Sunday, 28 November 2010

E is for... Eton Mess Eclairs


Eton Mess Eclairs

Eton Mess: strawberries, meringue and cream - what's not to like? Eclairs: Choux pastry filled with cream and covered in chocolate - what's not to like? Stick them together and you'd have to be a lunatic not to want in on some of that action. That was the theory, anyway, and E night saw it put into practice. This amalgam of puddings worked very well, as was evident from the empty plates all round. This is one I will certainly be making again. And probably very soon, if Richard gets his way.

Eton Mess

Preheat the oven to 150 C (130 C Fan)

for the meringue

3 egg whites
6 tbsp caster sugar (use white rather than golden sugar for white meringues)

Whisk the egg whites until they are at the stiff peak stage and then gradually, spoonful by spoonful whisk in the sugar until it's all fully incorporated and you have a beautifully shiny and billowing meringue. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and, use a tablespoon to dollop rounded mounds of the meringue mixture in rows. Place in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down by 10 degrees. Leave for one hour and turn the oven off. Leave the meringues in the oven until it is completely cold - this will help crisp them up. Whisk a tub of double or whipping cream and crumble the meringue into it. Chop a punnet of strawberries, reserving a quarter of the fruits for later, and fold the mixture together.


Preheat the oven to 220 C (200 C Fan)
When I was a child, I used to make profiteroles every time we had a big family lunch or if my parents were having a dinner party. I was a dab hand at choux pastry from about the age of 7 or 8 up until I was about 12, when I got bored and stopped making it, having moved on to other puddings instead. I haven't made it all that often since, but I remember the beating of the choux pastry being much harder work back in those days with my feeble little girl arms. If your arms are as feeble as mine once were, you can always use an electric hand whisk or even stick it in a food processor for a quick blitz.

150ml/ 1/4 pint water
75g/ 3oz butter
100g/ 4oz plain flour

Pinch of salt
3 eggs, beaten

Place the water and butter in a large saucepan on a medium-high heat. Stir until the butter melts and then allow the mixture to come to a rolling boil. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and sift the flour and salt over the pan, quickly. Beat vigorously until the mixture is smooth. Place the pan back over a low heat and stir for a minute or so, until the mixture begins to stick slightly to the base of the pan. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly. Beat in the egg, a little at a time, until the dough is soft and silky and has a dropping consistency.

Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and get ready a glass of cold water and a small butter knife. Place your choux pastry in a piping bag, snip off the end and pipe the dough in lines which are about 4" long and a couple of inches apart. Use the blade of the knife, dipped in water, to end each line of dough. Brush each eclair with beaten egg and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 C (180 C Fan) and continue to bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove the eclairs from the oven and pierce each one's side or base with a skewer. Return them to the oven for a further 5 minutes to allow the steam to escape and then transfer the eclairs to a wire rack to cool.

Once your eclairs are cool, slit them open and fill them with eton mess, adding an extra few slices of the reserved strawberries to prettify them and then spoon some cool, melted dark chocolate on to their tops. If you want to make regular eclairs, instead of slitting them open, make a small hole in each bun and use a piping bag to fill each eclair with chantilly cream - whipped cream, sweetened with icing sugar and scented with vanilla.

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