Friday, December 2, 2011

FRANGIPANE ÉCLAIRS

The Paradoxical Son


Winter rolls in on a wave of misty white, the fog hanging heavy and cruel over the city. The icy chill penetrates every pore of one’s body and no matter what one does, no matter how many blankets or pairs of socks, the cold has simply moved in. But the gloom and gray of an autumn day doesn’t dampen my excitement for the onset of winter and the coming of the festivities. The holiday spirit seems to have arrived and settled in, as the bustling marketplace is alive with shoppers pushing their way towards stalls overflowing with seasonal treats. Garlands of gold and silver sneak their way in, Santas pop up on velvet hills of snow and visions of sugarplums, smoked salmon and oysters dance in my head. The first strains of Winter Wonderland and Rudolph signal the beginning of the Christmas season.


I’ve been as busy as an elf, planning organizing, packing and unpacking as I unwind from one trip and prepare for the next. How did this ever happen to me? Old homebody that I am, I sit and tick off the places that I’ve been in the past year on my fingers, astonished and bemused. Husband teases me, friends laugh at my new jet-setting lifestyle and already have my name engraved in the annals of the rich and famous. As I sat and began to type this post, snuggled back in yet another train seat, the landscape sliding by smooth and silent, I chuckled to myself and wondered, once again, how I arrived here.


I have just returned home from a sensational weekend, an early holiday gift, if you will. When I opened up the email that popped up unexpectedly in my in box, something told me that it was no ordinary mass mailing, yet another “Dear Life’s a Feast” or “Hello Jamie, you have a wonderful blog” and then leading into the same old sales pitch. Delete, delete, delete. Just not interested. But once in a while an email pops up that I can just sense is different, personal, something that has heft and meaning. And it still never fails to astonish me. The last contained an invitation to speak in Oman and this, well, an invitation to discover Cognac.


Three whirlwind days, a group of fabulous bloggers, now new friends, quite a number of knowledgeable, sweet, generous, fun folks from Martell Cognac and Balistikart all made for a glorious voyage. Thoughts of the luxurious, historical surroundings and the rich, smoky Cognac filling up our hours are swirling through my head, thoughts that still must be organized and lined up like well-behaved schoolchildren, ideas that still must be matured, aged like fine cognac, that must be given time to prepare themselves, bubble up to the surface like fruit finally ripe for the picking. Or fine cognac ready to sip. A weekend brimming over with activity from that first meeting, that first Parisian meal at Les Closerie des Lilas, an evening that ended with our group crowded merrily together around old wooden tables downstairs in the bar, late into the night, clinking glasses and chattering together as old friends used to gathering together for a nightcap, to that final, sad train trip back home, sad because we wanted it to last yet another few days, so happy we all were together.


My baking has become somewhat sporadic of late. Put it down to the laziness that a change of weather engenders, the indolence that gray, rainy days of autumn provoke. Or it could simply be the general lack of ideas, the brilliance usually blazing through my brain is muddled and hazy. Or maybe I have been distracted by too much excitement; the festivity in the air, the glorious trip to Cognac, that thinking about my own blog just pulls up a blank. The holidays approach, the gift suggestions, the wishes and desires, the hints just a tad louder than a mere hint, fly through the air and bounce off the ceilings and walls, welcomed by smirks, knowing grins and faux-confused looks. I can’t sit still, can’t concentrate, I spend my time dancing through the apartment, swinging through JP’s office, rubbing my cheek against Marty’s soft, warm, confused head and then heading into the kitchen to, well, let’s bake today! My alter-ego Ilva sits on the other side of the screen, keeping me focused, making me laugh, sending me informative links and pushing me to work. And then Clem arrives home, bursting into the apartment on a whirlwind of activity, dropping bags and books, kicking off shoes, tossing coat, sweater and scarf onto the chair and scooping up Marty in one seamless movement. He finally swoops into my room where he inevitably finds me typing (and chatting) and asks, “Have you made them yet? Where are my éclairs that you promised?” So anxious has he been for me to make his favorite sweet treat that he actually bought and offered me a tiny book on éclairs. “No excuse not to make these for me now!” he chortles. But planning for my trip pushed it all out of my head….

