While visiting family over the Thanksgiving holidays, I was intrigued to come across a unique book in my husband’s Aunt Kathy’s plentiful recipe collection. Simply titled “Last Dinner on the Titanic” this book written by Rick Archbold & Dana McCauley shares menus and recipes found from their research and interviews with Titanic survivors. I disappeared into a quiet corner of the house in the company of a cozy armchair and was taken back to an era of elegance and luxury as I flipped through the pages featuring menus and recipes from all “classes” on this great liner. One recipe which was immediately bookmarked and copied was the recipe for Chocolate Painted Eclairs with French Vanilla Cream. I’m assuming there is no need for explanation as to why it caught my attention!
The notes on this particular recipe read as follows:
Both the pastry and the filling (standard French pastry cream) date back to the Renaissance, when the Arab art of pastry making invaded Europe by way of Italy. Making perfect choux pastry is a skill acquired through practice. Don’t be alarmed if your first attempt tastes better than it looks.
As we search for ways to make friends and family feel extra special this Christmas season, may this unique recipe give you a bit of inspiration.
By the way, did you know that passengers on the Titanic were summoned to dinner by the sounding of a bugle? Add a special touch to a gift box of freshly made Chocolate Eclairs with a festive printed trumpet ribbon and or personalized bugle tag to encompass the rich traditions of the past. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!
And now may I present…..
Chocolate Painted Eclairs with French Vanilla Cream
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
5 eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp water
3 oz bittersweet chocolate
Icing sugar or edible gold flakes
PASTRY CREAM: In bowl, whisk together egg yolks and 1/4 cup of the sugar for 2 minutes or until pale yellow. Adding flour in 3 additions, stir until well mixed.
In saucepan, heat milk, remaining sugar, and vanilla bean over medium heat, stirring often, for 8 to 10 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and small bubbles are beginning to form around edges of pot. Stirring constantly, pour about one-third of the milk mixture into egg mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour egg mixture into remaining milk and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until mixture begins to bubble. Continue to cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until mixture begins to mound and hold its shape; remove from heat. Stir in butter and removed vanilla bean. Transfer to bowl, cover with plastic wrap touching surface of custard, and cool to room temperature.
Beat whipping cream until stiff; add a large dollop of cream to cooled pastry cream and fold in; add remaining whipped cream and fold in until almost combined. Transfer to pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch star tube. Place in refrigerator until completely chilled.
CHOUX PASTRY: Meanwhile, in heavy-bottomed saucepan set over high heat, bring water, butter, and salt just to boil. Remove from heat and add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with wooden spoon until mixture comes away from sides of pan, making a smooth ball.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook flour mixture, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until coating begins to form on bottom of pan. Turn into large bowl; stir for 30 seconds.
Make a well in middle of dough and, using electric mixer, beat in 4 of the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until mixture is smooth and shiny and holds its shape when lifted.
Place dough into piping bag fitted with 3/4-inch wide tip. On parchment-lined baking sheets, pipe fingers of dough about 4 inches long and 1 inch wide. In bowl, beat together remaining egg and 1 tbsp water;brush each bun lightly, being careful not to drip down sides. Bake in 425 degree F oven for 12 minutes; reduce heat to 375 degrees F and bake for 5 minutes longer or until golden brown. With sharp knife, pierce side of each eclair twice. Turn oven off and let eclairs stand for 5 minutes, then remove and cool on rack.
Melt chocolate over barely simmering water. Brush top of each cooled eclair with enough chocolate to coat well. Cool in refrigerator for 5 minutes to harden chocolate.
Halve eclairs lengthwise. Pull out any sticky dough in center; discard. Pipe pastry cream into bottom of each eclair. Replace chocolate-covered tops. Dust with icing sugar or edible gold flakes just before serving. Makes 25 to 30 small eclairs.