Salted Caramel Eclairs

Quantity: 12 Eclairs

Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Preparation: 30 minutes

Delicious salted caramel éclairs filled with sweet cream, perfect for any occasion including afternoon tea and Valentine’s day.

Choux pastry
175 ml water
75g butter
110g plain flour
2-2 1/2 eggs size 2
Oil for the baking tray

Filling
300ml whipping cream
3 drops vanilla essence
2 tsp caster sugar

Salted Caramel Frosting
50g caster sugar
100g single cream
30g glucose
10g butter (semi salted)

To make the choux pastry:

1)
Melt 175ml water and butter in a large pan. Heat gently on a medium heat until the butter has dissolved. When the butter has melted, turn the heat up. Bring to the boil until the mixture is hot and bubbling.

2)
Sift the flour onto a large square of parchment or greaseproof paper. Lift one half of the paper so that the flour falls onto the other half. Make a crease in the middle to create a ‘chute’. When the butter starts to bubble, give it a stir. Remove the pan from the heat. Pick up the flour ‘chute’ tipping the flour into the pan, all at once. Stir continuously with a wooden spoon incorporating all the flour.

3)
Beat hard for a few minutes.

4)
After about 1 minute, the mixture will gather into a ball leaving the sides of the pan clean. Set aside the mixture. Cool for about 10 minutes.

5)
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Centigrade/Mark 7. Crack the eggs into a separate small mixing bowl. Beat lightly with a fork. Place the dough in a mixer and use the paddle attachment. Or place in a bowl and use a wooden spoon.

Tip:To prevent any risk of the eggs curdling, do not add the eggs before the mixture has cooled.

6)
When the mixture is warm to the touch, gradually transfer the beaten eggs from the small bowl into the paste in the mixing bowl. Allow 3-4 additions. To ensure that all the ingredients have been incorporated to form a smooth consistency, beat really thoroughly after each addition. The more air you can incorporate, the lighter the pastry. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure that all the eggs are incorporated into the mixture. If necessary, use all the egg. The paste should be pipeable, but not too runny.

Tip: If the mixture’s too soft the éclair won’t hold its shape.

Tip: From a spoon, the mixture should drop easily, but not too quickly.

7)
Lightly oil and flour 2 baking trays.

8)
Support the piping bag with a jug. Fit the piping bag with a 1cm plain nozzle and fill the piping bag with the paste.

Tip: Avoid over-filling the piping bag.

9)
On the baking tray, pipe 12 7.5cm ‘sausage’ strips. Allow the éclairs enough space to rise up and expand in the oven.

10)
Place at the top of a hot oven. Cook immediately for 20 minutes until golden and well risen.

Tip: Use a wet knife to neaten the pastry end.

Tip:Drizzle the ‘sausage’ strips with cold water to help them to rise.

Tip:Ensure that the oven is hot. Baked choux pastry products rise due to the egg content and steam. For perfect éclairs, the oven needs to generate hot steam.

11)
Reduce the heat to 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5. Continue to bake until the éclairs have crisped and turned golden brown.

12)
Remove one of the éclairs from the oven. Slice open. The centre of the éclair should be dry and free from soggy, uncooked dough. If the dough is still soggy, replace the éclair and continue to bake at 190 degrees Centigrade/Gas Mark 5.

When the éclairs are cooked, remove them from the oven and place on a baking tray.

13)
To ensure that the éclairs stay crisp and dry on the inside, release the steam inside by piercing each éclair with a darning needle, or the blade of a sharp knife.

14)
When cooled, slice with a sharp knife and fill.

To make the cream filling

1)
Whip the cream, vanilla and sugar.

2)
Fit the piping bag with a plain nozzle.

3)
Spoon in the mixture.

4)
Widen the hole made by the trussing needle. Insert the piping nozzle. Pipe the cream into the éclairs. Place in the fridge to firm up.

For the Salted Caramel Frosting

1)
Melt the sugar in a large saucepan until golden in colour.

2)
Add the glucose until the mixture reaches 104 degrees centigrade.

3)
Gradually add the cream until the liquid starts to bubble.

4)
Mix gently. Add the butter, stir and cool.

5)
When the mixture has reached a slightly runny consistency at room temperature smooth onto the top of each éclair with a palette knife.

6)
Refrigerate and serve.

StorageEclairs are best served 2-3 hours after they’ve been made.

Store in a refrigerator and eat within 24 hours.

Blush Bunny

Blush Rarebit

A cheeky little blushing Rarebit!

This quick and easy supper time dish is a variation on Welsh Rarebit except that its blended with tomato soup.

Serve on rye bread with traditional ale or cider.

