A fantastic state of eclairs!

Phew it's been a busy week! I feel like I've spent a great deal of my life updating my blog recently, but I guess that's all good cause it means plenty of exciting things worth writing about! It feels like ages since my last Great British Bake Off inspired recipe post and I can't believe we're on week seven! I'm becoming more and more fond of sweet little Martha, in awe of Luis' precision and Richard's lovely smile... they're definitely my favourites.

So week VII - Pastries... I wanted to try out a different pastry to the one I used to make my fruit pies for week V, and I also wanted to push myself a bit. There are some bakes that I just look at and think "Oh I wouldn't even know where to start with trying to make that!" but I have decided to stop being so pessimistic and just go for it! I won't know until I try and after all, this is what this challenge is supposed to be all about anyway; to explore different things and to improve my baking skills. So next time someone asks me if I know how to make eclairs, macaroons, doughnuts, meringues or other awesome, tricky-looking bakes I'll be able to say YES! Well, to one of them anyway - let's make eclairs!

150 ml water
50g butter
65g plain flour
pinch of salt
2 eggs

150ml double dairy cream
2-3 drops of vanilla essence
50g dark cooking chocolate
25-50g icing sugar

pre-heat oven to 200ÂșC

Put the water and butter into a saucepan and stirring, bring to the boil. Remove the pan from the heat and beat in the flour and a pinch of salt (personally I'd maybe leave the salt out as I felt my eclairs weren't quite sweet enough). Now at this stage something really weird happens; the pastry comes together pretty easily but I've never made choux pastry so I had no idea what to expect. If you've never made it either, expect something that looks very much like mashed potatoes. They also really smelt like polish dumplings (not the same dough at all though!) so Eve and I spent a lot of time sniffing and reminiscing here. Fellow Eastern Europeans you have been warned; allow time for this stage in your recipe!

Basically the mixture is supposed to come together so that it no longer sticks to the sides of the pan. My cookbook says if this isn't happening, return it to "a gentle heat." It then goes onto say "allow mixture to cool to blood heat..." surely there is a better way of describing this?! I don't really want to be thinking about blood when I'm baking! It's an old cookbook though so it probably has a recipe in there somewhere where you have to go into your back garden and kill a chicken. Fun times. So when the mixture has... you know, cooled a bit... beat in the eggs one by one.

Once thoroughly mixed, scoop the mixture into a piping bag and pipe eclair shapes on a greased baking tray. My recipe says use a 1cm plain nozzle and pipe 7.5cm lengths. Oh la-di-dah, we all know what eclairs look like and we're not on the bake-off so don't stress out peeps! These are homemade eclairs that aren't going to be scrutinised by Paul Hollywood's piercing eyes so personally I didn't bother to get out the ruler.
Pop the baking tray into the oven for 25-35 minutes until the eclairs are crisp and golden brown.

When the eclairs are ready, leave them to cool while you lightly whip the cream and vanilla essence. When a fluffy cream forms, make a slit down the side of the eclairs and scoop the cream inside. If you don't want the cream to be visible you can make a small hole at one end and pipe the cream in, but this is a bit long so I opted for the slit technique.

Then melt chocolate in a plastic bowl over a pan of boiling water (we've been through this stage quite thoroughly during deserts week so if you're unsure, have a look at my 'Fancy Pants' blog post) and add icing sugar. The purpose of adding it is to thicken the chocolate slightly but make sure you don't add too much as it will go stodgy so just be patient and add, stir, add, stir :) Using a palette knife spread some chocolate across the top of each eclair. Step back to admire your creation. Eat any leftovers.

As this was my first time making eclairs I really don't think the results were too bad at all! It just emphasises what I said at the beginning that no matter how tricky it looks, you never know until you've tried! So if there's a bake you'd love to make but you think it's beyond your expertise, just go for it! I'm really not an experienced baker but these eclairs were much easier to make than I ever imagined so it's always worth a try :) Apparently they were tasty too as my dad has scoffed pretty much all of them so there's none left for my mum who's coming back from a trip to Rome tomorrow. I'll have to figure out a way to monitor him with the next bake otherwise he'll be very fat before long!

Next week's theme is 'advanced dough.' Now I spotted some doughnuts on the preview for the next episode which is very dangerous territory as myself and Eve are frequent visitors at the Krispy Kreme drive-through in Enfield. We even got Krispy Kreme hats and balloons one time. No lie. Polish people also have a day on the last Thursday before Lent called 'Fat/Greasy Thursday' where we spend the whole day gouging ourselves on heavily sugared, jam filled doughnuts. FYI Polish doughnuts are nothing like American or English ones. For starters they're twice as big. They are also twice as sweet and have twice as much jam. They're basically the ideal thing for the witch to feed Hansel and Grettel with to fatten them up. Needless to say, I am a doughnut enthusiast and if I learn how to make them... well, meet you back here this time next week to find out what happens! See you then my fellow foodies!

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