Last week when we were at the library, Mom picked up this book on the new items shelf titled “The Art of French Baking.”
“Do you want this?” she asked me.
I looked at it. At the moment, it didn’t look all that exciting. After considering for a moment, I replied, “Sure.”
Once I had it for a few days, I was trying to decide whether or not I wanted to try anything from it. I new as soon as I tried any of the recipes, I would want to purchase the book and I would be caught in a vortex of making delicious pastries and such. Well, in the end, I decided to try one of the recipes.
This afternoon I decided to make éclairs. It was rather fun. I started with the choux pastry, and while that was cooling, I made the crème patissiere. And that is where the trouble started. I was letting my little sister Meiling stir the crème patissiere as it cooked. I think she stirred it rather too slow, and when it was getting close to the end, she called to me to show me a large clump that had formed in the crème.
Great. It has lumps. It’s not supposed to have lumps, right? I quickly grabbed the spoon from Meiling and started rapidly stirring it. Then I grabbed a whisk and started vigorously whisking it. It still tasted good. I decided to run it through a strainer. I know that’s not really something that you want to do, but now it was time for drastic measures.
Once the crème was running through a strainer, I started melting the butter and chocolate for the frosting. While it was melting, I started thinking that I was starting it a bit early, so I turned it off to wait for later.
Now it was time to return to the choux pastry, since it was cooled to room temperature. I quickly dumped in the eggs, only to realize later that the recipe says to add the eggs slowly. Oh well.
Piping the choux pastry onto the cookie sheet was rather fun. It looked very nice, all the cute little mounds of dough. And there was something almost professional-feeling about using the frosting bag to put the dough on the cookie sheet.
About halfway through the baking time, I took out the pans to switch them. All of the little éclairs on one pan had spread instead of rising. They now looked more like the picture of madeleines in the cookbook rather than éclairs. I thought that I could sandwich two together to make the éclairs instead of slicing them in half. We’d just have to see how it went.
By the time they were done baking and cooling I was so done with the éclair run-around that I didn’t really feel like trying to make the to-thin pastries and the slightly-thin-and-still-slightly-lumpy crème patissiere work together. On top of that, I still hadn’t made the frosting, and there was dinner to think about. So I made the executive decision to make the éclairs into something else.
The question was what was the something else. When I was looking at the pastry, the custard, and the melted chocolate and butter, it looked to me like a pudding or a trifle. That is what I made. I layered some of the pastries first, then some of the crème, and next some of the chocolate mixture, then repeated until everything was gone.
We just finished eating my pudding a la éclair, and everybody enjoyed it. Drake said that he though it tasted good, but he wasn’t sure. He is sick, and his nose is so stuffed up he can’t taste anything. Meiling said that it tasted like good stuff. Noah likened it too vanilla pudding with chocolate. I compared it to a custard-filled donut with chocolate frosting. Mom decided that it tasted just like an éclair.
Here is a list of a few things that I learned from this experience:
1. When a recipe says to add something gradually, you have to add it gradually. It is important that you read the word “gradually” and that you remember that the recipe said gradually.
2. Choux pastry must be baked one pan at a time.
3. Crème patissiere needs to be stirred slightly more vigorously.
4. Always have a backup plan. Having a plan B is generally a good idea when baking (or cooking, for that matter).
Now for the recipe.
Pudding A La Éclair, or What to do With Failed Eclairs
1 quantity choux pastry, baked as for éclairs, but that didn’t quite work out
1 quantity crème patissiere, from which the lumps have been strained
1 quantity chocolate frosting, minus the eggs, since you were too tired to finish it for something that wasn’t
going to work out anyway
1. Place some of the éclairs in the bottom of a glass bowl with straight sides. Pour some of the crème on top.
2. Drizzle some of the chocolate mixture on top.
3. Add some more of the éclairs.
4. Now pour some more of the crème on top of the éclairs.
5. Continue layers until all the ingredients are used up, ending with chocolate. Swirl the top. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
It is getting rather late, so I will post more pictures of the éclair making process and of the decorated pudding tomorrow, Lord willing. I really need to get to bed so I can be ready for a rerun of the éclair project. No, I will not be doing that tomorrow, but I am hoping that I will try again soon.