Life has changed very much for me over the past few years by all means. Looking back to where I am, what I did, how I thought, what I cooked, what I ate and what I did, all has changed big time. Settling down in UK and Blogging has done so much to me, probably transformed me to a different person. I learned many things – to live in a new country with conflicting culture, food, ethos and ethics, respect it and live with it with my own values and what I was taught. And with blogging, I learned different kinds of cooking, baking, making new friends with same interests and learn much about photography. On the contrary, it has also added few extra pounds to my waistline. Would I have done this if I were not into blogging? May be not. What I wanted to do in life was something different and what I am doing is greatly antonymous to what I am supposed to be doing. Looking at it, I get a feeling that I am more of a foodie fanatic and do something in food, but what do I do with the education that I earned painstakingly?
I was never the kind who cooked and baked so much and I was never someone who knew how to handle any camera, let alone shoot pictures. I am an admirer of everything beautiful- beautiful food, beautiful pictures, beautiful people. To achieve beautiful food doesn’t only mean that you need to cook it beautifully, but you also need to style it or garnish it and be able to take beautiful pictures if you are a food blogger. You eat with your eyes, before you actually eat. So every food served should be beautifully presented to make it more appealing. I had spend several hours looking at beautiful foodie pictures, fabulously styled and trying to figure out how they must have done it! I spent huge amount of time reading photography tutorials, practiced what I learnt, pestered several bloggers, read many articles, borrowed many books from library and went through them and practiced them to study more. Now, is it food or photography that I love and I want to move on with?
Soon after my college, I had my baby boy and not much later, I was uprooted to an Alien land called England where I had no relatives and friends and everything was unfamiliar to start with. It was a brand new world, a world and life that I was not a bit familiar with. Especially being brought up in an orthodox family, it took me a long while to adjust to the new culture, grasp the ethos and the people.
The only entertainment was the tv and all that I liked was the cookery show. There were soaps and comedy trails and movies, but it was the cookery shows that broadened up my culinary horizons. There started my cooking expedition. I was inspired and motivated to cook, bake and serve. Disasters after disaster, my cooking started to show some better outcomes. Rachel Allen, James Martin, Ina Garten, Farah Khan were few of the chefs that taught me what cooking was all about and ispired me to enter the Kitchen. They were the people who taught me how to handle a kitchen beautifully.
Nowadays, the little baby has grown to a five year old. TV is no more my own possession. Sponge bob square pants, Ben 10 and others dominate the screen these days.It used to be Mickey Mouse, Tom & Jerry once. We still watch Tom & Jerry together. Before drifting further away, the other day I was skimming through the cookery channels before putting on the cartoon for the son. I happened to watch Great British Bake off series and they were baking Eclairs in the show when my son said, he wanted some éclairs and asked me if I could bake it for him. I was dying to bake some goodies as I haven’t baked anything in January to keep some justice to the resolution of cutting down on my baking. I just had to break it with éclairs. He never asks for something until he really likes them. So the next day, I went ahead and baked some éclairs.I don’t regret, they were so good and he being one of my best critics loved it to bits.
Eclairs are French pastries basically made of a very light pastry dough called Pâte à choux or choux pastry. It’s the same dough that is used to make profiteroles, croquemboches, Cream puffs, St. Honores cake, beignets etc. The pastry is very light, crispy and airy, and is usually filled in with different types of cream and dipped in chocolate or caramel. The recipe is very straight forward, you could use the same recipe for profiteroles, but instead of piping them into fingers, just spoon them into small mound spaced well as they expand quite well during baking.
As long as the recipe instructions are strictly adhered to, choux pastry will always give perfect results. Before starting to make the pastry, collect all the ingredients together as all the flour needs to be added quicly as possible as the mixture has come to a boil. Raw choux pastry is too soft and sticky to roll out, so it is generally piped or spooned onto a dampened baking sheet for baking. During baking, moisture in the dough turns to steam and puffs up the mixture leaving the centre hollow. Thorough cooking is important as insufficiently cooked, choux pastry will collapse when taken out from oven and there will be uncooked pastry in the centre to scoop out. When the cooked choux pastry has cooled down, it can be filled with whipped crème or any savoury filling. Choux pastry can also deep fried in oil – pipe or spoon it directly into the oil. ~Complete Book of desserts by Good Housekeeping.
Éclairs with Crème Chantilly filling and Chocolate Glaze
Makes 12-14 small fingers
50g butter, cut into cubes
65g plain or strong plain flour, sifted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
For the filling
300ml whipping cream, whipped
2 tbs icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla essence
For the chocolate icing
150g plain chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp milk
1.Put the butter and water into a heavy saucepan and heat over a medium heat until the butter melts. Bring to a boil and then remove the pan off the heat.
2. Tip the flour in all at once into the hot liquid and beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Stir the mixture vigorously over the heat until the mixture forms a smooth, soft ball. (Take care not to over beat the mixture as the mixture will become fatty).
3. Remove from heat and leave the mix to cool slightly for couple of minutes.
4. Gradually add in the eggs, beating well between each addition, to form a smooth, shiny paste. It is important to beat the mixture well at this point to trap in as much as air as possible.
5. To fill the pastry bag, fit a 1-2 cm nozzle on to a piping bag and place it in a tall jug and turn back the open end over tha jug rim. Spoon the pastry in the bag and squeeze it down to eliminate any air bubble.
6. Butter a baking tray and sprinkle with water. Pipe 12-14, 7cm fingers of pastry, spaced 2 inches apart, and cut the ends with a wet knife. Bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 20-30 minutes or until well risen and is golden in colour. Remove them from oven, split open each éclairs for the steam to escape, return back to oven and bake for further 5 minutes at 190°C. Remove from oven and cool it completely on wire rack.
N.B: For making profiteroles, instead of piping fingers, pipe about 20 small bun shapes on two damp baking sheets and bake as above. Once baked, poke a hole in the side of each choux buns with a knife or skewer and bake for further 5 minutes.
For the Chocolate Icing
Gently melt the chocolate with the double cream/milk in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth and shiny (taking care not to let it get too hot).
For the Crème Chantilly Filling
Whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold in sifted icing sugar and vanilla essence. Chill until used.
When the eclais are cooled down, Spoon the crème Chantilly into the a piping bag and pipe the crème onto one side of éclairs and sandwich with other side. You caould also poke a hole into the éclairs instead of cutting them in half and pipe the cream through the hole until it is well filled.
Pour melted chocolate into a small deep bowl and dip the top of each éclair into it to form a glace. Serve immediately.
It is better to serve immediately as it would go soggy if they are kept filled for long. You could also fill the pastry with creme, ice it and keep in fridge until ready to serve.
But it is also better to fill the pastry just before serving. The pastry could be frozen, and heated in the oven to crisp up once they are thawed.