Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah's Birthday, l'Opera, and Pierre Herme's chocolate eclairs

"Consider how the lilies grow. 
They do not labor or spin. 
Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor 
was dressed like one of these. 
If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, 
which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, 
how much more will he clothe you."
Luke 12:27-18

My Mini Eclairs

I promised Sarah (who is 28 today) that I would make the l'Opera for her birthday, not realizing that her birthday would occur on the Daring Baker Challenge Day. But if I can pull this off it should all be very nice. There will be 14 for dinner (Caleb included), and 2 more for dessert. It's always good to have lots of eaters for one's desserts.

I've already got a good start on the l'Opera - jacond made, butter cream made, ganache made, and syrup made. They are sitting in the kitchen waiting for me to get them all together so that I can put it into the refrigerator while we are at church. 

Now I have had plenty of experience with choux paste and pastry cream, though not chocolate pastry cream, so I am r e a l l y hoping that it will all go okay this afternoon for making the eclairs. One rather difficult hitch in the situation is that my oldest daughter is bring to dinner her new amour, who is from France! I hope I don't look like a duffus in front of him and embarrass Heidi.

Well at church, or should I say after church, we met Stephan and his young son Parker. We all had our usual coffee and eats at the Fleur de Lis next door to church. Stephan is rather reserved, and I was not able to really get an idea of what he is really like. He is assuredly very intelligent, and that is a very good characteristic to have. He and Heidi seemed very comfortable with each other, and that is also good. He made absolutely no effort to impress us, as did Heidi's last "boyfriend", That in itself does say a lot. I do hope he enjoys the dinner party tonight, and doesn't find us all a bit weird, even if we are.

I am currently waiting for my glaze to reach 90 degrees, because a very knowledgeable Daring Baker told me that the best way to get smooth glaze is to pour it on at 90 degrees. I must also start the bread and then get serious about the eclairs. I'm rather nervous about it. I have a huge fear of failure. .... Well it got to 90 degrees and it went on perfectly.

I put it onto a pan that could fit into the refrigerator and put it in to chill up. By about 2:20 I finally got serious about the eclairs, get everything I needed in place, reading and rereading the recipe to make sure I could remember what I was on about. It all seemed to go together really well except on really rather serious cafufle - my large piping tip that I had just purchased would not fit onto the coupler that I bought!!!!! I felt as though I were up a crick without a paddle. There seemed nothing to do by pipe through the hole in the end of the piping bag. This did work, but I was going to be serving mini-eclairs, that was all there was to it.

I had many more things to do, and people to visit with, and everything continued at a very haphazard way for the rest of the day. Sarah and Zac and Caleb arrived way before everyone else, so I could visit with them. I needed to take a shower, and I did that around four, having got the table set in the dishes that Sarah chose - Lowesoft Bouquet, which was her grandmother Millicent's wedding set.

It was decided that I should fill the eclairs with vanilla pastry cream, so I made the cream on the page just before the chocolate pastry cream in Pierre's book on chocolate. It was dead simple to make, though I must add that I'm glad I own a water jacket, thus making icing things fairly easy. I (well actually Sarah did the stirring for me) made up the cream, poured it into a bowl that I had set into the jacket, and then ignored it until much later, when it was found to be perfect. I'm sure that the chocolate cream would have been really lovely, but as we were having a chocolate cake, and there was to be chocolate on top of the eclairs, enough is enough.

Dinner finally came together around seven. The eclairs were in pieces. I had decided that I would top the eclairs with the remaining ganache from the l'Opera. We all sat down to have bread and salad, while the steak set up and the coals heated back up for the barbecued shrimp.

Then when dinner was quite finished, all the steak and shrimp eaten, and the younger children had left the table, I got up to go into the kitchen and create my mini-eclairs. They went together very easily. I slit my tiny little eclair shells down the side, and used a dinner knife to insert the pastry cream. After they were all filled I spread the ganache from the l'Opera on the tops. The tiny little things did not want to stay upright, but oh well.

Evaluation: My eclairs were almost a disaster, but Zac thought that they were great. I don't know how to make big eclairs and I need to find out how. I made the vanilla pastry cream instead of the chocolate and it was very nice, though perhaps I would go with just a tad less cornflour. I used the ganache from the l'Opera, so I don't yet know about the other chocolate sauce for the top. I bet it's wonderful. My daughter's boyfriend from Paris was very impressed that I made the l'Opera myself, and he had a second piece. He did not eat the shrimp at dinner, so I know he's not the type to eat something just to be nice. Since I love eclairs I need to try these again. The family did scarf them all up in a very big hurry, so mini-eclairs are a good thing.

"If A is success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. 
Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut." 
Albert Einstein


Beth said...

I am anxiously awaiting your eclair post! Hope they come out well for you.

Beth said...

I am anxiously awaiting your eclair post! Hope they come out well for you.

Barbara Bakes said...

You are a brave woman! I'm sure with your experience things will go well. Good luck!

glamah16 said...

Good luck with the dinner and I will be back to see the results.

Bellini Valli said...

I agree that it is very brave to try something new when you have guests for dinner. I think I would be a nervous wreck if I were pulling it together last minute:D Your eclairs and Opera Cake all look droolworthy though so you definitely pulled it off in true Daring Baker style:D

Lesley said...

Looks like a completely French dinner! Great job! That opera cake did me in, I don't know how you managed both!!

Aparna said...

You actually did two challenges for one dinner! Wow, is all I can say.
I'm happy that they both turned out well.

Mary said...

Wow! Hats off to you for making the opera cake and eclairs on the same night. Those tiny eclairs are so cute!

Jaime said...

wow you did BOTH?! i'm super impressed