Before I went home last weekend, I’d said to my mum that I really wanted to do some cooking while I was there. I love cooking and baking, but it’s just so hard to do it at uni – the kitchen’s tiny and most of the time it’s covered with dirty washing up. I also don’t want to buy ingredients only to use them once and have them sitting around. I ended up thinking about all the things I wanted to make when I was at home (I’ve rediscovered Pinterest and it always makes me want to try and make everything I see on there!) and came up with a nice list:
- Blueberry Muffins
- Stuffed Courgette
- Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli
On the Saturday, Heather had come up with the idea to invite our grandma over for tea and have a Quorn mince feast, with a big bowl of Quorn mince, ready salted Doritos, rice, dips and cheese where everyone just helped themselves. After canoeing in the morning, my mum asked me if I wanted to make some eclairs for pudding. I’d never made them before, but we dug out a recipe and I got cracking.
First, I measured 75g of plain flour and sieved it (it says to do it twice, but who’s got time for that?) and put 50g of butter into a pan with 150ml of water.
I heated the butter and water gently until the butter melted and then put the heat up so it boiled quickly. I then lowered the heat again and added in the flour to the mixture before stirring like crazy.
Keep stirring until the mixture forms a soft ball and comes away from the sides of the pan.
I then took it off the heat and left to cool while I beat two eggs. It’s important that the mixture’s cool enough that when you add the eggs they don’t cook from the heat and go all yucky. About body temperature is fine, so if you can put your (clean) finger on it and keep it there without it hurting, then you should be good to go.
Add the eggs bit by bit, mixing between each addition. Once all of the egg is mixed in, the mixture should be glossy and should stand in soft peaks when lifted with a spoon.
You should use the mixture straight away, or cover the saucepan with a lid to prevent it drying out. I was using mine straight away, so I popped it in a piping bag (my mum showed me how to do this using a jug to hold the bag, it’s so much easier!) and then starting piping. We weren’t sure how big to make them, but we made them about 10cm long and they worked quite well – diddy, but a good excuse to eat more! Choux pastry expands when it cooks, so you’ll need to leave space between each one.
These were popped into the middle of the oven, which had been preheated at 200 degrees C, for 10 minutes before the temperature was reduced to 180 degrees and they were cooked for a further 20-25 minutes. We had fun peeking through the oven door watching them rise and wondering just how ‘golden’ they were meant to go – but under no circumstances should you open the oven door unless you want to risk shrunken eclairs (actually, I guess there are a few circumstances which you would be permitted to open the door. For instance, if the baking paper caught fire and filled the whole oven with smoke whilst turning your eclairs to ash and blackening your oven, THEN I could see why you might open the door…)! After the 20 minutes, we quickly put them on the side and made a slit in each one before we put them back in the oven for another 5 minutes. This allows the heat to reach the middle and makes it all crispy and dry instead of soggy. It’s good to get them back in the oven as quickly as possible with this bit.
After the five minutes were up, I transferred the eclairs onto a cooling rack and set about making the cream filling.
For the filling, I whisked a pot of double cream after adding three heaped teaspoons of icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence.
We ummed and ahhed a bit about how to fill the eclairs. We started by using the same piping bag as I’d used to pipe the actual mixture, but the nozzle was way too big and the eclairs kept cracking and splitting.
After failing at a few of these, we dug out the smaller icing piper and a small nozzle and that worked much better. It still cracked where I made the hole, but it was better than before.
We found when eating them that the more cream, the better they were so really pack it in there!
While I was piping the cream in, my mum broke up a mixture of milk and dark chocolate ready to melt. We were going to try and make a ganache, but realised we’d used all the cream for the filling so ended up with just a normal chocolate topping. A good tip here is to melt the chocolate in a flat bowl – it makes it SO much easier to dip the eclair in and get an even topping!
Lots more dipping and scraping and a little bit of sneaky-licking later, they were all ready to go back on the cooling rack for the chocolate to set.
We sat down to our epic Quorn mince feast and ate about 10 times as much as we should have done – it was a seriously good meal! We all sat in the sitting room with the food in the middle and kept taking little portions, trying out different combinations of everything. It was great!
And then it was time for PUDDING! I brought in the plate of eclairs and they were gone in about two minutes. Even after that huge meal, it was impossible to eat just one and they went down extremely easily. The best ones were, obviously, the ones that were brimming with cream and drowning in chocolate. Mmmmm, just thinking about them is making me crave some more!
And in case they weren’t enough, we had a mini chocolate fondue with the leftover chocolate, dipping grapes, banana bits and mini chocolate cakes in it. It’s always so much better when you overestimate your chocolate usage, isn’t it?!
(I also made the stuffed courgettes for lunch that day – nice, but more watery than I was expecting; and I made rushed blueberry muffins before I came back to uni, which went down very well with my friends. Just the ravioli to go next time!)