November 21, 2012

Eclairs, Cream Puffs and Fruit Tarts...OH MY!

I've always wanted to make pastry cream because I love most everything that it goes into. With this particular pastry cream I made eclairs, cream puffs and fresh fruit tarts. Holy YUM. Before making this I was completely convinced that pastry cream was going to be one of the hardest things I've ever made. I was wrong, easy peasy!

Pastry Cream:
This recipe makes enough for either: one tart, 8 eclairs or 24 cream puffs.

2 cups half & half
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp (1/2 stick ) cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 & 1/2  tsp vanilla extract (Notes: I used my Costco vanilla and I found that the flavor was too strong. You could taste the alcohol in the cream- if possible use a vanilla that you know has a mild flavor.)

Heat the half & half, 6 tbsp of the sugar, and the salt in a medium, heavy-bottomed, sauce pan over medium heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.

In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Whisk in the remaining 2 tbsp sugar and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds. Whisk in the cornstarch until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 20 seconds.

When the half & half mixture reaches a full simmer, gradually whisk the simmering mixture into into the yolk mixture to temper. return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula. Return to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. Off the heat, whisk in the cold butter and vanilla.

Strain the pastry cream through a fine mesh sieve into a medium bowl. Press plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.

If you would like to make cream puffs or Eclairs this is the Pate a Choux for you!

Pate a Choux:

Makes Eclairs or 24 cream puffs

2 large eggs plus 1 large egg white
5 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
2 tbsp whole milk
6 tbsp water
1& 1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (2 & 1/2 oz.) all purpose flour, sifted.

Beat the eggs and egg white in a measuring cup or small bowl. You should have 1/2 cup (discard the excess). Set aside.

Bring the butter, milk, water, sugar and salt to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally. When the mixture reaches a full boil immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the flour with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until combined and the mixture clears the sides of the pan. Return the pan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, using a smearing motion, until the mixture is slightly shiny, looks like wet sand and tiny beads of fat appear on the bottom of the saucepan, about 3 minutes (the paste should be 175 - 180 on an instant read thermometer).

Immediately transfer the mixture to a food processor and process with the feed tube open for 10 seconds to cool. With the machine running, gradually add the eggs in a steady stream. When all the eggs have been added scrap the down the sides and process for 30 more seconds until a smooth paste is formed. 

Adjust oven rack to the middle and heat to 425 degrees F. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick spray and line with parchment paper. Set aside.

Fill a large pastry bag or if you don't have a pastry bag use a gallon zip to lock bag. Use a 1/2 inch plain tip or cut a 1/2 inch hole out of the corner of your zip bag. 

For Cream Puffs: Pipe the paste into 1 1/4  to 1 1/2 inch mounds on the prepared baking sheet. Spacing them about 1 to 1 1/4 inches apart. Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in cold water to smooth the tops of the mounds.

For Eclairs: Pipe the paste into eight 5 by 1 inch strips, spaced about 1 inch apart. Use the back of a teaspoon dipped in cold water to smooth and shape.

Bake for 15 minutes (DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR) , then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue to bake until golden brown and fairly firm. The texture should be crunchy not soft and squishy. About 8 to 10 minutes longer. 

Remove the pan. With a paring knife , cut a 3/4 inch slit into the side of each puff and on the top of each eclair to release steam. Return the pan to the oven. Turn off oven and prop the door open with a wooden spoon. Dry the puffs and eclairs in the oven until the centers are just moist and not wet and the outside is crisp, about 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 

The cooled puffs/eclairs can be stored at room temp for out to 24 hours or frozen in a zipper lock bag for up to 1 month. Before serving crisp room temperature puffs in a 300 degree oven for 5 - 8 minutes; crisp frozen puffs for 8 - 10 minutes.

For Cream Puffs: Use the tip of a knife to make a small X in the side of each puff, about halfway between the top and bottom. Pipe some pastry cream through the X. Fill each puff until the pastry cream starts to ooze out the side. Top with chocolate glaze or powdered sugar.

For Eclairs: Use the tip of a knife to cut around the sides of each eclair to remove the top third. Dip the top of each into the chocolate glaze, shaking off any excess, and transfer the tops to a wire rack to dry. spoon 3 - 4 tbsp of pastry cream into the bottom of each eclair. Once glaze has set, set the tops on the eclairs and press to gently secure.

Chocolate Glaze: Make while you puffs/eclairs are cooling.

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp light corn syrup

Heat in a small saucepan until thoroughly combined and completely melted.  Next time I will be making extra because I love the contrast of bitter chocolate to the sweet pastry cream. Sooo good.

Fruit tart - crust

I egg yolk
1 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp cold, unsalted butter. Cut into 1/2 inch cubes.

Whisk together the yolk, cream and vanilla in a small bowl, set aside. Place the flour , sugar and salt in a food processor and process briefly to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture; process to cut the butter until the dough resembles a coarse meal, about 15- 1 second pulses. With the machine running , add the egg mixture and process until the dough just comes together, about 12 seconds. Turn the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap and press into a 6-inch disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours.

Remove dough from refrigerator, unwrap and roll out between 2 lightly floured sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap to a 13 inch round. Transfer the dough to 9 to 9 1/2 inch tart pan. Ease dough into the pan and press dough against fluted sides. Prick the bottom and sides of the dough all over with a fork. Set the pan on a large plate and freeze for 30 minutes.  (or freeze up to one month in gallon zipper bag)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Set the tart pan on a baking sheet, press a square of foil into the frozen tart shell and over the edge, and fill with metal or ceramic pie weights. Bake for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights. Continue to bake until deep golden brown, 5 - 8 minutes longer. Set the baking sheet with the tart shell on a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

Spread the cold pastry cream over the bottom of the tart shell, using an offset spatula or large spoon. Arrange the fruit in rings around the tart. The tart can be refrigerated, uncovered, up to 30 minutes. Remove the outer ring of the tart pan and place the tart onto a serving platter.

Favorite fruit for tarts: Strawberries, raspberries, kiwis, and blueberries. 

Notes: As you can see I made mini tarts. I didn't have a large tart pan. On the mini tarts the bottom was a bit thicker that I would have liked so I will be using the usual tart pan next time. (I just bought it. Can't wait!)

RECIPES:  All directly from the amazing Brown Eyed Baker Here and Here

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