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The Taming of the Choux

Eclairs are something we have obsessed over since visiting Paris, where the counters of the world’s finest patisseries are lined with row after row of perfectly shaped choux pastries. Making eclairs is actually pretty easy if you don’t mind them looking a bit “homely”, but producing the perfect shape consistently is a different matter all together.

Just making the choux itself is full of potential pitfalls for the unwitting baker. Even when you have mastered the arts of working the dough so that it is completely smooth, drying out the panade and adding just the right amount of egg to create the perfect consistency, you now face the toughest challenge of all… the bake. It’s no surprise that a wet paste that’s simultaneously baking on the outside and steaming on the inside doesn’t like to do what it’s told, and ruler-straight lines of choux can quickly turn into a real mess, but we were determined to make it behave. To this end, batch upon batch of perfect choux has been condemned to the oven, swiftly followed by the bin (or the birds in the garden), for being cracked, wonky, or just straight up exploding from all angles. Finally though, I think we’ve cracked it!

Eclairs
I can’t tell you how happy those rows of even choux make me…. but then I’m sad like that.

The chocolate eclair pictured above is filled with a rich chocolate cream made with single-origin chocolate from Cuba. We then used a tempered sheet of the same chocolate to top the eclairs in place of the usual icing, adding a new texture and look to a classic. We use a similar technique in our nougatine and vanilla eclair, replacing the tempered chocolate with a thin layer of almonds set in caramel, tricky stuff that has to be shaped and cut when still hot. That’s the wonderful thing about eclairs; that they are a perfect carrier for an almost infinite variety of flavours, and allow a surprising amount of creativity when it comes to design. We can’t wait to get experimenting!

Nougatine & Vanilla (left) – filled with vanilla creme patissiere, creme chantilly, and topped with almond nougatine
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