Total Preparation Time: 17 minutes
Serves: 2-4

Ingredients:
30g butter (for spreading on the toast)
15g all-purpose flour
60ml milk
1/2 tin ¾ tin– condensed tomato soup (more if desired)
30ml Worchestershire sauce (adjust to suit taste)
115g-140g shredded Strong Cheddar Cheese
6 slices of toast (rye is particularly delicious)

Preparation:

Toast the bread and spread with butter. Keep warm.
Melt the butter in a medium sized saucepan over a medium-high heat.
Add the flour. Continually stir the sauce until the mixture turns into a paste.
Gently stirring, add the milk and blend in the tomato soup.
Add in the Worchestershire sauce. Gradually stir in the cheese until the sauce is smooth and creamy.
Reduce the saucepan heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

What is Welsh Rarebit?
Welsh Rarebit (cheese-on-toast) is a vegetarian dish which originated from eighteenth-century taverns in England and reflects a traditional rabbit-hunter’s supper.

The spelling of Welsh Rarebit has at least 3 variations based on locality – Welsh Rarebit, Welsh Rabbit or more infrequently rarbit.

False etymology
This supper time dish is the result of false etymology because it doesn’t contain real rabbits! Another example of false etymology is toad-in-the hole (sausages in batter) because it doesn’t contain real toads. Pigs in Blankets in another example.

Shrubs – Vintage Vinegar Crafted Cocktails

 

Shrubs – Fast Trending

If store cupboard ingredients had a personality, vinegar would be the crotchety old witch with an acid tongue. 

Well, the old black witch appears to be dead, vanished in a cloud of aromatic steam and a bubbling brew of acidic fruity blends – shrubs – trending in LA bars are tipped as summer’s new cocktail.

What is a shrub?

Vintage vinegar shrub cocktails tease the senses with an experience which is both sweet and sharp, driving hunger and quelling thirst. As you take your first sips of the shrub there is a burst of flavour which stuns the tastebuds, sends tingles through the nose followed by a slight flaying at the back of the throat – similar to eating forbidden sour sherbets!  

I have a problem with shrubbing. Whenever I taste anything really acidic or sharp like grapefruit my right eye twitches uncontrollably and I let out the expletive “arrrrrgggg”. This means that if I drink anything lemony or vinegary in a bar I can be seen as winking rapidly.  Is this just me?  

How are they made?

Boutique style cocktail shrub syrups include one part juice, fruit concentrate or vegetable macerated with sweetner which could include honey or sugar to form a thick, syrupy concentrate. The yeast from the fruit and in the air starts to convert to alcohol which is then turned into vinegar by the bacteria in the vinegar. Once a mixologist has concocted the perfect shrub, the juice is reduced and refrigerated for between one to 14 days. 

Shrubs can be layered and jussed up with just about any fruit or herb including rhubarb, pear, ginger, watermelon and even sweet potato or given a clean, fresh taste with garden vegetables.

For the best results, always use a good quality vinegar. As a word of warning, balsamic vinegar can be over-powering – the berries don’t want to taste as if they’ve been dragged into Orpheus’s underworld!    

Bottling

Aromatic berry vinegars add a splash of vibrancy on a dull day and can be bottled in cute little cork-topped bottles. Sprigs of rosemary, thyme or stems of flowers or petals can be tossed in ready for the warm evenings ahead. 

Serving a Shrub

For a cool, revitalising shrub pick-me-up on a hot day, a tablespoon of shrub syrup can be added to iced sparkling water, soda or spirits.  

Apple Vinegar Shrub Cocktail

To get the idea, a basic Apple Vinegar Shrub Cocktail contains the following ingredients; 

Ingredients

1 Part Gin

1 Part Apple Vinegar

2 Parts Tonic

Slice of Lemon 

Are you a secret shrubber?

It’s possible that you’re already a shrub drinker without knowing it.  Secret shrub drinking at home really is an undisclosed habit and includes sneaking into the store cupboard late at night and swigging vinaigrette dressing by the glassful or draining the last drop of pickle juice from the jar. Incidently, if you’re pickled as a newt when your spree takes place, pickle pick-me-ups are a great cure-all. 

Shrubbing – Medicinal

In the late 15th century, shrubs in the UK were a form of alcoholic or non-alcoholic cordial and used as medicine to cure aches and pains and maintain good health. Daily shrub swiggers swear by the old wives tale that if you mix 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with 1/8 tablespoon baking powder this will aid digestion. Old converts swear this remedy corrects PH levels and aids weight loss. Added household benefits include a foamy mixture strong enough to clean the pipes. Just imagine what this could do to the throat! The opposing camp argues that the vinegar’s corrosive attributes decay the teeth.  For this reason, shrub cocktails need to be consumed with plenty of water. 

Shrubs as a Preservative

It’s the acetic acid contained in vinegar which preserves the fruit and stops it from spoiling. Before the advent of refrigeration and commercial factories, cordials were mixed with water and served as a cool, revitalising drink. The Babylonians added date vinegar to wine to make it safe to drink, the romans mixed vinegar with a water to form a beverage called posca and sailors in the colonian era carried lime shrubs containing vitamin c on board ships to prevent scurvy. 

