I decided to take part in a baking challenge. I know, I am crazy. Andrew from the Facebook group Bake Off For Fun invited participants to bake something with these three criteria for April 2017:
- The color pink has to appear
- Something has to be piped
- A heart shape needs to be found
I first wanted to bake a chocolate cake in heart shape, but decided against it. My husband loves eclairs and I still need to practice the batter, so instead I decided to go with eclairs in heart shape. When I did some research on the internet, I was surprised to see that either people made them the classical eclair shape or the shape of cream puffs, so basically balls. Occasionally I would stumble across a swan, but that was about it.Once I had settled on eclair batter for the heart shapes, I had to consider the color pink. Since I hate artifical food coloring, I knew I had to go with raspberries as they produce a very strong color in anything. For that reason I checked cream fillings. I am also very picky when it comes to cream fillings since I don’t like them to be too sweet and heavy and I always, always prefer the cream fillings with strong fruit flavor. Of course it is OK to include butter or whipping cream, but I don’t want that flavor to be dominant. I stumbled across below filling on the German site Chefkoch.de and can highly recommend it. It is not too sweet and has a strong raspberry flavor. My husband says it is magnificent. So far he has not ever used that word for my baked goods, so it really means something.
Another thing I love of eclairs is that you can easily freeze them. I always recommend to freeze without filling, but even that is possible. So this is a recipe you can do in advance. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Eclairs with Raspberry Filling
- 250 milliliters of water
- A pinch of salt
- 50 grams of butter
- 150 grams of all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs, size L at room temperature*
- *It is really important that the eggs are at room temperature. If you forgot to take them out on time, fill a bowl with warm water and place the eggs in there for at least 5 minutes before using them.
- Raspberry Filling
- 250 grams of frozen raspberries
- 150 + 50 milliliters of milk
- 1 package of instant vanilla pudding
- 2 tablespoons of regular sugar + 50 grams
- 175 grams of butter
- 175 grams of cream cheese
For the batter put the water, butter, and salt in a small pot and bring to boil on stove top. Reduce temperature to medium heat.
Now add all the flour at once and stir with a wooden spoon like there is no tomorrow. Fairly quickly a ball should form. Make sure that you "burn" the ball from all sides. This takes about two minutes. If you are unsure, you should have a thin layer of white on the bottom of your pot, otherwise continue stirring until you do. The ball of dough looks white and feels elastic. As long as your stove is not too hot, rather stir for a little longer. Five minutes from the moment the butter melted is fine.
Take dough off the stove and let cool for about 5-10 minutes in a big bowl. It should feel warm, not hot when you touch it before you continue. Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius at this stage.
Now add one egg at a time, mixing with a mixer for at least 30 seconds before adding the next egg.
The dough will first appear crumbly, but with each egg become creamier and will change its consistency to that one of a batter.
If your batter feels already very creamy after the third egg, don't add another one. The best test is to take out the mixer and see how fast it takes for batter attached to the mixer to drop back to bowl. If it doesn't drop at all, you need to add more eggs. I sometimes have to add a fifth one, sometimes three are enough. If the batter drops off slowly, it is perfect. Another indication is that it is glossy. You should be able to pipe it.
For this recipe I piped the batter in heart shapes onto the parchment paper of a baking sheet. I did smaller (10 cm ∅) and bigger ones (20 cm ∅). Obviously you are free to create any shape you want. Keep in mind though that the batter puffs a lot, so leave enough space in between.
Before you transfer the baking sheet to the oven, place a small bowl with water on the ground of the oven.
Bake for 10 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius and then reduce to 200 and bake for another 10 minutes. Do NOT open the oven door during these 20 minutes or your dough shapes will deflate.
The batter shapes will puff and should turn golden. Turn oven off after 20 minutes, but only open the oven door about a centimeter now. Leave the batter for another 10 minutes inside the oven to be sure it doesn't deflate.
Now take out and cut shapes in half horizontally as soon as they have cooled off. It is crucial to cut in half quickly after you have taken them out.
For the filling put raspberries and 150 milliliters of milk in a pot on the stove a bring to boil. As soon as raspberries are soft, take out and blend raspberries (e.g. food processor or even with a fork).
Put instant vanilla pudding, two tablespoons of white sugar and 50 milliliters of milk in a mug and stir until you see no lumps.
Bring pureed raspberries and milk to boil again and add the vanilla pudding mix. Stir constantly and bring to boil for at least two minutes until it thickenes.
Transfer mixture to the fridge and let cool off.
Meanwhile cream butter, cream cheese and 50 grams of sugar in a bowl with a mixture. Slowly add the cooled off raspberry mix by the spoonful until you have a nicely colored cream.
Put filling for at least 10 minutes in the fridge for the butter to harden a bit and make piping easier.
Pipe onto bottom part of eclairs and put top part on top. Also pipe top part to your liking and decorate with fresh raspberries.
Eclairs freeze beautifully, either with or without filling. I prefer the unfilled version though. Eclairs can be filled with any cream filling you like, butter cream, chocolate cream, lemon curd, etc. Yes, this is a good recipe for Valentine’s or Mother's Day and yes, it can be made in advance!