Chocolatey Claire

Chocolate éclairs

Pastries. They just stare you in the eye don’t they. Not everyone is susceptible to their subtle flakey charm.
I am.
Anything cream filled. Custard filled. Chocolate filled, hang ANYTHING filled, and I’m like, “Hello!”
If its been a bad day, I always see myself heading down the gooey aisle, and then well, you know how the story ends.
Not only are these little monkeys filled with all things our mothers warned us about (Cream, Butter, Carbs, Sugar, you name it), but they can cost a pretty penny too. Doughnuts, custard slices, koeksisters can set you back from R8 upwards. AND not only do they present themselves in sweet form, but they come at you from all angles. Savoury pastries are just as delicious: mince filled vetkoek, flakey chicken pies, samoosas... Despite the warnings, I still hasten to their siren calls.

There is this café that is a 5 minutes walk from my work. They sell the most gorgeous samoosas. Despite my boss telling me they will go straight to my ass, I still find myself nipping off for a quick walk to the shop, ahem, now and again… My all time favourite pastry has to be chocolate éclairs. The friendship between me and a very good friend was brought together by a freshly made batch of these. If I mention the words, “cream”, “chocolate” and “bad preppy movie” together, she goes all misty eyed.

If I could eat chocolate éclairs everyday for the rest of my life. I would, I honestly would. I mean, how could you say no to the diabolical combination of chocolate, cream, and squishy bun. What more could you possibly want out of life? But, well, as most things in life, sometimes they look fabulous and when you bite into them you're like "urgh". Like those ones made with that hideous fake cream stuff floating around nowadays. Just pure nastiness really. Cream might be a bit more of a fickle monster to sculpt with , but its makes a huge difference to the flavour. And if its one thing I know, quality is très très important on the food front.

I once spent four hours making one good batch of profiteroles (the smaller version of an éclair), so through my sweat and toil I can give you a truly majestic recipe which works.

Secret 1: Dont add eggs whole, add them by mls, or in halves.
Secret 2: Do not open the oven. They will flop.
Secret 3: crank up the oven, because they have only air to leaven them, these guys need some major pressure to rise properly.
Secret 4: If you have a piping bag use it. They tend to ooze around a bit, and wont hold their shape 100%. Best to pipe them on the tray, and whack them in the oven as soon as you can.

For more on chocolate and its history.

10 things I will gladly eat myself fat on. 
Number 7: pastries.

Chocolate éclairs
(makes 25 mini ones)
Choux pastry:
140 ml/g water
55 g butter
115 g cake flour
4 medium eggs (med to large, not jumbo)

Preheat the oven to 180◦C
Heat the water and butter on the stove until just boiling.
Remove from the stove and add all the flour at once. Using a wooden spoon. Combine the ingredients, and replace back onto the heat. Beat together until all the ingredients come together and start forming a ball.
Remove from the heat and beat with a spoon for 5 minutes. Leave to cool.
When cool to the touch (5 to 10 minutes) add an egg and beat well.
Add the next egg when the mixture is smooth.
When adding the next two eggs look for the change in the pastry mixture. Your goal is to achieve a glossy mixture which still holds its shape, so add the next two eggs in stages.
Break the next (3rd) egg into a separate bowl, and mix it up. Add half of the egg to the choux mixture. Check the consistency of the pastry before adding the other half. Break the last egg into the separate bowl for mixing the egg, only adding enough egg so that the choux pastry is glossy but stiff enough to pipe, hold its shape and not ooze when on the baking sheet. The mixture is at the right consistency when it does not stick to the mixing spoon, and leaves soft peaks when the spoon is lifted.

Fit a plastic pastry bag with a round 1 cm nozzle. Fill the bag with the pastry. Pipe 5 or 8 cm long lines onto a greased oven tray and bake in a rising temperature oven (once you place them in the oven, turn the heat up to 200).
Place the eclairs in the oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
Remove from the oven, and puncture a hole in each pastry to release the hot air. Leave to cool and fill with cream and cover in chocolate icing.

Chocolate icing
10 g cocoa powder.
100 g icing sugar
1 Tbsp glucose
4 Tbsp water

Sift the cocoa powder and icing sugar together. Add the glucose and mix in the water. Spread over the eclairs once they have been filled with cream.

Eat immediately...