Choux pastry is one of the essentials of French patisserie, and a basic, that once mastered, that is both impressive and adaptable. It is far easier than it looks, and I nearly always have good results. I do, however, advise a couple of practice runs to get to know the technique, and how it behaves in your oven before cooking to a deadline.
Master choux and you have profiteroles, croquembouches, éclairs, gougères and all variations thereof at your fingertips. Remarkably this pastry contains only four ingredients – butter, salt, flour and eggs. It is a very different technique – melt butter in boiling water, stir in sifted flour, allow to cook a little, then beat in the eggs and pipe out to the shape you want. The steam in the dough causes the pastries to rise into the characteristic buns that typically filled with cream.
The recipe for these banoffee éclairs came from the Spring edition of the John Lewis Cook Edition (I reviewed the Autumn edition back in September). French Baker Richard Bertinet’s technique is to beat the eggs into the dough using a food mixer, instead of the rather arm achingly by hand. Once you have a beautifully smooth and glossy dough simply transfer it to a piping bag, pipe out onto a baking tray, pop into the oven and watch as your eclairs puff up. It takes no more than 40 minutes.
Once cool slice the éclair shells open, top with chocolate, fill with cream arrange on a pretty plate and serve. I promise that you will be delighted with your efforts and will soon be making another batch.
To make the eclair dough, and to whisk the cream I used the new Kenwood Chef Sense stand mixer, a true kitchen work horse.
I adapted the recipe slightly and added some dulche de leche to the whipped cream for some extra flavour. To double check that your éclairs are done, and to allow the steam to escape I usually make one or two little holes in the side of each one with a skewer and leave them in a turned off oven for a few minutes once cooked. If you use a gas oven they will take slightly longer to dry out enough not to collapse.
I use a silicon baking mat on top of a good thick baking tray to bake on – no need to grease and the pastries will never stick to it. You can make the eclairs the day before and store in an airtight tin before filling and serving. The quantities for the filling are generous. Fold some contended milk through any extra whipped banoffee cream, then freeze, to make a simple no churn ice cream.
- 60 g butter
- ½ tsp salt
- 125 g plain flour sieved
- 4 eggs
- 400 g dark chocolate 53% cocoa solids – broken into chunks
- 600 ml double cream
- 4 tbsp muscovado sugar
- 4 bananas thinly sliced
To make choux pastry, add the butter and salt to 225ml water in a pan and bring to the boil. Tip in the flour and whisk until the mixture clings to the whisk. Then, using a wooden spoon, beat well on the heat for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is glossy.
Transfer the mixture to a food mixer and beat for 1 minute. Add the eggs one at a time while keeping the mixer running. Go carefully with the eggs as you may not need them all. You are aiming for a smooth and glossy mixture that will hold its shape
Preheat the oven to 170 °C/gas mark 3. Lightly grease a non-stick baking tray. Fit a plain nozzle about 1cm diameter to your piping bag and fill with the choux pastry. Pipe 12 lines of choux, 12-15cm long, onto the baking tray.
Bake the éclairs for 15-20 minutes until golden and puffed up. For the last 4 minutes, leave the oven door slightly ajar to allow the steam to escape and help the drying process. Remove them from the oven and leave to cool.
Once cooled, halve the éclairs lengthways, and separate the tops and bottoms. Put the chocolate into a bowl over a pan of simmering water, above water level. Turn the heat low to melt the chocolate slowly, stirring all the time. Dip the upper halves of the éclairs in chocolate, drain over the bowl, then leave to set on a tray.
Whip the cream into soft peaks. Sprinkle the sugar over it and gently fold in. Fill your piping bag with the cream and pipe it on the choux bases in waves, then layer the banana slices on top, slightly overlapping them. Add dots of cream, then top with the chocolate-covered halves. Serve as soon as possible.
Fuss Free Flavours received a Bluebellgrey tea set, Kenwood mixer and voucher for cost of ingredients.