You see, my son often goes through very long periods boycotting my baked goods, upset that I bake too often and bake what he doesn’t specifically ask for. Yet another reason that I have been baking less often. So when he desires something, ask expressly for this or that, I can’t but be pleased, I can’t but want to fulfill his request. And now with the holiday spirit having taken over my body and my brain all abuzz, now that the sun has once again burst through the dreary, bleary bleakness of an autumn grappling with winter for control, I push myself away from my laptop and head to the kitchen, laden down with bowls, whisks, scale and baking trays. I flip open the book to the page carefully marked by son and begin.

Adapted from recipes in Éclairs by Marianne Magnier-Moreno, I made éclairs filled with Frangipane Cream Filling. I followed her recipes, finding that I much prefer my own recipe for choux, which come out lighter, more delicate on the inside, crispier on the outside. Her frangipane filling was delicious but not at all adapted to a filling for éclairs, so I whipped heavy cream and beat half the quantity of frangipane into it, making a light, cool, tasty whipped filling for the choux. Perfect. Topped with slivered almonds and dusted with a shower of powdered sugar, the Frangipane Éclairs made for a delicious dessert; JP and Clem each ate two. I will be making éclairs again shortly as I am now inspired to return to my old, faithful, perfect recipe for choux and fill them with something creamy and chocolate and, most definitely, spiked with Martell Cognac.


Changes I would make to this recipe: I would use my own choux recipe. Beating the cookbook’s Frangipane into whipped cream was a fabulous decision, creating a cool, creamy and light filling tasting of Almond Frangipane without being heavy at all.

FRANGIPANE ÉCLAIRS

From Éclairs by Marianne Magnier-Moreno

PASTRY CREAM
Crème Pâtissière

2/3 cup (165 ml) whole milk (I used half whole, half lowfat)
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbs + 2 tsps (35 g) granulated white sugar
1 Tbs + ¼ tsp (8 g) flour
1 Tbs + ¼ tsp (8 g) cornstarch
Small pinch salt

ALMOND CREAM
Crème d’Amandes

5.5 oz (155 g) finely ground almonds
5.5 oz (155 g) powdered sugar, sifted
5.5 oz (10 Tbs + 2 tsps / 155 g) unsalted butter, softened
2 tsps dark rum
1 tsp vanilla

ÉCLAIR/CHOUX PASTRY

1/3 cup (80 ml) milk
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
5 Tbs (70 g) unsalted butter
1 large pinch salt
1 Tbs (10 g) granulated white sugar
4/5 cup (100 g) flour
2 large eggs
Large handful slivered blanched almonds for decorating
Powdered sugar for serving

7/8 cup (200 ml) heavy whipping cream

Prepare the Frangipane (Pastry Cream and Almond Cream):

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Spread the finely ground almonds on a large baking sheet.

Begin by preparing the Pastry Cream: Vigorously whisk the egg yolks with half the sugar and the salt in a large mixing bowl until blended and thickened. Whisk in the flour and cornstarch until a thick, smooth, lump-free paste is formed. Heat the milk with the rest of the sugar in a medium pot over high heat until the first bubbles appear. Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture in a stream while whisking vigorously to prevent the eggs from cooking. Once the hot milk has been whisked into the eggs, pour it all back into the pot and return to the heat. Whisking continuously, cook the pastry cream over high heat until it comes to the boil and then allow it to boil, whisking nonstop, for 1 to 2 minutes until the pastry cream is thick and luxuriously fluid. Remove from the heat and scrape the pastry cream into a small heatproof/Pyrex bowl or mixing cup, cover with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the pastry cream and refrigerate until chilled.

Prepare the Frangipane: Slide the ground almonds into the preheated oven and allow them to roast for 10 minutes; remove them from the oven and scrape into a bowl or platter and allow to cool. Place the butter in a pot over low heat and when the butter is only half melted, pour into a heatproof mixing bowl, whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth and then whisk in the roasted ground almonds, the rum and the vanilla. Remove the now chilled pastry cream from the refrigerator and whisk into the almond cream until well blended and smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill.

Place the heavy cream in the refrigerator to chill along with a medium-large mixing bowl and the beaters from an electric mixer/beater to chill as well.

