Last week I was invited by Darigold to attend a work shop in Seattle at their headquarters with French Pastry Chef Pierre Fauvet. I took the train from Portland to Seattle and loved the 3 hour train ride and two days in one of my favorite cities. The weather was perfect and the song “The bluest skies you’ve ever seen are in Seattle…” kept running through my head.
What a fun day! Not only did I learn lots about Darigold products but I learned some of the amazing secrets behind those delicious, to die for French pastries. We did a little taste test with some of Darigold’s products and their competitors. I was amazed at the taste difference. I have always been a Darigold fan but I am even more so now. Their heavy 36% classic whipping cream is to die for!
Tessa has been home for the holiday weekend so we decided to channel our inner French pastry chef and give the recipes a try at home to see if we could do it. Making French pastries is not hard it just takes time and lots of butter, cream and sugar!
Chef Pierre shared lots of delicious recipes with us and the best part was we got to taste them all. I was especially excited to learn how to make eclairs and cream puffs because this is something I had never attempted before and was a little intimidated by the whole concept.
It was easier than I thought when you know a few tricks.
The cream puff/eclair are made from the same thing and the french call it Pate a Choux. It is a combination of water, butter, salt flour and lots of eggs. The difference between an eclair and a cream puff is the shape and what you put inside it.
In France they bake and cook by weight so I pulled out my trusty kitchen scale. I am giving you the “American” way of measuring so don’t worry if you don’t have a scale.
The first step in the process of making eclairs and cream puffs is to make the Pate a Choux which is the “dough.”
After combining all your ingredients you actually cook the dough until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and doesn’t stick to the spoon.
The next step is to form your eclair or cream puff. I put the dough into a large pastry bag. Use a 1/2 inch plain tip in the bag and then pipe your dough onto a parchment covered cookie sheet. The picture on the left below shows you what the consistency should be like. Not too stiff and soft enough that it slides off the spoon when tilted.
The eclairs are about 4-5 inches long but you could make them any size you want. I made my cream puffs circular.
The dough is then baked at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. The trick to making cream puffs so that they don’t sink is to open the oven a few times through out the baking process to release the steam. I opened the oven 10 minutes into the process to release steam and then at 15-20 minutes turned the oven down to 350 and stuck a wooden spoon in the door to keep it ajar and continue baking until they are golden brown.
While they are baking you can make your pastry cream or custard which is what you will fill the eclairs with. It is a combination of milk, sugar, eggs, flour, cornstarch, butter and some vanilla. After stirring together your sugar and eggs add in the cornstarch/ flour. Then add in 1/3 of the heated milk into the egg mixture. And then pour it back into the remaining heated milk. Stir well as you bring all back to a boil so you get a nice smooth custard. Then add in your butter and vanilla and cool.
After your custard is cool you are ready to pipe it into your eclairs. Use a wooden spoon to make two holes in the bottom of the eclair. Using a pastry bag and a large tip pipe the custard into the eclair through the holes you made.
Now for the cream puffs. You will need some Chantilly cream to fill them, which is heavy cream (use the Darigold Classic 38% – it is amazing!) a little sugar and some vanilla. The heavy cream will really hold it’s shape nice and then using a large star tip fill your pastry bag with the cream and pipe into the cream puffs after you have trimmed the upper 1/3 off.
Put the top back on and then give them a nice dusting of powdered sugar. Chef Pierre got all fancy on us and made his cream puffs into swans!
Your next step is to enjoy!
Making eclairs and cream puffs is really not difficult and is quite fun. It is what I call Project Baking. It is not a quick and easy, throw together dessert. It takes some time and does make a bit of a mess (at least I made a bit of a mess) but let me tell you the rewards are well worth it! Just take a bite and then close your eyes and imagine yourself in Paris at a patisserie enjoying a cream puff and eclair!
- 2 C water
- 1 C unsalted butter (8 oz.)
- 1 tsp salt (1/4 oz.)
- 2 C flour, sifted (8 oz.)
- 7-8 eggs
- 2 C milk
- 3/4 C sugar (5 oz.)
- 7 egg yolks (4 oz.)
- 2 Tbsp cake flour (1/2 oz.)
- 4 Tbsp corn starch (1 oz.)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 Tbsp butter (1 oz.)
- 1 C heavy cream
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 squares semi sweet chocolate
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1 C powdered sugar
- 3 Tbsp milk
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Put water, butter and salt in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.
- Remove from heat and add the sifted flour.
- Beat the dough with a wooden spoon; Put back on heat and beat the dough for one minute or until it pulls away from the sides of the pan and doesn't stick to the spoon.
- Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl and add the eggs one at a time while stirring. The dough will be smooth and slightly loose.
- Using a 1/2 inch plain tip fill the pastry bag with mixture.
- Pipe eclairs or cream puffs onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Open the door 1-2 times to release the heat. Then lower the heat to 350 degrees and keep door ajar with a wooden spoon until they are golden brown.
- Cool completely at room temperature.
- Put milk in pan and bring to a boil.
- Whisk sugar and yolks together until the mixture whitens.
- Add in cornstarch/flour to sugar and eggs
- Pour a third of the hot milk into egg mixture and stirring as you add it.
- Pour the mixture back into the sauce pan and bring to a boil while whisking vigorously.
- Transfer to bowl and add vanilla and butter. Cool.
- Put into a pastry bag and pipe into the bottom of the eclairs through two holes you have made with the end of a wooden spoon. Fill the shell 3/4 full of cream.
- Over low heat melt chocolate and butter in sauce pan stirring constantly. Add in sugar and enough milk to make it a nice spreading consistency.
- Combine cream and vanilla in mixing bowl. Whisk till foamy and add sugar. Beat until soft peaks form.
- Cut off the upper 1/3 of cream puff and using a pastry bag full of cream with a large star tip fill each shell with cream. Replace top and dust with powered sugar.