to just under a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Let the mixture sit for about 2 minutes without stirring until the chocolate melts, and then stir gently with a rubber spatula until smooth and shiny. Let cool until just warm.
To fill and glaze the eclairs:
Stir the pastry cream until smooth (it must be very cold) until smooth and then spoon the cream into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip with a very small opening. It is easiest to to start with a hole in each end of the shell and fill from both ends if necessary. Sometimes pockets inside the shell prevent the pastry cream from filling the entire shell from a single hole. Fill the shells until they feel heavy. To glaze the eclairs, dip the top of each filled eclair into the glaze, shaking gently to allow the excess to drip off, then place upright on a wire rack and allow the glaze to set.
Serve the pastries at once, or refrigerate for up to 6 hours before serving. They should be eaten the same day they are filled.