Thursday, July 24, 2008

BakeSpace Challenge #2 - 'Simply Irresistible' Caramel Eclairs

The Mission: Re-Create a recipe from your favorite movie, or a movie that wasn't all that great, but had great food.

The Movie: 1999 Simply Irresistible - Starring Sarah Michelle Geller and Sean Patrick Flanery (What's with the 3 names?)

The Recipe: Caramel Éclairs - is also available on

I had much trial and error on this one.
At one point I thought I might have bitten off more than I could chew. I even searched the internet to get an idea of what I should do. I was amazed to find all the Caramel Éclair recipes were based on Brown Sugar.
Now I am not trying to sound all sn
obby but honestly, Brown Sugar tastes nothing like Caramel. That is like saying that maple syrup tastes like honey. They are two uniquely distinct flavors.  So I began with the one thing I knew how to do, and that was to simply make the choux paste and hope I would get struck by some sort of inspiration from the food gods.

When it came time for the pastry cream I decided to caramelize the sugar for a basic pastry cream. Thus I tried making a wet caramel first, it came out too light, without any flavor, so out the window it went and I opted to make a dry caramel the second time.
This is the point where my brains dribbled out the back of my head evidently since I conveniently forgot about the humidity.

The caramelizing part was a beautiful sight to behold. I was rather proud of myself since I usually end up burning the sugar, which is why I tried the wet caramel first.
I poured my dark amber liquid over a foil lined pan and waited for it to harden so I could powder it in the food processor. It hardened alright, with a nice sticky layer all over the exposed top due to the moisture in the air.
First rule of ANY candy making.

With the inherent stickiness of my finished caramel, it was apparent that the food processor was out of the question.

So my pastry cream was delayed for another day. I broke up the sticky caramel and mixed my liquid ingredients together, placing the broken sticky shards in the milk, covered it, placed it in the refrigerator and hoped the caramel would dissolve over night. Luckily it did. So I made my pastry cream and set it to chill.

I then whipped up my heavy cream and folded it in. Hmmm… It was still a little loose for my taste and sinc
e these had to be able to survive for about 5 hours after being filled, I went ahead and decided to whisk in some gelatin to ensure the filling did not cause the éclairs to become soggy.

I still needed some sort of frosting or glaze for the tops.
My first attempt involved making more caramel with 2 oz of sugar, then adding a little butter, milk and powdered sugar to create a sort of “Crusting” glaze. It looked great, but tasted like cornstarch; in fact, you could actually FEEL the chalky c
ornstarch with your tongue.
It was nasty!
So I went back to the drawing board by re-watching the movie segment, I noticed everyone licking his or her fingers. This meant to me that they were not topped with a frosting, but more of a viscous glaze, similar to doughnuts, but thicker.
SO, that being said I made more dry caramel with 1/2 cup sugar. I added heavy cream, butter and salt, then on a whim I added a little coriander and the zest of 1 lemon creating
more of a caramel glaze that will thicken when cooled but not crust.
I re-warmed the éclairs in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes, I went ahead and dipped the tops in the hot caramel sauce and let them cool slightly.

I filled my pastry bag with the chilled caramel pastry cream/mousse and piped them full.
Then the best part. I got to eat one!
and while it did not “Explode out my toes” or make my toes curl, it was pretty darn tasty I must say.
The subtleties of the caramel flavor were sinfully delicious without being OVERLY sweet.
The Lemon/Coriander in the glaze played well with the hint of ginger in the pastry and the deep richness of the filling was offset by its light texture.

OK. Maybe my toes DID curl, just a little.

I have rearranged these steps of the recipe according to how I will do this in the future, now that I have a recipe and experimentation is over, it stands to reason that the pastry crème should be made first so it has time to chill while the rest of the dessert is being prepared.

-----Edited January 22nd 2009 due to broken link to published recipe

And here we go. This is the final recipe for the eclairs, the pastry creme and the caramel topping.

Caramel Pastry Crème (Slightly Cheating) – Technically Pastry Crème doesn’t have gelatin in it… That actually makes it a mousse
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 Vanilla Bean scraped
4 egg yolks
3 TB Corn Starch
1 Cup Heavy Cream
(optional) 1/4 oz Gelatin
(optional) 2 TB Warm Water

