Dear Readers, I apologize for my somewhat extended absence, last week was a complete right off. However, I am back, filled with the joys of spring…well as much as I can be! Spring has indeed sprung in my neck of the woods, just last night I smelt the heady scent of jasmine in my garden and the days have warmed up considerably. I find it hard not to get excited about the start of this season, no matter how helpless, hopeless and down I feel – there is something about spring’s air of hope and renewal that is quite intoxicating. Which brings me to this post, inspired by a recipe in the September 2011 issue of TASTE magazine for Banana cream and chocolate Eclairs. I love a good cream puff and whenever I think of choux pastry I want to break into the chorus of Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’ (you figure it out), and so I was delighted when I spotted the recipe for these delicious morsels. I have adapted the recipe somewhat by substituting the banana for strawberries, and in the spirit of spring’s flowering blooms have scented the cream with rose water. The original recipe uses dark chocolate for the ganache, however I prefer my ganache slightly sweeter, so I used half dark and half milk chocolate instead. If you have never made eclairs/cream puffs before, please do give them a try, they are so easy and versatile and I have included some variations at the end of the recipe. Imagine a light, crisp pastry case filled with billowing clouds of rose-perfumed cream (similar in taste to Turkish delight), and the juicy sweetness of strawberries, made only more delectable by a coating of rich chocolate ganache – have I won you over yet? These would be delicious served for tea or as a light dessert. Happy spring!
Strawberry and Rose Cream Puffs
makes 8 medium/large cream puffs
120g butter, cut into little blocks
1 cup of water
A pinch of salt
140g cake flour
4 xl free-range eggs, beaten
200g strawberries, hulled, halved and then the halves quartered
1 1/2 cups cream
1oog Lindt milk chocolate
100g Lindt dark chocolate
1/2 teaspoon rose water
1 tbsp (15ml) icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 200C. Place a saucepan over a medium to low heat and melt the butter in the water until combined and simmering. Add the salt and the flour, reduce the heat and fold in using a wooden spoon for 5 minutes (I cooked mine for about 2 minutes). Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a few minutes, then beat in the eggs with a wooden spoon until a firm batter forms – it should drop easily from the spoon but hold its shape. Don’t panic if at first it looks like a slimy clump of dough – as you keep stirring the batter will come together! Drop heaped dessert spoonfuls of the batter onto a greased baking sheet (leaving some space between them) and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until puffed up and golden. Remove from the oven and pierce each eclair with a sharp knife to allow the steam to escape. Bash up the chocolate and place in a double boiler or in a bowl over simmering water (don’t allow the bowl to touch the water) and melt, once smooth and glossy, mix in half a cup of the cream, a little at a time, until thick and smooth. Don’t let the chocolate cool too much before you add the cream or it will sieze up. Whip the remaining cup of cream, with the icing sugar until thick, mix in the rose water (I used half a teaspoon but if you prefer a stronger taste add more, do this carefully as the rose water can overpower the dish – you want the subtle perfume of a single rose-bud – not the whole bush!). Add the chopped strawberries and stir to combine. Make an incision into each eclair and fill with the strawberry and rose cream and top with chocolate ganache. Share if you want to.
Replace the strawberries and rose water with 2 mashed bananas, fold into the cream along with a hand full of toasted, flaked almonds.
Replace the strawberries with pitted, chopped cherries, substitute the rose water for a tablespoon of Amaretto and if you like some toasted, flaked almonds.