Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cranberry and Gingerbread Eclairs

I made this cranberry mousse a few weeks ago intending on using it to add as a layer to a fancy cake I was making.

But that didn't work out--which is a different boring story in itself.

So I still had this mousse and I wasn't sure what to do with it until I was talking to a friend and he suggested I use it as a filling for some donuts. This seemed like a brilliant idea.

I made the dough for the donuts and a chocolate glaze to top them off with.  But that didn't work out either.  I couldn't get all of the donuts to proof and the ones that I could get to rise were like bricks when I fried them.

So I still had this fucking mousse and now I had a fucking chocolate glaze that wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. Then I thought of eclairs and everything seemed to be going in a zen direction from then on.

Eclairs are actually pretty easy to make.  Pate choux--the dough for eclairs--takes about 5 minutes to make and piping them out to make eclairs (or spooning them to make cream puffs) is a cinch.  I think they are a pretty forgiving pastry to make.

The only trouble that one might have is making sure you bake them enough to dry the insides out enough to fill them.  But I think I've figured that part out. Another thing I've noticed about pate choux is that a little dough goes a long way.

The recipe I use makes a lot of 4 inch eclairs.  In fact, I used up all of my cranberry mousse and still had over a dozen unfilled eclairs left.  So, I had to come up with another filling.

And in the spirit of it being the holiday season, gingerbread flavored pastry cream seemed to be appropriate.


Cranberry mousse:

12oz or 1 bag of fresh cranberries
2c granulated sugar
2c heavy whipping cream
1/4c orange juice (I used freshly squeezed)
1 1/2 tsp gelatin

In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine and cook the cranberries, sugar and orange juice until the cranberries start to pop.  It took me between 20-30 minutes if memory serves.  Once they have all popped, remove the pan from the heat and pour the cranberries into a blender or food processor and puree them until you have smooth mixture.  Pour the pureed cranberries back into the saucepan and stir in the gelatin.  Turn the heat back onto medium-low and cook until the cranberries thicken and can coat the back of a spoon--which took me about 10 minutes.  Remove them from the heat and let them cool completely, then put them in the fridge for at least an hour to get them cold. Once the cranberries are cold, place the cream in a large mixing bowl and whisk (either with a hand-held mixer or a standing one) until stiff peaks are formed.  Remove the cranberry sauce/jelly from the fridge and fold them into the whipped cream until you have a cohesive mixture.  Use immediately or store them in a covered container in the fridge.

Gingerbread flavored pastry cream:

4 large egg yolks
1/3c sugar
2T all-purpose flour
2T cornstarch
1 1/2c milk
1T vanilla extract or paste
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves

In the bowl of stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the yolks, sugar, flour and cornstarch until pale yellow and a bit thicker--about 2 minutes.  Set aside.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat the milk to a very light simmer or just until bubbles start to form around the edges of the pan.  Once that happens, remove the pan of warm milk from the stove.  While whisking constantly, pour about a third of the warm milk into the egg mixture until well combined.  Once you've whisked it, pour the egg/warm milk mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the milk and return it to the stove. While whisking constantly over medium heat, cook the pastry cream until it becomes thicker and begins to bubble. Once it starts to bubble, cook it for about 45-60 seconds longer still whisking.  I can't emphasize enough the importance of constantly whisking the pastry cream over the heat because if you don't you can easily burn the bottom of it and then you'll have to sift out burnt portions of pastry cream and that just sucks (I speak from experience).  Lastly, remove the pastry cream from the heat, add in the vanilla and spices and whisk to combine. Scrape the pastry cream into a clean bowl, place a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface of it and let it cool completely--you can also place it in the fridge to speed up the process but just make sure the plastic wrap is sitting directly on top of the pastry cream.

Pate choux (choux paste):

1c water
1 stick of butter
1/2 tsp salt
1c all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, butter and salt.  Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and add the flour all at once and begin to stir it rapidly.  Continue stirring--the mixture will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and form a sort of dough/paste mass in the middle.  Once this happens continue to cook it while stirring constantly for another minute or two in order to cook off some more of the water.  Then, remove the saucepan from the heat and let it cool down for about 5 minutes--before you add the eggs you don't want the dough/paste to be too hot or else you'll cook them too quickly but at the same time you want the dough somewhat warm/hot.  After your 5 minute cool-down, add each egg one at a time stirring after each addition until the egg is fully incorporated.  It might look like the dough is breaking up but just keep stirring and it will come back together.  Once you've added in each egg, let the dough cool to room temperature--or again you can place it in the fridge with a piece of plastic wrap over it.

Chocolate glaze:

1/2c unsalted butter
1/4c whole milk
1T light corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
4oz semi-sweet chocolate
2c powdered sugar

Combine the butter, milk, corn syrup and vanilla in a medium sauce pan.  Heat over low until the butter is melted and everything is fully combined.  Once the butter is melted, add the chocolate and stir over low heat until it's all melted.  Remove the mixture from the heat and whisk in the powdered sugar until it's fully incorporated.  Use immediately or set aside to cool a bit.  But if you wait too long to use it, you may have to warm it up a tad before you glaze the eclairs because otherwise the glaze might be too thick.

To assemble:

First, bake the eclairs.  Line a sheet pan with either parchment paper or a silicone mat.  Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Place the choux paste into a piping bag fitted with a plain half inch tip.  Pipe 4" long logs onto the sheet pans leaving about a 2" separation around each log--you'll end up with a couple dozen of them--not all on one baking sheet.  Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 350 F and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes longer--I tend to go the full 20 minutes to make sure I dry out the middles of each eclair.  Remove the eclairs from the oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack.

Once the eclairs are cool, place the cranberry mousse into a piping bag fitting with a plain 1/4"-1/2" tip.  Do the same with the gingerbread flavored pastry cream.  Using a sharp paring knife, cut a little slit on each end of the eclair.  Carefully insert one of the tips of the filled piping bags into each slit and pipe in the filling slowly.  Fill them to your liking but I usually fill them until I inflate the empty eclair a bit--I judge this by feeling along the length of the eclair and making sure the filling has reached the entirety of it.  Fill as many eclairs as you can using all of the filling.  I had some empty eclairs leftover which I just placed in an air tight container and froze for another day.

Now for the chocolate glaze...  If your glaze has cooled and is too thick to dip an eclair in and glaze it then place it in the microwave for about 10 second intervals until it is at a consistency where dipping is possible.  Once you have a good dipping consistency, dip each filled eclair into the glaze.  Set aside to the allow the glaze to set.

Eat eclair.

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