11 June 2007
One of the nice things about cooking is that it is a constant cycle of discovery and evolution. Oftentimes, I'll have bought a new ingredient to use in a recipe, and then I'm stuck with the leftovers, and in the effort to use them up, I'll try out a new recipe, and so goes a cycle of learning and trying new things. Sometimes, I end up making things I never would have tried, even dishes I thought I might not like, in a last-ditch effort not to let food go to waste. In that way, cooking is not just a process of learning new techniques and dishes, but also expanding my own tastebuds, developping an appreciation for a variety of foods and cuisines I might never have eaten otherwise.
When I made a Gateau a little while ago, I had some extra choux paste dough, so I piped them into little logs for éclairs. Now, I have to say I don't like éclairs, but I figured someone would and I couldn't bear to let that dough go to waste (especially after the arm-strength expended to stir it). I stirred up some ricotta and raspberries we had in the fridge for a filling. And I have to say those éclairs I never would have dreamed of making were pretty darn good. The filling is delicious, and would also be great sandwiched between some cookies or as part of a napoleon. These won praise from a pastry-loving friend; as for me, I'm still not a huge fan of éclairs, but hey, it's a learning process.
I like the crunch that comes from using fresh raspberries, however, if you don't like the seeds, you can use seedless raspberry jam instead.
for the choux paste dough:
1 cup water
2 tbl butter
1 tbl sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup flour
for the filling:
1 cup ricotta cheese, as fresh as possible
1/3 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbl vanilla extract
1 cup raspberries
1. Make the éclair shells: Preheat the oven to 425. Put the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and bring to a full rolling boil. You want the butter to be completely dispersed in the water. Turn the burner to low and sift the flour over the water. Use a wooden spoon to stir the dough together until it is smooth and pulls away from the side of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat.
2. The next step can be done by hand, but it takes quite a lot of arm-strength, so it is best done with a stand mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating each one until it is fully encorporated. The dough should have the consistency of mayonnaise.
3. Transfer the dough to a piping bag, line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment. Pipe the dough into log shapes for the éclairs. Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 350 without opening the oven door. Bake another 20 minutes, until the éclairs are golden and firm. Cool on a wire rack.
4. Make the filling: Place the ricotta in the blender and blend until smooth. Add the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla and blend until very well combined. If the mixture seems too thick you can add a little milk to thin it. Add the raspberries and pulse the mixture until the raspberries are chopped up but some chunks remain.
5. Fill éclairs: Put the ricotta mixture in a piping bag or plastic bag with the tip cut off. Slice the éclairs partways in half but don't cut all the way through. Use the bag to fill the éclairs. If desired, sift powdered sugar over the top of the éclairs, keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
Additionally: you could make a raspberry glaze or chocolate icing to glaze the tops of these.