SUGAR, DARLING?

BY NANCY WHITTINGTON-COATES

Dulce De Leche Eclairs

That's right, it's the New Year and I'm posting an eclair recipe. Zero effs given here I'm afraid, I believe a bit of indulgence every now and again never hurt anyone just don't go overboard and nom down a whole batch of these babies, not least because all that dairy will likely make you sick... It would be easy to do though as they're flipping delicious.

My two favourite things to make are pavlovas and choux pastry. I don't know why but I find both so satisfying to make, possibly because a seemingly inexplicably odd method and ingredients creates some of the most heavenly tasting things ever. Then again, they are both smothered in whipped cream and I doubt anything would taste bad given that treatment.

Now in case you don't know dulce de leche is an amazing caramel used a lot in Mexican cookery that is made from sweetened condensed milk that is slowly heated until it caramelises. It's a dream. I bought a big ass jar of it last time we went to Costco but you can also make it yourself or just buy a can of Carnation Caramel which will be in the supermarket with the cans of condensed and evaporated milk. It's the same stuff just in a more sensible size.

I made these babies to take to my grandparents on Saturday and they went down a storm. I think this was my best choux pastry yet as the richness of the pastry shone through past the caramel cream and let me tell you, the drizzle of dark chocolate against the sweet seductiveness of the filling is a perfect match. I'm tooting my own horn here, but they really are that good. And don't be scared as it's a really easy recipe, just read the method a few times through before trying it and you'll see how simple it really is.



Dulce De Leche Eclairs
Makes around twelve 4" long eclairs

Ingredients
65g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
55g butter, cut into pieces
120ml water
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
300ml double cream
4 heaped tablespoons of dulce de leche (or a 397g can of Carnation Caramel)
50g dark chocolate
edible decorations if you wish, I used bronze sugar crystals

2 x baking trays
2 x piping bags with large nozzles, one round and one star shaped (or you can use a spoon)

Choux Pastry Method
Preheat the oven to 200C (400F) and line two flat trays with baking paper. Whisk together the flour and sugar in a bowl and set aside.

Place the butter and water into a saucepan and heat over a medium high heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is boiling. As soon as it's boiling take the pan off the heat and add in the flour mixture mixing well and quickly (with a decent sized wooden or heat proof plastic spoon) until you have a nice paste. Now pop the pan back on the heat and keep mixing until you have a dough that forms a sort of ball shape and comes away from the sides of the pan.

Now place your dough into either the bowl of your stand mixer or into a mixing bowl and give it a good stir for a minute or so until the dough is luke warm in temperature. Now you add the beaten eggs and get stirring - it's much easier with a stand mixer or electric whisk - the mixture will split and look gross but persist and keep mixing, I promise it will go back into a silky more runny dough within a few minutes.

When you have your thick paste like dough (it should fall off the spoon if you tapped it on the side of the bowl) pour it into your piping bag fitted with the large round nozzle. Pipe six lines of the dough onto each of your baking parchment lined trays, each line about 8cm long with at least 6cm between them to allow room for them to puff up when baking. Don't worry if you don't have a piping bag, just spoon the mix out either in lines or in rounds (then you'll have cream puffs rather than eclairs). Now pop them in the oven. After 15 minutes turn the heat down to 180C (350F) and bake for 15 more minutes, then take them out of the oven. Carefully pick up each bun and using a sharp knife poke a whole in either side of each eclair, then pop your trays back in the oven for a further 5-10 minutes until they are browned to your liking and nice and crispy. When done allow the buns to fully cool before filling them.

Caramel Cream Filling Method
Whisk your double cream either by hand or with an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks, then add your dulce de leche and give it another mix until it's all combined.

Now you can either use a knife to split your eclairs like I did or if you're feeling adventurous you can make a hole in either one end or the bottom of each eclair and pipe in the filling being careful not to burst your buns! I just split my eclairs and piped in the filling using an open star tip on my piping bag to give a prettier finish but don't worry if you don't have one of these, just go ahead and spoon the filling in before replacing the top of the eclair.

Now gently melt your dark chocolate either in a bain marie or in the microwave, then take a teaspoon and drizzle the chocolate over the eclairs. You might want to do it more neatly than me but I enjoyed the cocoa chaos. Before the chocolate set I sprinkled over some bronze sugar crystals but feel free to leave this off if you don't want to be as over the top as moi.

Keep your eclairs in an airtight container in the fridge and eat them within two days, if they last that long.

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