When I was a little girl I hated ballet class. I was never one for intense negative emotion,
not for any virtuous reason, simply because I was, and am, a generally mild
mannered person. But ballet class I
hated. I can’t really recall any other
thing from my childhood that provoked that fierce a dislike. Not even chicken livers nor tennis
lessons…and that is saying a lot.
one that could ever stretch into gracefulness (sadly these attributes didn’t manifest
themselves in adulthood either). Neither
did I really enjoy physical exertions (that didn’t come with adulthood either),
preferring to burrow with a book and a big bowl of rice and beans liberally
laced with extra virgin olive oil and a spattering of red wine vinegar. I was round and soft and white with a mass of
wild curly hair (those attributes did decide to stay on into adulthood I am
sorry to report despite semi-starvation, scorching hair-straightening, and truly
death-defying tanning). Slap that into a
pink leotard in the middle of a flock of twirling, shiny-haired,
lighter-than-air little ballerinas and that, my dear friends, is my version of
that have been horrid? You might as well
have thrown in the chicken livers!). Not
at all, in fact they were all quite nice and relatively harmless. I actually like ballerinas a lot – they are
lovely to watch! It’s just that,
heavy-footed and heavy-handed, I knew, even in my young and immature heart,
that I was in a place I so totally was not meant to be. And in my inexperienced youth, all I could helplessly
think was “why am I here??”
learned quite a few things about trying to stick a curly peg into a straight
hole. I have since learned to embrace
most things about myself (my hair and I, I fear, are still fated to remain frenemies). I am also learning to pay more
attention when I hear that voice plaintively ask “why am I here??” And realize that, no longer a child, I can
actually do something about it.
quite pull off delicate confections like éclairs. Unlike ballet class though, I love desserts, so I
do my best anyway.
Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook, glaze slightly adapted from Sweetapolita)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup sugar, divided in two
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthways, seeds scraped
- A pinch of salt
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 4 large eggs, plus 1 large egg white if needed
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthways, seeds scraped
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
– Make your crème pâtissière. In a saucepan, combine the milk, 1/4 cup
sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt.
Cook over medium heat until this comes to a simmer.
remaining 1/4 cup sugar until homogenous.
Whisking constantly, slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture
into the egg yolk mixture. Continue to
add the milk mixture, about a half cup at a time, whisking, until everything is
medium high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens (or reaches 160F on an
instant read thermometer –I didn’t have one).
Remove from the heat and remove the vanilla bean from the mixture.
fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the
butter and beat on medium speed until the butter has melted and the mixture
cools, about 5 minutes.
with plastic wrap, pressing it direcly onto the surface of the crème pâtissière
to prevent a skin from forming.
Refrigerate until chilled, for a minimum of 2 hours or a maximum of 2
In a saucepan combine the butter, sugar, salt, and 1 cup water and bring
to a boil over medium high heat, then immediately remove from the heat. With a wooden spoon, quickly stir in the
flour until combined. Return the pan to
medium-high heat and cook, stirring continuously, until the mixture pulls away
from the sides and a film forms on the bottom of the pan, about 3 minutes.
fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until slightly cooled,
about 1 minute. Increase the speed to
medium and add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated before
adding the next egg. Test the batter by
touching it with your finger and lifting to form a soft peak. If it doesn’t form a soft peak then add the
egg white, a little at a time, until a soft peak forms.
inch plain tip. Pipe the batter onto a
parchment lined baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Martha instructs to mark lines of about 3 1/2
inches with a pencil and ruler on your parchment to guide you (flipping the
parchment over before piping on the batter) but I didn’t – you may want to though, seeing as how my éclairs came out a tad crooked.
upper and lower thirds so you can bake two pans at once, if not you will just
have to do it in batches like I did.
After 10 minutes at 425F, lower the heat to 350F. Continue to bake for 25-30 minutes more until
the pastries are golden brown. Transfer
pastries to a wire rack to cool completely.
Scrape the vanilla bean seeds into the milk and mix thoroughly. Let this stand for about an hour. Whisk the confectioners’ sugar gradually into
the milk, until you get the desired consistency. It shouldn’t be too runny. It will feel quite thick but still slowly run
down the sides of the éclairs.
Poke a hole on the side of one pastry shell. Widen the hole with the pastry tip you will
use for filling. Repeat with the other
a 1/4 inch plain tip. Insert the tip
into the hole you’ve made in the pastry shell and pipe to fill it. Repeat with the other pastry shells.
drape, or pipe on the glaze. Sprinkle
with some gold or silver dragees if you are feeling fancy, and let the glaze
but you can break this down over a couple of days so as not to overwhelm. You can make the crème pâtissière up to two
days before, stored in the fridge. The
glaze can be made a day before and stored in the fridge as well. Just give each a good stirring before
using. The pate au choux can be made a
day before and stored in an airtight container at room temperature (note though
that it will soften as it sits). You can
assemble everything before you plan to serve the
éclairs, but make sure to leave enough
time for the glaze to set.
used some of the vanilla beans I received from the kind folk at The Vanilla Company, who bring these precious beans to our shores. For the crème pâtissière I used a gold label Tahitian bean, plump and moist and headily aromatic. For the glaze I wanted a softer version of
the same so I used the regular Tahitian.
This was my first time baking with real vanilla beans and I so enjoyed it! Now, I’d like to share the joy with one of you (because you’re a fantastic bunch and because I love that you come here and keep
me company!) 🙂 I will be giving away one pack of these vanilla bean beauties!! All you have to do to join
is leave a comment on this post. I will be placing your names in a hat and picking one. This is
open to all readers in the Philippines and beyond.
press our noses against glass to stare at, but delicious nonetheless, and
proudly my own. The vanilla beans impart
such a deep and encompassing fragrance and flavor that a few uneven edges can
and will be forgiven. I loved the crème
pâtissière! Creamy and vanilla-infused,
I wanted to eat it out of a bowl with a spoon, like a comforting as English custard.
charming wholes. Let’s embrace what
makes us, us, and never let anything keep us from making our éclairs and eating