Prepare the Choux for the Éclairs:


Preheat or reduce the oven temperature to 300° (150°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment or oven paper.

Place the milk, the butter cut in cubes, the sugar and salt in a pot and heat over high heat. Bring to the boil and allow to boil for about 3 seconds. Remove from the heat and add the flour all at once. Stir to blend and then mix vigorously until it is homogenous.

Return the pot to the heat and “dry” the dough by stirring vigorously and cooking for 30 seconds to 1 minute until the dough no longer sticks to either the pot or the spatula. Allow to cool slightly.

Lightly beat the eggs then whisk or beat into the dough a little at a time. Add a little more than 2/3 of the egg or as much as just under the full 2 eggs (you should have at least a tablespoon of egg left), and the dough slowly falls off the spoon or spatula when lifted (not too fast).

Spoon the choux dough into a pastry bag fitted with a plain, 3/4 –inch (20 mm) wide tip. Holding the pastry bag at a 45° angle from the baking sheet, pipe/push out even, regular tubes of dough 5 ½-inches (14 cm) long or into large mounds, slicing the end away from the tip with a sharp knife. Leave space all around the choux/éclairs as they puff up and spread while baking.


Using your fingertips or a pastry brush, gently rub and coat the éclair dough with the egg, smoothing the shapes as needed. Sprinkle generously with slivered almonds (pressing them on if necessary). Bake for about 1 hour until puffed and evenly colored a deep golden. You can prop the oven open slightly the last 5 or 10 minutes of the baking to allow steam to escape.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack.


Finish the Cream Filling:


Using the chilled beaters and bowl, whip the chilled heavy cream until thick and peaks hold. Beat in up to half of the Frangipane, about 2 tablespoons at a time, until blended. This should leave you with a deeply almond-flavored whipped cream. Using a serrated bread knife, carefully and gently slice each éclair lengthwise in two and pipe Frangipane Cream Filling onto the bottom half, cover with the top half, carefully move to a plate and dust generously with powdered sugar and serve and eat immediately.

56 comments:

jen laceda said...

I just discovered your blog...and I love it!!! But you know what I love more? Almonds and eclairs!!! LOL! This would be a perfect treat for me! Well done, well done! I'm definitely bookmarking your blog!

Jamie said...

@jen laceda: Thanks so very much! You just made my day! Welcome!

WiseMóna said...

Wow. This is a labour of love. The Chef does make éclairs at work on occasion but you can't make any money on them because of the amount of work involved.... I wish I had one right now with a nice cup of strong black tea. Cold, wet and rainy here in Galway today. Have a great weekend Jamie xx

Cornflower Kitchen said...

Wowe, great pics, these look delicious. I adore eclairs (especially the chocolate variety)...

Baker Street said...

Gorgeous clicks Jamie! I'd love an eclair right now! Love the almond cream.

I almost never make it because it does call for a lot of effort. Your post however has given me that nudge to finally pick up the whisk and get down to it.

Jamie said...

@Baker Street - it is time consuming but not at all difficult with the right recipe.

Reva said...

Wonderful sweet treat for this season.. Prefect..:)))
Reva

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Beautiful éclairs! They look perfect and could be exposed in the window of a Parisian bakery.

I am so happy to hear that you are popular and get to travel a lot! Congrats.

Cheers,

Rosa

Bunkycooks said...

Yes, it has been a wild ride for you recently! I am so excited that good things are coming your way. I would love for you to sneak a few of these eclairs in your suitcase in March!! A few of them and a bit of cognac and we will be all set!

Nikki said...

Oh man, these look decadent! Looks like you put a lot of work into them too...they came out gorgeous! I love that purple plate too!

Vanessa said...

Wow these are beautiful!

Laura@howtocookgoodfood said...

This is my first visit to your blog and I totally love it. Your eclairs are a marvel to look at! :-]

tasteofbeirut said...

AS I am reading I am reflecting on how as women and mothers, you still find it natural for your son to request baked things and for you to comply and even be happy doing so; you would not think of saying "hey I am a jet-setter right now and have no time for this". Well, good for you! These eclairs are tops and so are you!

Jamie said...

