Monday, October 24, 2005
I Do Declare--The Snack Monitor Baked Eclairs!
Every Monday, my group at work has something called "Monday Munchies" where someone's responsible for bringing in snacks each week. A little reminiscent of grade school, I'll say. Remember when you had to be the Paper Monitor or the Lunch Monitor for the week? My fourth grade teacher even put up a "Monitor Wheel" with everyone's name on it and where every week, it'd be turned clockwise one tick and would assign each student his/her new weekly monitor responsilbility. I think being Paper Monitor was the easiest as all you had to do was pass paper out to all the kids, and Lunch or Milk Monitor was OK 'cause all you had to do was go to the lunch lady, get the box with all the hot lunches or milk in it and carry it to the cafeteria. Being Chalkboard Monitor was always scary because you were responsible for erasing the chalkboards AND cleaning the erasers (*cough cough*). But even as kids, no one ever wanted to be Ball Monitor, because, well, the name sounds funny.
So this week at work, it was my turn to be Snack Monitor for Monday Munchies. And because it was a gloomy day on Sunday and because I needed an excuse not to go out and shop, I decided to do some serious baking. With all this talk lately about Beard Papa and cream puffs and with a recent disappointing experience at Lee's with their cream-filled Deli-Manjoo, I thought it'd be nice to whip up something of the puffy, creamy sort...but maybe something larger scale since I did literally have all day. Yes, I decided to bake eclairs.
I used the same recipe I always use, which is adapted from Gale Gand's recipe from the Food Network website. The difference, however, is that I normally only make one batch and this time, I had to make two in order to feed all the people in my group at work. Did I say I had all day?
Ahh, my peaceful, yet not so peaceful afternoon of eclair baking reminded me that I'm glad it is once again fall and that the weather has cooled down enough for me to use my oven again. (Prolonged oven use inside of a brick-walled apartment during the summer is more like baking the humans inside it, namely ME) It reminded me that baking is indeed relaxing and an excellent time for indulging in deep thought. (But not too deep--you gotta watch that timer!) And it also reminded me that an all-afternoon baking spree can take a toll on your bad wrist especially when you have to break out the fricken pastry bag and do all that piping. Next time, I'm just going to use the choux pastry for cream puffs. Same taste, just different shape, and NO prolonged piping.
Luckily for me, my eclairs turned out really well--the golden brown outer shell topped with a chocolate ganache shell revealed a light, creamy, vanilla-infused custard inside--and were a huge hit at Monday Munchies." If I'd been in one of my moods, I'd have filled them with mayonnaise to fuck with everyone, but nah, I thought I'd be nice this time.
Here's a link to the recipe. The recipe calls for 1/2 a vanilla bean, but depending on the quality of bean you use, you may want to up it to a whole bean or supplement the half bean with some vanilla extract. I used the Tahitian Vanilla Beans from Trader Joe's, and while they're well priced, they're a bit on the dry side and not too flavorful. Also, the pastry cream part of the recipe is not enough for one batch, in my opinion. I think it really needs about 1 1/2 times that amount. The chocolate ganache and egg wash parts, however, yield enough for two batches. One more thing, if it gets too difficult to fill the eclair from one side of the pastry, poke a hole in the other side of the eclair and pipe the pastry cream in from the other side as well.
The Snack Monitor's work is done. Now we just need someone to be "Ass Monitor" to check how big our asses are going to get from all these snacks.