Smugglers – Ahoy there!

From 1680-1690, smugglers in Devon and Cornwall used shrubs to mask the taste of salty seawater and low grade spirits. For tax avoidance purposes, barrels of rum would be stored offshore until the ‘coast was clear’ and then transported by raft to a network of caves and tunnels, often in high seas and treacherous conditions.  

 

Why I Abandoned my Home-Shrub Syrup Making Project (Project never got off the runway because I was too tight to spend good money on decent fruit) 

I dream. One day I’m going to catch the wave of a new food trend, steer it to market and make my first million.

My new foodie trends follow the same slightly obsessive patterns.

I generally live with a food trend for about a month, climb a mountain of research, talk about it, mull over ideas – then my kitchen experiments begin.

Reality kicks in as the bubble always bursts with the practicalities of setting up a country kitchen.

As one dream dies, a new idea emerges. Sometimes I’m re-inspired almost immediately, sometimes it takes a few months.

Ideally my foodie project needs to be fairly simple, slightly eccentric, brightly coloured and with a historical significance.

Over the years family projects have included yoghurt-making (before yoghurt-making kits were banned) spiced cider made from the garden apple russet tree, crab-apple jelly (before our tree was chopped down) and soup-making (I worked for a small soup producer).

Sadly, I have to report that my shrubbing bubble has completely died after the first two weeks. It came so close.  

The simple reason is that I can’t get my head around drinking vinegary fruit and I can’t deal with mould in my fridge.

On two occasions, I’ve been into town to purchase cherries, raspberries and apples for shrub-making purposes. On each occasion I find myself resisting and returning home with an empty shopping bag. I have a stubborn streak and I cannot bring myself to waste good money on decent fruit.

Reasons why my shrubbing bubble burst

Too tight to waste money on good fruit - The beauty of fruit lies in its perfectly formed unblemished skin. I was put off by recipes from the ol’ South which suggest that I should beg for bruised or maggoty fruit from the man at the market stall – this is a damn cheek.  Business sense dictates that the man from market garden will be using “seconds” in his own chutney or he’ll be out of business and if you’re really insistent that you want free fruit at any cost, you’ll be lucky to be offered thirds.  This is when the fruit has shrivelled and died.  When the fruit gets to this stage, even the maggots dig a hole and leave!  I’m fussy about my ingredients which is part of the pleasure of cooking. Its either the highest quality ingredients or nothing at all. 

Mother of Vinegar – Some shrub recipes ask you to look for the mother. Er, how weird is this? and no, this isn’t a re-birthing spiritual exercise. You almost expect mother’s spirit to rise out of your bowl. Mother of Vinegar turns out to be a disgusting slimy disc of vinegar consisting of acetic and cellulose. 

My fridge isn’t a lab. It’s a sterile storage unit.  I like my fridge organised with military precision with no-nonsense plastic snap-on air-tight containers. After careful consideration, I really didn’t like the idea of creating experimental puddles of frothing enzymes in the same storage space as my vegetables.

Boredom and Neglect - It takes about 5 days to nurture a skulking slurry of shrubbing goo (surely this must be the adolescent son or daughter of mother of vinegar).  On a daily basis the recipe dictates that you’re required to stir the baby, skim pus from the top of the mixture and check it for mould spots.  Yuk! No thanks. I could just imagine that if I opened my fridge door, it would be throwing a hissy fit at me and might even grow legs. I’m also pretty sure that I wouldn’t be a good mother, after day 3 I would get bored and neglect it. 

Ol’ South Recipes - Original recipes from the ol’ South which are more shrubbin’ than shrubbing start by saying “take an old shirt”  – Yuk!  These recipes provoke trouble and fail to maintain liability for the consequences of your partner’s actions if you’ve stolen his sports shirt. These recipes also presume your shrubbin’ outside, either cotton pickin’ or in a dusty backyard and also warn about greenfly. Old mama then suggests wrapping cheesecloth around your bucket to keep it covered. I’m afraid this is all far too rural for me and I was put off by the idea of creepy-crawlies doing the backstroke in my concoctions. 

I’m British – I’m traditional in my tastes.  I prefer just a couple of teaspoons of dressing on my salad leaves. As Summer approaches, I’m shuddering at the thought  of offering a brightly-coloured drinking vinegar, similar to creosote to friends and family. I fear this would be greeted with a feigned enthusiastic “lovely dear” and treated as a “tip-in-the-bush” when my back’s turned and a “pass the gin.” 

Pineapple VinegarI have more taste.  I don’t get it. This is as appealing as orange and coffee. On the basis of pineapple vinegar, there isn’t really any more that I can add.

As a confirmed non-shrubber I rest my case.