@laura@howtocookgoodfood: Welcome! And thanks! Thrilled you love my blog!

@TasteofBeirut: Joumana, you are so funny, your comment made me giggle. I think one can be a jet setter and a mom, too, right?

Jeanne said...

Jet setter ;) I have not had an eclair in years - although when I was a teenager my favourite thing in all the world was an eclair filled with chocolate cream! Love the addition of almonds to these for crunch :)

Yuri - Chef Pandita said...

Lovely pics, Jamie! I think these are the prettiest eclairs I've seen :) xoxo

Laurel said...

Wow that sounds great. I was just thinking of making eclairs and these look delicious!
If its any consolation my sons (5, 3, and 2 1/2) frequently request chocolate souffles, order eggs, bacon and pancakes for breakfast and lately my 3 year old has been asking to 'make' with me. I love that they are spoiled with delicious food ;)

Fahad Khan said...

Hi!I just found you through twitter.:-)
These pictures look so beautiful,so professional.
As you suggested to eat these eclairs immediately,when it comes to pastries and bakes(desserts),I do believe the sooner you eat them,the more divine they taste.People wolf them down within seconds anyway!
I love it so much that I am noting/bookmarking this recipe,tweeted it as well!

Barbara said...

Lovely photos Jamie.

My first attempt at making choux pastry was a disaster. I was about 12 and making them for my Dad. I can still remember him trying to say something nice about them.

Jamie said...

@Fahad Kahn: Thank you so very much, your kindness is very much appreciated! I must say though that some desserts actually get better with time, but these are best eaten as soon as possible....yet savored! Welcome to my blog!

Sanjeeta kk said...

Making your own ÉCLAIR/CHOUX PASTRY..Ahmm..hats off to you Jamie the perfect baker and a loving mom! Hope your son enjoyed what he demanded.

Jamie said...

@Barbara: I actually make my dad's choux pastry recipe (not this one rather the one I link back to) and it comes out perfect every time! Try again! It is fun and easy!

@Sanjeeta KK: Thanks, darling! He really enjoyed these as did husband. They are gobbling them down! And no biggie; I love making choux pastry and actually find it easy! You should try it!

Michael Olivier said...

Oooh - you are so clever. All my favourite flavours in one thing. Yummy rich sweetened cream, crunchy almonds and the most ethereally light pastry. Make up the bed in the spare room, I am moving in! Mxx

Jamie said...

@Michael Olivier: Michael, darling, you move in and I'll make a fresh batch of these! Room is empty and I'll just give it a clean.... you are always welcome! x

Shelby said...

Gorgeous - and I love the flavor of almonds, it is my absolute favorite.

Carolyn said...

Dear Jamie. What a great blog you have, can I sell you the Brooklyn Bridge? ;)
But in all seriousness, these are gorgeous. Love the flavour of these eclairs, how divine.

Tickled Red said...

Jamie you have out done yourself! And your boy doesn't know what he's missing out on by boycotting anything that you make...then again, yes he does ;D On my next day off I am trying these.

A Spoonful of Yumm said...

i LOVE eclairs and the almond flavor looks delicious. i'm so tempted ;-)

Anne said...

They look amazing!

Priya said...

Eclairs looks absolutely fabulous and irresistible.

A Canadian Foodie said...

Absolutely stunning - a sensational post. I swear that is my own mother in the second photo of the gals - she is carrying the extra large plaid suitcase. I cannot wait to try to make these... and your story is captivating and such an enjoyable morning read with my coffee. Just wish I had an eclair! I adore almond anything. In San Fran they had marzipan stuffed croissants and they were almost irresistible! :) V

Jamie said...

@A Canadian Foodie: Val, those almond croissants are right next to the croissants and pains au chocolat in every bakery in France and we love them! Oh I should make them now!

Barbara | Creative Culinary said...

It's all been said and I couldn't agree more. The flavors alone made me come look and the look sealed the deal. I wish I had one too...with you and Mona!

Priscilla - She's Cookin' said...

Nothing makes me happier than having my College Girl make special requests :) Her absence has definitely contributed to my decreased motivation in the kitchen. Your eclairs are as close to perfection as I've ever seen!

Junglefrog said...

