Bienvenue to Bastille day!
What do you think of when you think of France? We guarantee that something delicious will be in your list. It is the home of crusty bread, croissants, camembert and all the red wine you could possibly dream of. French food is renowned for being the best in the world, and with good reason. It is safe to say it has influenced the culinary traditions of Europe and indeed the rest of the world from its own indigenous style, and boy are we grateful.
“In our humble opinion, they are the piece de la resistance in the patisserie world”
This cuisine comes from humble beginnings with many of its dishes using simple provincial ingredients like cheese, cream and foraged herbs. The French also understand individual ingredients more than anyone else, and Raymond Blanc once famously said ‘I am fascinated by eggs’. Albeit a little nerdy, Monsieur Blanc has got it spot on. By understanding the full potential of ingredients, even in their simplest forms, French chefs can make food do fabulous things. Just think of the endless diversity of eggs. The white make fluffy meringue, the yolks make custard, together they make cakes. Patisserie, the craft of French cake making, is a great advocate of these skills and is subsequently an art in its highest form.
No pressure there then.
“They bring back fond childhood memories of holidays in France and sticky chocolate fingers for the both of us.”
We have wanted to tackle French cuisine a few times, but (since National Wine Day) we haven’t really had the chance to do it justice. Lucky for us, the events in Paris 228 years ago did us a solid and handed us a little inspiration. Bastille Day falls on the 14th July and commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789. This was the turning point in the Revolution which fell in favour of the republic. Every year since, France celebrates with military parades, fireworks and national celebration. And what an opportunity for us foodies across the Channel to celebrate all things French.
“Serve with fresh, hot coffee and your best French accent.”
Eclairs are hollow tubes of puffed up choux pastry, filled with sweetened cream and topped with icing. They bring back fond childhood memories of holidays in France and sticky chocolate fingers for the both of us. Fun fact: the world éclair is French word for ‘flash of lightning’, because they are so good, they are eaten in a flash, true story… We know from experience.
In our humble opinion, they are the piece de la resistance in the patisserie world. Be that as it may choux is a bit of a weird one, as it isn’t made like most other pastry. For starters, its cooked in a pan and formed into a dough which is piped. Do not be scared off by choux patry, it really isn’t that hard to do, and man does it make an impact. Traditionally in France, they are chocolate or coffee flavoured, however we have gone for a fruity version with a hint of white chocolate.
T is now going to spend the next year perfecting the other French delicacy, macarons… whilst G eats all the rejects.
There is nothing left to say other than…Vive la France!
Bonsoir mes amis,
Raspberry & White Chocolate Eclairs
130g plain flour, sifted
100g unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
3 free-range eggs, whisked
600ml double cream
100g white chocolate, melted
White chocolate or raspberry icing*, raspberries and pistachios to decorate
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place a sheet of greaseproof paper over a 24 x 12 cm baking tray.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter with 200ml warm water and the salt. Do this over a medium heat, and do not let it boil. Once it has melted, turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil, tip in the flour all at once and beat quickly with a wooden spoon. It should come together as a thick, smooth dough. Take it off the heat and allow to cool until tepid.
Beat in the eggs a little at a time until well combined. Place the dough in a piping bag fitted with a 1.5/2cm round nozzle. Pipe 12 sausages at approx. 10cm in length, using a knife to cut the end if you need to. Take a fork and score the dough gently, this will help them rise. Bake them for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed up beautifully. Be careful not to open the oven prematurely, or they will collapse.
Cool them on a wire tray. While you wait, whip the cream in a mixer until it is almost done. Melt the white chocolate in the or in a bowl above a pan of simmering water (double boiler) and add to the cream. Beat some more until it is light and fluffy. Put the cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1.5cm round nozzle. Cut a small cross in the middle of the flatter underside of the eclairs and stick the nozzle in and fill with cream until it pops out the hole.
Top with icing or melted chocolate and decorate. Serve with fresh, hot coffee and your best French accent.
*We bought ours in advance… because we are lazy. We used Squires Kitchen real raspberry fondant icing mix. Do not be afraid to cut corners, you aren’t Pierre Hermes and that’s okey.