Place a large skillet over medium-high flame and add the sugar. (Please do not use Teflon pans, you will not be able to see the color of the sugar.
As the sugar begins to melt, tilt the skillet back and forth very gently to move the liquefying sugar around, this will keep the coloring even.
Once the sugar is fairly uniformly dark amber (about 10 minutes), remove skillet from heat and
onto a sheet of foil (about 12 by 18 in.) and let cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes.
Combine milk, salt, vanilla seeds and the pod in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
Break caramel into smaller pieces and whirl it up in the food processor or blender, into a powder.
Peel off foil and break caramel into chunks; put in a food processor or blender and whirl into a fine powder.
As the milk heats up, add small amounts of the caramel powder and stir until melted and smooth.
Do not let the milk boil, just keep it warm and continue adding the caramel powder and stirring until all melted and smooth.
Beat egg yolks and cornstarch together until egg yolks are thick and lemon in color.
Condition yolks with a couple ladles of hot milk/caramel mixture.
Once warm add the eggs to the saucepan and whisk until thickened.
Remove from heat and pour through a fine mesh strainer to ensure there are no lumps in the custard.
Cover on the surface with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator up to 2 days.
When ready to use, whip heavy cream in a chilled bowl until stiff peaks.
Run a whisk through the pastry crème to loosen.
Fold whipped cream into pastry crème.
Check for stiffness, if pastry crème seems a little loose, cover and return to the refrigerator.
Bloom 1/4 oz Gelatin in a ramekin with 2 TB warm water for 10 minutes
Place ramekin in a small saucepan with a little water over low heat.
Once gelatin has become clear, remove from water bath and let cool slightly.
Remove pastry crème from refrigerator and begin whisking gently to check thickness.
Place bowl of pastry crème in an ice bath (to speed things up) or simply pour in the warm gelatin and whisk until it begins to stiffen.
If you are not using an ice bath cover the crème and return to refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Choux Paste:
1 cup Water
8 TB Unsalted Butter
Pinch of Salt
1 Cup Flour
1/2 tsp Ginger
4 large Eggs

Bring Water, butter and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium flame.

Once water reaches a boil, add flour

and stir quickly until the dough ball starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Continue to cook for 1 – 2 minutes to assure that the dough is sufficiently cooked.
Remove from heat and let rest for about 10 minutes to cool slightly.
Begin preheating the oven to 400
Once cool, add the first egg and stir briskly with a rubber spatula or “spoonula”. (You can do this with an electric mixer and paddle attachment, and normally I love my appliances, but honestly, I am convinced this works better when done by hand)
The dough will fall apart and look really odd, but with continued stirring it will rebind into a solid mass again.

Repeat this with each of the other 3 eggs.
After the addition of the last egg, you should notice that the dough has become a smooth, shiny and slightly sticky paste.

Fit a large piping bag with a large round tip (I use and 806, although I think it would be fine to not use a tip at all), fill the bag with the choux paste.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and pipe 3 inch long strips of paste at least 2 inches apart.

Place in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 and bake for another 10 minutes
Remove pans from oven and with hand protection, poke a whole in the end of each éclair.
Move pan back to oven for an additional 10 minutes to ensure the insides are dried out.

Move éclairs to a cooling rack.

Caramel Glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 TB butter
Pinch of salt (I used grey salt, don’t know why, just did)
Zest of 1 lemon
1/4 tsp Coriander

Melt Sugar in a tall sided sauce pan over medium flame.
When liquid and dark amber in color, carefully pour in the heavy cream… Careful, it will bubble up, the sugar is at 350 degrees so the water in the heavy cream will superheat and boil almost immediately.
Stir with a whisk over low until smooth then add the salt, butter and stir until melted.
Lastly remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and the coriander.
This will keep as well covered and stored in the refrigerator.
DO NOT dip éclairs until just before serving or they will get soggy. (I learned this the hard way.)

If you prepared the caramel topping ahead of time, re-warm over low heat.
Dip the tops of warm éclairs into the caramel sauce and set on a rack to drip and cool.
Please be careful, this sauce is still VERY hot and it IS candy so it will stick to your skin while it’s burning.
Prepare a pastry bag with injection tip.
Fill 2/3 full with pastry crème.
Poke the tip through the steam hole of your éclair and fill with the pastry crème.
Eclairs will be fine if covered and placed in the refrigerator for 2 hours, any longer and you risk sogginess.
It is preferable to serve immediately.

If you are feeling particularly fancy, you may prepare more caramel with 1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar.
After cooled to room temp, process in the blender of food processor again and sprinkle the granules over the top of the glaze right before serving for a little crunch.




Michele said...

You truly are a talented chef and baker! I'm so glad we met on bakespace! I'm learning so much from you! I am loving your new blog! Love the food music. Awesome idea! Only thing you need to do is add a link to subrscibe to you. Sophie from flour arrangements taught me how to do it. If you want, I can help you with that!

Keep blogging buddy!

~Amber~ said...

These look delicious!! It is so fun creating something from trial and error and having a wonderful final result. Great job!!

Unknown said...

i was hoping you might would post your recipies or email it to me. I have recently gotten really in to cooking and plan to go to school for it soon. ANd after seeing the movie I was really intrested in trying to make but honestly have no idea how to even start. Anyway, my email is
thank you

Anonymous said...

Do do you have a recipe for those eclairs, you could share? I'd love to make those things in my own kitchen. Pieman.

Shane T. Wingerd said...

Thank you for letting me know about the broken links to the recipe. As a result I have edited this post to include the recipe.

Anonymous said...

I've just made those eclairs according to your receipe, and they are delicious! I have to re-do my caramel sauce, though, it was too bitter, i overcooked the sugar probably. But thank you! I was looking for this receipe of caramel eclairs from this movies, since they look so delicious and when you watch them eat them you just want to make them!


Anonymous said...

Thank u for sharing the recipe. I was really inspired by the movie, I did want to make this for a very long time..