Eclairs – Reflections of the Things that Passed and of the Things that Will Come

Each year’s end made me make wish lists with the most ardent dreams. When I was looking at all that numbered dreams, I was feeling like they could become soon real. 10 or 12 objectives for the new year, some important, some just connected, were almost all the time written on a nice agenda.

I’m not doing this since almost 3 years. I stopped doing it because I felt that just one of all those things was important. In the past years, I was looking for different things, but the most important was all the time, the same.

I was feeling miserable when people around me disappointed me and were not believing in the same things as I. I was not understanding that some relation need something more than just affinities. There was needed a handful of perseverance and desire to succeed. Either if you speak about love, work or simply friendship, everything is bounded by a strong desire to work the things out right.

I was feeling weak because I couldn’t find those people with desire to create something. I was not understanding and still I don’t, people without dreams. Thus, I stopped looking for the right people. I stopped accepting in my life people which don’t know what friendship is, what love is or don’t have right principles in life. It has been three wonderful years since then, surrounded by just a few people important to me.  I don’t regret a second for being so restrictive regarding the people which have remained next to me. I never really felt the need to be again next to those people which got out of my life.

That big objective was to find the right balance in my life, to be in a place that will make me feel good about myself, about people around me, that will give the opportunity to banish the bad thoughts that sometimes were in my mind just because of the incapacity of finding valuable people.

The modern life transformed us in little monsters. Everyone knows something, everyone has an opinion about something, everyone is giving advices, we all are experts in something. In all this craziness is hard to find the right people that will know for real something and which will have a valuable company for you.

Since child I learnt to accomplish objectives in order to grow on different plans. With time I become a competitive spirit. This is not so much applied with people around me, then is with me. I feel that time must be for real cherished, therefore rarely, I allow to myself moments in which I have a white silence. I feel that all the time I must to do something, is not something fussy, I’m calm and organized, is more that I have the urged to do something. Either is something creative or something at work. I have my moments of laziness, but even though I will not move a finder, my mind will work to plan something.

At each year’s end I’m wondering if my year was good spent, if I cherished the time given to us, if I accomplished something, if I made proud my family, if I deserve something. I’m scrupulous and when I know that I did something wrong, I regret so much that I become sad. For this new year, I wish to have the clarity to see things through, to be strong and never forget why I am who I am and to follow my dreams in order to achieve that so-desired balance of things in my life. I wish to have the same sincerity with me and people around me, to recognize with happiness my success and with humbleness my losses, to keep having courage to pursue my dreams and love and appreciation for the loved ones and for everyone that helped me to become today the person that I am, and believed along side me, in my dreams. Thank you all!

As some of you already saw on Facebook, I made this wonderful éclair layer cake for our New Year’s Eve party. I used the same recipe adapted from Pierre Hermé and Baking Obsession as last year. If you love éclairs as much as I do, don’t hesitate to make this recipe at home. The chocolate pastry cream is absolutely divine and can be used for a wide range of cakes and cookies.

[stextbox id=”custom”] Eclair Layer Cake with Madagascar and Ecuador Cocoa Butter Chocolate Pastry Cream (adapted from Pierre Hermé and Baking Obssesion)

For the pâte à choux:
125g milk
125g water
115g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
140g all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, at room temperature

For the chocolate pastry cream:
500g whole milk
4 large egg yolks
75g sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
200g bittersweet chocolate (I used Bonnat Madagascar and Ecuador 75% cocoa butter chocolate)
40g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Make the pâte à choux :

1. Line 1 big baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mats. Set aside.
Place an oven rack in the lower part of the oven. Preheat your oven to 200°C.
2. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.
3. Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the dough on medium speed for a minute to cool the dough slightly. Break the eggs into a liquid measuring cup or a bowl, lightly whisk with a fork. Add the eggs gradually, beating well after each portion has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first portion, the dough will separate, once again- do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.
4. The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used. Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheet into a big round shape or any shape you like (this recipe is for individual eclairs, but I shaped the cream into a big flower shape). The cream should be enough for 2 medium size circles or 20-24 individual eclairs.
5. Bake for about 18 to 20 minutes, until the éclairs are well puffed and golden brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C. Rotate the sheet from front to back. Poke every pastry with a wooden skewer to allow the moisture to escape and leave the baking sheet in the oven for another 5 minutes, until the éclairs are well browned, firm and crisp to the touch. Turn the oven off, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep it ajar. Let the éclairs stay in the oven for 5 more minutes.
Make the chocolate pastry cream :
1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. Prepare an ice bath.
2. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl and whisk together. Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.
3. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously and continuously until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat). Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.
4. Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in the ice-water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so it remains smooth.
5. Once the cream has cooled slightly from the ice-water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice-water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.
To assemble the eclairs :
1. Either if you made individual éclairs, or just big rounded flower shaped éclairs as mine, you’ll have to cut cross-wise the eclair’s shells and fill them with the pastry cream. To form a layer cake, place one big rounded eclair on top of the other. Serve at room temperature.