Sunday, August 26, 2018

Cherry Almond Eclairs

If you have ever experimented with choux pastry, you will find that it is very forgiving and is very European. If your piping (or forming) of these pastry shells is not so pretty, you can scrape the dough off the parchment and put it back in the piping bag to try again. As far as being European, the shell itself is not very sweet, unlike most American desserts. Most of the sweet flavor stems from the whipped cream filling and icing drizzle on top.

These eclairs bake up nice an airy. They are like houses waiting to be furnished, but a lot cheaper and tastier! You can customize them with your favorite flavored filling and icing. Another plus is that they are fairly easy to make.

The filling in these eclairs have the classic flavor pairing of almond liqueur and cherries, swirled together with two types of cream. Eclairs are not too common in the US, however, they should be on your bucket list as a must try if you have not already experienced this special pastries. This recipe makes about 8-12 eclairs, depending on the width when they are piped/formed.

Cherry Almond Eclairs
adapted from 

Ingredients/choux pastry
3 eggs (room temperature)
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt

2 tbs of powdered sugar
1/2 cup softened marscapone cheese
1/2 cup almond liqueur
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cherries
pinch of salt

2-3 tbs milk or water
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1 cup powdered sugar (sifted)

Start with preparing the guideline sheet for piping the choux dough. Gather together a sheet of parchment paper (big enough to line the bottom interior of a baking sheet), a ruler and a pencil. Using the ruler, draw a straight line parallel and one inch below the long edge of the parchment paper. Drop the ruler down 3 inches from that line and draw another parallel line. Repeat the process below that line, but only drop down 1/2 an inch for one line and then the 3 inches for the next. Then draw again with the same instructions. You should have 3 sections 3 inches wide with a 1/2 inch strip between them. Place this sheet (penciled side down) on the bottom interior of the baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Fill a saucepan with the butter, salt and water. Place over medium high heat and let come to a boil, stirring with a wooden spoon as the butter melts. At that time, reduce the heat to medium. Empty a cup of flour into the liquid, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend. As you blend the ingredients, the flour will cook. Be sure to mix vigorously so all the lumps disappear, this should take about 2 minutes. The mixture should clump together and leave a very thin sheet of dough sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and fit the mixer with a paddle attachment. Turn the mixer to low which will knead the dough. As the mixer is running, the dough will be cooling off. After about 3-4 minutes, it should reach the desired temperature-being just warm to the touch.

Maintain the same speed and add one egg. The mixing will cause the dough to separate at first, but after a few minutes the mixture will form into a dough again. At that time, switch the mixer speed to medium low and blend the dough for another 20 seconds. Reduce the speed back to low and repeat the same process with the additional eggs, blending one at a time.

Prepare a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch star tip. Empty the dough into the bag and push it down, reducing the air in the bag. Twist the excess part of the bag, so that the dough is compacted towards the star tip. Pipe tight zig zags in the 3 inch sections marked off on the parchment, starting at the top line and spacing about 1/2 an inch apart. You should be able to fit 3-4 pipings of the zig zagged choux dough in each 3 inch section.

Place in oven and bake for 40-45 minutes. Eclairs are done when they are featherweight and golden brown. Remove pan from oven and transfer the choux shells to a cooling rack.

For the filling, start by adding the almond liqueur and dried cherries to a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and let the mixture heat up. The liquid should get hot to the touch and removed prior to simmering or boiling. Once removed from the heat, let the mixture rest in the saucepan for about an hour or until cool. After this time, place a bowl underneath a sieve and pour the cherry/almond mixture into the seive and strain out all of the liquid. Reserve the almond liquid in a small bowl. Finely chop the cherries, bearing in mind that the pieces have to flow though a 1/2 inch plain piping tip.

Place the bowl of a stand mixer and wire whisk attachment in the refrigerator to chill. Then mix the chopped cherries and the marscapone cheese together in a small bowl until the cherries are evenly distributed. Stir in 3 tablespoons of the reserved almond liquid, blending well. Set aside.

Take the chilled bowl and whisk out of the refrigerator. Attach to the stand mixer and fill with the heavy cream. Run the mixer on medium high speed for 1 minute. Add the vanilla extract, powdered sugar and salt. Beat on medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Separate out 1/2 cup of the cream and blend it into the marscapone/cherry mixture. Add that mixture back into the large bowl of whipped cream and beat again on low speed about 10 seconds. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

As the filling is keeping cold, make the icing. Combine the powdered sugar and water or milk to form a smooth glaze. Set aside.

To assemble the eclairs, fill a pastry bag (fitted with a 1/2 inch round pastry tip) with the chilled cream filling. Twist the end of the bag to get all of the air out. Poke a hole in one end of an eclair shell and squeeze the filling into the hole until cream comes out of the hole (indicating that the shell is filled). Continue this process until all shells are filled. Place the shell back on the parchment paper. Brush the surface of each eclair with the glaze until all crevasses and top surface is covered. Sprinkle each with slivered almonds.

Let set for 1 hour prior to serving, so glaze can harden.

Tips and Notes:

1. I tried to use a large Bismark type of pastry tip to fill the shells and it got clogged. A regular (1/2 round) tip is the best to use.

2. There will be extra pastry filling, so you may want cut the amount of each ingredient in half to start or find a use for the extra.

3. Some of the shells baked up with holes in the side, but it did not cause a major issue. If you do not have the pastry tips, you can slice and sandwich the top and bottom together with the filling. Then you do not have to worry about the holes forming when baked.
                                         **LAST YEAR: Sawmill Toffee**