The best kind of snowdays are the ones you don’t expect. All your homework is complete, it’s hardly snowing at 11pm, and the fact that you live in Michigan basically means you’ll be snowshoeing yourself to school no matter how many inches fall.
You don’t see it coming at all. You wake up, turn on the lights, squint at the sudden flash of brightness burning your eyes, and look in the mirror. Just to humor yourself, you decide to check if school might be closed. And it is. That’s the perfect snowday.
I was snowed in, literally. The back door freezes up when it snows and there was too much piled up-blocking the side door. Not that I minded, though, wandering out in a blizzard of falling flakes isn’t my idea of fun. Instead, I laid on my couch wrapped in a blanket, watching reruns of That 70’s Show and doodling in my sketch book. I love these kind of lazy days, where you don’t really have any responsibilities or worries. Where most people freak out when they feel as if they wasted a day, easy-going days like this remind me that I’m still a kid, and my time to be such is running out.
Eclairs take a while to make, but with the whole day I wasn’t worried about messing up. Overall the process of making these guys wasn’t difficult, though I’ll admit when the dough started sizzling on the bottom of the pan after adding flour I began to slightly freak out. Piping them out was the most fun. As a non-baker, I’ve never piped anything out of a pastry bag before. I took to it with a goofy smile on my face and, too afraid to squeeze too hard, completely destroyed my first squiggle of shell. But after the first few I got the hand of it, and I was able to create somewhat uniform shells.
But were they tasty once they came out of the oven, filled with cream and drizzled in ganache? Let’s just say I probably won’t be buying the frozen ones in the grocery store for a while.
Messy is an understatement. But these guys tasted amazing, so I didn’t mind. Oddly enough, my brother refused to eat one. While my mother and I were chowing down, we’d offer, but he’d say no and go downstairs into his man cave. It wasn’t until the second day when I asked him again that he accepted. I arranged an eclair and handed him the plate, and he took a bite out of the pastry. With slight anticipation I asked, “Aren’t they good?”, which he sighed and replied, “Yes”. No one can turn down these, their chocolaty coating calls to you.
Bittersweet Chocolate Glazed Eclairs
From Absolutely Chocolate
Makes about 12 eclairs
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 large eggs
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut parchment paper to fit a 13×18-inch baking sheet. Using a pencil, draw three sets of two lines spaced three inches apart, running the length of the parchment. These will be guidelines for piping the eclair dough. Place in baking sheet pencil side down.
In a medium saucepan, bring the butter, salt, and 1 cup of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and add the flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir vigorously to combine. Continue to stir, using a figure-eight motion and smearing the dough against the side of the pan to cook the flour and work out any lumps, for 2 minutes. The mixture will be think and look like sticky mashed potatoes that pull away from the sides. During this process, it’s normal for a thin layer of dough to stick to the bottom of the pan and sizzle.
Scrape dough into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. On low speed, mix until the dough feels warm to the touch, not hot, 3-5 minutes.
With the mixer on low, beat in the eggs one at a time. After the dough pulls back together (the dough will separate into “curds” after each egg is added) increase speed to mix the dough well. Reduce speed to low before adding the next egg.
Scrape the dough into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe 3 inches of dough in a tight zigzag pattern. Bake until golden brown, 45-50 minutes. Cool completely before filling or storing.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons table salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Warm milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until tiny bubbles appear. Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale yellow. Add the cornstarch and salt and whisk well. Pour the hot milk into the yolk mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking until it thickens to the consistency of think pudding, about 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and scrape the cream into a large, clean metal bowl. Whisk in the vanilla and then lay plastic wrap directly on the surface. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
When ready to serve, combine:
- 1 cup heavy cream, well chilled
- 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
with an electric mixer until fluffy and forms soft peaks that fold over when whisk lifted. Be sure not to overwhip the cream or it will curdle when you fold into custard.
Whick the vanilla pastry cream until smooth then gently whisk in about one third of the whipped cream over the mixture and, using the whisk in a folding action, gently blend the two until the mixture is smooth.
Bittersweet ganache glaze
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (55-63% bittersweet)
- 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
In a small saucepan, warm the cream over medium heat until it begins to simmer around the edges of the pan. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate pieces an the corn syrup. Let stand for 5-7 minutes and then stir until smooth.