It sounds like you have taken over our mist.. We're now in full storm mode over here and it's been dark, rainy and windy the last couple of days but actually I love that when the christmas lights starts to twinkle and everything just seems a little bit more special. And wow, you discovered cognac! (gotta confess I do not like cognac but Tom loves it) These eclairs look absolutely delicious!!

Robin said...

Oh, I wish I could just grab that beauty off the plate, so gorgeous. I can just taste it.

I can picture you on the train. Tap, tap, tapping thoughtfully with a just a hint of an inner smile. Travel well Jamie! I'm with you, traveling vicariously.

Cake Duchess said...

oh wow! unbelievably gorgeous and delicious. How I wish you were a little closer so I could've been there baking these with you. When I was little, chocolate eclairs were my favorite dessert;)xo

Margaret Murphy Tripp said...

This is my favorite kind of dessert. Cool, creamy and subtle. I just love it. Beautiful.

Linda Harding said...

Jamie, if heaven had a signature dessert, I am positive that these éclairs would be it! Absolutely beautiful, as always!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

What a delicious idea filling them with frangipane! And yes towards the end of the year I don't have much energy to cook very much at all!

Nuts about food said...

I can almost taste that soft, creamy, sweet filling on my tongue...I look forward to the next recipe with cognac!

Cathy at Wives with Knives said...

Eclairs are one of my favorite desserts and I haven't made them in ages. I was a little disappointed with my recipe the last time I made it so look forward to trying yours, Jamie. I might try a hazelnut cream filling with a chocolate glaze. Your eclairs look like they came right out of the fanciest patisserie.

Jamie said...

@Cathy at Wives with Knives: Ah, do make them again. I now am in the mood to make them regularly. BUT please use my original recipe that I link back to. This one is very good but I must admit I prefer my own better.

lisa is cooking said...

Can't wait to hear more about your Cognac tasting and trip! And, your eclairs look amazing. My home would be a very happy one if we had a regular supply of freshly made eclairs. Love this filling. It looks light and perfect.

Aparna E. said...

So gorgeous! And sounds so delicious. You also take such beautiful photos :) Nice recipe, Jamie!

Lisa said...

Umm..I'm pretty sure I've never seen eclairs so gorgeous. Love the frangipane and almonds. Because of your tweets, I haven't been able to get frangipane out of my mind all day. I'm predicting a frangipane -(insert fruit that looks good at market) tart very soon. Looking fwd to hearing about Cognac!

Nancy said...

I agree with you Jamie - beating the frangipane into the whipped cream - brilliant! These look so, so good - just the kind of dessert I love during the winter when chocolate seems just too heavy!!

Georgie said...

Lovely storytelling and baking as always. If you wrote novels about cooking, baking, romance, love and traveling - I would become a devout reader.

thelittleloaf said...

I saw these eclairs on Twitter and instantly fell in love - they look absolutely incredible. Lovely writing, as always, too.

Deeba PAB said...

Perfect...or rather perfection Jamie! These are gorgeous, and I love how we bake on request! That trip was certainly exciting {pulsating read if I may add}. I love these little beauties and am intrigued by the cream you whipped into the frangipane...can't get better than this! mmmmmm

Sips and Spoonfuls said...

I cannot wait for the day when Maryam regularly starts requesting baked goods! And wow do these eclairs look good- so light and airy! Beautiful Jamie ;0

The Baking Gypsy said...

Fabulous work, Jamie! Your post is beautiful and your presentation of the eclairs is just simply stunning. This post is definitely getting bookmarked!

xoxo,
Tammy

Claudia said...

I love eclairs, sounds and looks delicious!

Meeta K. Wolff said...

Jamie my dear - the pictures almost made it to our private hall of shame ;o) (where the cannoli still reign)

I adore eclairs so much - but are usually made for very special treats! Will have to try your choux recipe the next time!

JavelinWarrior said...

This post is absolutely fetish-worthy and I've been inspired to include it in my Friday Food Fetish blog. If you have any objections, please let me know

Sally - My Custard Pie said...

That's so funny - my girls complain that I never bake anything they like as well. I know they'd love these though - they adore almonds and marzipan-like things. They look exquisite - and how wonderful to get some great invites. Good for you.

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