If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn't lead anywhere. ~Frank A. Clark
I wish I had exciting stories to tell you about what I did in the last month, like that I had travelled to tropical climes sampling exotic cuisine, or that I'd been whisked away on a baking boot camp run by a cantankerous celebrity chef but, alas, reality is far less delicious. I've had exams which basically means I've spent the last four weeks huddled over a desk cramming info into my brain and coffee down my throat. Boo.
And how I've missed you, dear readers! I thought about you often and wished constantly that I could be back in the happy world of blogging where there are no neural pathways to decipher or anatomical tomes to memorise.
But we are now finally on the other side of exams and I am back on the blogging bandwagon!
Ok, it wasn't all doom and gloom over the exam period, I do have one piece of exciting news - I am now a Wellingtonian! Moved up last week and Capital City has been as windy as it has been wonderful. This weekend I got to celebrate the end of exams, my birthday, and the end of our long distance days. Lots to be stoked about! Although now the long process of hunting for a summer job begins...
What have you been up to? How are your summers going? It has been far too long!
I've got loads of posts on the back log to catch up on but I thought I'd start with these Pink Ribbon Mini Eclairs.
I made them for our Baking for Hospice Pink Ribbon round as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month last month. Breast cancer is an issue very close to my heart and not just anatomically. My aunty died of breast cancer in 2001 and my mum was diagnosed in 2007 and underwent a double mastectomy. She is the strongest, bravest lady I know.
The thing is though, breast cancer is so common that I am only one of millions of people whose loved one has been affected by breast cancer. So this goes out to all the ladies out there who are currently battling breast cancer, have lost a loved one to breast cancer or has a wife/mother/sister/daughter/cousin/friend who is fighting the disease. This is for you.
Since the Pink Ribbon Baking Round was going to be a tribute to brave women all over the world, I thought I would be a little bit brave too and try out something I'd never had the guts to attempt before: choux pastry.
And they didn't turn out too badly! Most definitely beginners luck methinks.
They are honestly the cutest wee things when they come out of the oven. Fluffy plump little fingers of airy pastry which you fill with a super easy cheats vanilla creme patisserie (aka custard). The hardest part of the whole process was actually getting the icing consistency right...too thin and it would just ooze right off the eclair, too thick and it was like toothpaste.
But oh my goodness were they easy to eat!!
Seriously can't rave about them enough. It's just something about pastry and custard that sets my heart racing: mille feuille, vanilla slice, boston creme doughnuts, drooooool! These puppies are no exception. Cannot WAIT to make them again!
Pink Ribbon Mini Eclairs
Based on a Michel Roux recipe that I have tweaked and adjusted by trial and error in that first batch!
Eclairs: Choux pastry
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
1/2 cup (125ml) water
100g salted butter diced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
150g plain flour (whisked)
4 large eggs
1. Make sure oven tray near top of oven. Preheat your oven to 200oC fan bake. Flick a little water on top of two cookie sheets then line with baking paper.
2. Combine the milk, water, butter, salt, and sugar in a saucepan and heat over low heat. Slowly bring to a boil then immediately take the pan off the heat. Sift in the flour and mix with a wooden spoon until completely smooth.
3. Return pan over a low heat and ***stir continuously for one minute to dry the dough out until it is a stiff ball*** According to Monsieur Roux this part is really important!
4. Allow the dough to cool a little bit then add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg. The dough should be smooth and shiny looking.
5. Spoon into a piping bag with no nozzle (of a ziplock bag with the corner snipped off) and pipe into fat l5 cm long logs, 5cm apart. I used kitchen scissors to cut the dough to the right length when piping it out and it worked a treat!
6. Bake one tray at a time for 15 minutes at 200oC fan bake then for the last 5 minutes on normal bake at 200oC. Make sure you don't open the oven when baking! As soon as they come out of the oven, poke a hole in one end with a chop stick - this lets the steam out so the wee choux don't go soggy. Allow to cool for 2-3 minutes on the tray, then transfer to a wire rack to allow to cool completely. If not filling immediately, store the cooled pastries in an airtight container (but don't put them in fridge!) They are best filled the day of serving, or you can fill them then freeze them.
Creme Patisserie/Custard Filling
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix (I used Greggs Instant Dessert Vanilla Creme)
2 cups cold milk
1 cup cream
1/4 cup icing sugar1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Following the packet instructions to the vanilla pudding, pour milk into bowl, sprinkle over pudding mix, whisk till smooth and allow to set in fridge (~10 - 20 minutes).
2. In a separate bowl: Whip cream, icing sugar and vanilla to soft peaks. Fold in the set vanilla pudding.
3. Place a small round nozzle on the piping bag (I used the Wilton Bismarck Tip 230 that was part of my Wilton cupcake decorating tip set but any small round nozzle would do). Fill the piping bag with the custard cream filling. Make sure you have a few kitchen towels ready coz it will get messy! Poke the nozzle into the hole you made with the chopstick in the pastry and squeeze in the cream gently. You should be able to see the pastry bulge a little when it is full. You might need to wipe the bottom of the pastry if the filling is poking out and you may also need to wipe the nozzle clean in between each filling.
Pretty Pink Icing
1 1/2 cups icing sugar, sifted.
1 1/2 Tablespoons water
1 toothpick dipped in food coloring
1. Mix icing sugar and water until smooth - it should be stiffer than you think it should be but don't worry, it will ooze once it's on the pastry!
2. Spoon a little on top of filled cream puff and let it ooze its way down the sides.