Oui, merci. Je voudrais bien des éclairs!
To my knowledge, I've never had anyone ask me directly if I wanted éclairs. You'd think that because I was raised in France and because I've been back a couple of times to visit that I would've heard that posed as a question. I no longer live in France (quel dommage) and since we were celebrating Valentine's Day (in the US), I decided that Cream Puffs would be a great dessert for our celebratory dinner. For the record, éclairs are 'cream puffs created by a schooled chef'—so they can be called éclairs!
My mother-in-law has made cream puffs for years. She makes them as a hobby … then sends them to the station with Bob just so they won't go to waste. Hers. (Yes, all you spell-checkers … I know it's a homonym and is spelled differently! Relax … take a pill!) Going on to say … ! Regina and I used to make oodles of them to put in the freezer to use when we catered weddings and stuff. You can fill them with savory (like chicken salad) or sweet stuff (like pudding or ice cream) … versatile item, these puffs.
They are so simple to make … four basic ingredients: water, butter, flour, and egg. You could add flavorings if you want, but that removes some of the versatility of them.
You start by putting the water and butter in the pot and bringing it to a rolling boil.
(This, for some odd reason, is a horrid photo! Really horrid … I thought it was focused, but obviously, I was looking at something else besides what I supposed I was shooting!
So, whatever …
Put the butter and the water in the pan and don't take a photo. ;)
When it comes to a rolling boil, add the flour and stir vigorously for about a minute till it stirs into a ball.
Remove from the heat and add the eggs.
You could use a hand mixer at this point, but I usually take out my large wire whisk and threaten the eggs within an inch of their lives. I've never known them to not comply. In fact, they are so compliant that you can spoon the dough out by 'American' soup spoons onto a cookie sheet. (I say 'American' soup spoons because in France a "cuillere at soupe" is what we Americans use to "SERVE" our entire dinner with! Whereas in France, two-year-olds are eating baby food with those same "bowls-of spoons"!)
Put the puffs in the oven for about 30 minutes. They'll puff up and turn a gorgeous golden color. If they don't, leave them longer … they need the discipline!
When they come out of the oven, use a strong spatula and remove them from the baking pan (they'll probably have stuck a little). Let them cool then use a sharp serrated knife, cut the tops off, and remove the puffy 'innards'. This will provide room for the cream.
Fill it with vanilla cream and put the cap back on.
It is really quite handsome at this moment. However, This puff really wants something to keep its head warm.
I know, I know … a hat!
Sure … I'm confident that is the answer. And what could be warmer than a chocolate hat?!
Mix dark chocolate with butter and drizzle on the puffs …
Store in the fridge …
Those, my friends, are puffs that have survived years of testing, tasting, and enjoyment!
It's after Valentine's now that you are reading this … rest assured that you don't need a holiday to make these puffs!