Julia’s 100th Birthday, my 100th post, and why my part-time job is less than successful.


(skip straight to recipe here.)

And by part-time job, I mean napping.

There’s a reason why my rest is maybe not as restful as it could be.

Three reasons actually.

The amount of pillow I get vs. the amount of pillow the cat gets – to scale.

Also reason 412 why spinsterhood is inevitable.

Perhaps some advice?  Because my bed time goes something like this –

1. Bean.  He needs to be as close to my face as possible.  Sometimes, I mistakenly think it will help to turn my head.

which inevitably results in this :

2. Bourbon – to her, any movement, no matter how virtually imperceptible, means that I am fully awake and that I want to snuggle right now.

No, sure, I wasn’t really that asleep

No, it’s cool. I mean, please get your tongue as close as possible to my face…

Yay for a few minutes of sleep! Yay!

Photo

Any chance we’re going back to sleep soon?

3. Belly.

Who’s mostly chill.

 Until she feels the need to demonstrate that she’s the boss of all dogs –

Which is funny when I happen to be upright and out of the line of fire.  Once I’m horizontal and it’s going on right next to me, it kinda feels like doggie Rambo is shooting mortar shells through my dreams.

Given this bedtime adversity, I think it’s a wonder I even have the energy to be productive at all.  And by productive, I mean make eclairs.  Because it’s Julia’s birthday, and I think she’d like that!

Happy Birthday, Julia!                                                                                                 (here’s hoping the hunchback isn’t the fate of all tall women in the kitchen…)

So anyway, Eclairs –

Start with the pastry cream.  I made a half batches of these things but, here’s the full recipes:

Vanilla Pastry Cream
adapted from Cookwise by Shirley Corriher

1 1/2 cup half and half
5 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of vanilla bean paste

First start the half and half heating in a small pan on medium.  Heat until just steaming.  While the milk is heating, combine egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, salt and vanilla past in a bowl.

Whisk to combine.

Slowly stream the milk in while whisking constantly to avoid cooking your eggs.  Once the milk is incorporated, return to pan.

Heat on medium, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens and bubbles break in the center.* Take off heat immediately. Put into a shallow bowl or pan, straining if desired.

Flavor if desired.  I divided mine into thirds and mixed half cherry jam with half pastry cream.

I also stirred espresso powder into one.

Chocolate would be good (though arguably overkill since we’re glazing with chocolate ganache). Raspberry, orange, cinnamon, whatever pleases you.

Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge to cool.

*it’s important for the mixture to come to a boil because that’s what makes the cornstarch burst and thicken.  If you do not boil, you run the risk of a starchy-tasting runny pastry cream.  On the otherhand, over cooking will overcook the egg.  Pull it off just as soon as it comes to a boil.

Make the

Pate a Choux

6 ounces half and half
1 stick of butter
1 cup of flour
5 eggs
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 425.

Put the half and half and butter in a high sided pot and bring to a boil.  As soon as it boils, add the flour all at once and beat it with a whisk like it owes you money.  Cook it for a good minute or two to get the raw flour taste out, a small film will form on the bottom of the pot.

Remove from heat and set aside a minute.  Now’s a good time to crack your eggs and ready your pastry bag. (If you don’t have a pastry bag you can use a ziploc bag.)

This is important. Incorporate eggs one at a time.

Switching to a wooden spoon makes things easier. Do not add another egg until the first one is fully incorporated.  Err on the side of “too incorporated”.

No trace of egg? Now, you can continue.

If it does not want to cooperate, beat it into submission.  Do not stop stirring or you will cook your egg.  After the third egg, it may “break” or look like a curdled shaggy mass. You didn’t do anything wrong.  It’ll come back together.  You may not need the fifth egg.  Once it’s pipe-able,

stop. Beat in pinch of salt.

Pipe onto a parchment-lined baking sheet in long strips.

I got the plastic piping bags from Wilton, because I find no matter how diligent you are about cleaning the reusable ones, they get kinda gross.

They will have tails.  Just wet your finger and press them in.

Did you really need an illustration? Probably not.

Do not leave the tails as they will bake to a burnt crisp. Brush with egg wash if you want them to be shiny, though they will get glazed.

Once they’re puffed and dark brown,

I let these go a little long. It’s because my baking instructor was always harping “not enough color!” Damn you to hell, Belinda Brooks! Look what you’ve done to my eclairs…

15-20 minutes, remove from oven and let them dry out.  They should be fairly open on the inside.

The better to fill you with pastry cream… with. Awkward prepositional moment.

While the pate a choux is baking, make the ganache.  Ganache is one of my favorite things because it sounds fancy, but it’s the simplest thing in the world.

Chocolate Ganache

3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped or in chip form
3 ounces half and half
1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat half and half in a small pan until steaming.  Put chocolate in a bowl.

Ganache is my favorite use for discolored chocolate. Yes, that chocolate is still good. By the time this is whisked, you won’t even know.

Pour cream on chocolate.

Wait 30 seconds.  Whisk until smooth.

Add vanilla. Oh by the way.  You should measure.  Or your ganache might be a bit runny…This happened to someone I know.

Put pastry cream in a piping bag.  Insert bag into one end of the eclair or into the bottom

and pipe until the tip comes out.  Dip in ganache.

In the case of the cherry, it might be a bit runny, and the bits of cherry might get stuck in the piping tip, so just slice it open and slather it in.

Nom.

Ok, completely unrelated but I was right –

Creepy, right?

I was going to use this gif, but it’s creepy for its own reasons.

Really?  Who’s responsible for this??