MasterChef is back (and with another Houstonian in the mix -- Team James)!
We've been loving the season so far, especially the pressure tests. But with a pissed-off Ramsay, daunting time restraints and cameras right in the contestants' faces waiting for them to break down in an ugly cry in front of the judges and all of America, it's no wonder these contestants succumb to the pressure.
Luckily, we don't have to. Making "stunning" versions of the challenges at home is actually not intimidating at all.
Throw out terms like pâte à choux and crème pâtissière and you'll usually find me running for the hills. Last week, the MasterChef contestants were tasked with making just that: the chocolate éclair. Sure, the fancy French dessert sounds intimidating, but with the right steps, you'll be able to master this rich custard-filled pastry in no time.
Here's how to make it:
See also: -The Non-Pressure Test: Make Lava Cake Like a MasterChef -The Non-Pressure Test: Make Eggs Like AMasterchef Part I -The Non-Pressure Test: Make Eggs Like A Masterchef Part II -The Non-Pressure Test: Make Hollandaise & Eggs Benedict Like a Masterchef -The Non-Pressure Test: Make The Perfect Pie Crust & Lemon Meringue Like a Masterchef
For the crème pâtissière (calm down, the custard filling): 2 cups whole milk or half-and-half (do not use low-fat) 1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise Pinch of salt 1/2 cup sugar 5 egg yolks 3 tbsp cornstarch 4 tbsp butter, diced
For the pâte à choux (the pastry dough): 1 cup water ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter 1 tsp sugar ½ tsp salt 1 cup flour 3 large eggs + 1 more if needed
For the glaze (the glaze): ½ cup heavy cream 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1. Start by making the custard.
In a medium saucepan, bring the milk, vanilla bean, salt and 6 tbsp of the sugar to a gentle simmer over medium high heat.
Meanwhile, add the egg yolks, cornstarch and remaining 2 tbsp sugar to a mixing bowl. Whisk until well blended.
Pour about 1/2 cup of the milk mixture into the beaten egg yolks. You are now tempering the eggs so that they are not cooked by the heat (oh, you fancy, huh).
Then, slowly pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining milk mixture. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until custard has thickened and bubbles begin to come to the surface.
Remove from heat, take out the vanilla bean and whisk in the diced butter. Transfer to a bowl, press plastic wrap into the surface and set in fridge to chill for about 3 hours.
2. Make the pastry. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Add water, butter, salt and sugar to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Use a wooden spoon to mix in flour. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 90 seconds. Remove from heat and add mixture to a mixing bowl. One at a time, add the 3 eggs, beating until each is incorporated. Mix until the dough is smooth and glossy. The dough should be thick but smooth enough not to stick to the sides of the bowl. If needed, incorporate the last egg.
Add mixture to a plastic pastry bag fitted with a large, plain tip. Squeeze out 4-inch-long by 1-inch-wide tubes of dough onto the parchment paper, keeping about 2 inches of space in between each pastry. Dip a fork in water and gently run it over the tops, creating straight lines to ensure even rising.
Bake 15 minutes before reducing the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for another 25-30 minutes until light golden brown. Open the oven and allow éclairs to dry in the oven until the centers are damp but no wet dough remains (test one by cutting into the center). Allow to slightly cool on a wire rack. If filling at a later time, insert a skewer into the end of each and move it around a bit to expand the opening for the cream.
3. Make the chocolate glaze.
Heat the cream in a small saucepan. Pour over chopped chocolate pieces in a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl. Allow the chocolate to melt, then stir until smooth. Warm over a pot of boiling water when ready for use.
4. Pipe in the filling.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain nozzle and fill with cooled custard. Insert the nozzle into the end of each éclair and gently pipe until the pastry is just filled, making sure not to over-stuff.
5. Glaze and cool.
Dip the tops of the filled éclairs into warm chocolate glaze. Set on a sheet pan and chill, at least 1 hour, before serving.
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