Not afraid of getting your fingers sticky, here's one of my pate de choux based favorite recipes from London based Ms Marmite Lover second book Ms Marmite Lover Secret Tea Party (Square Peg-Random House UK, November 2014).
Eclairs from the Dix Blue Secret Tea Room
125 ml milk
125 ml water
100g unsalted butter
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
150g plain flour, sifted
4 eggs, beaten
1 beaten egg mixed with 1 tbsp milk, for glazing
FOR THE CARAMELISED BANANA FILLING
4 large bananas
4 tbsp dark rum, white rum or brandy
65g caster sugar
1 tbsp unsalted butter
A heaped ½ tsp fleur de sel or Maldon sea salt
600ml double or whipping cream, whipped to firm peaks
FOR THE CHOCOLATE GLAZE
130g good-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
125ml double cream
70g caster sugar
FOR THE YELLOW GLAZE
250g icing sugar
A few tsp boiling water
A few drops of banana essence (optional)
A little yellow food colouring paste
3 piping bags, each fitted with a 2cm plain nozzle
1 piping bag, fitted with a large star-shaped nozzle
Have you made éclairs and struggled to make them look as professional as they do in cake shops? The glaze can look like a drippy mess. Shhh, I found out the secret: use the bottom for glazing. Yes, turn them over. You will have lovely straight lines.
I’ve made salted caramelized banana-filled éclairs here, inspired by Caroline Richardson who runs a secret tearoom called Dix Blue in Scotland. You can make them in the shape of bananas with a yellow glaze, or the classic shape, glazed with chocolate. Caroline says, ‘Think of these éclairs as banana boats, heavily laden with a cargo of fragrant, sweet and, not-unnervingly, slightly salty fruitiness. The saltiness in the filling comes from the caramelization of the bananas with the fleur de sel.’
For even baking, position two racks/shelves in the oven, one each in the upper and lower half, then preheat the oven to 180°C (gas 4). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Bring the milk, water, butter, salt and caster sugar to the boil in a heavy-based pan over a medium high heat, then remove from the heat and immediately dump the flour into the mixture, all in one go, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated.
Gradually add the eggs, stirring rapidly until each addition is absorbed, then return the pan to a
medium heat and continue to stir until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and starts to dry’ a little, but also becomes soft and smooth. Take the pan off the heat, leave the dough until it cools down, then transfer it into one of the piping bags with a plain nozzle. (The paste has to be warm to pipe well.)
(To save on elbow grease this step can be done in a stand mixer. Bring the milk, water, butter, salt and sugar to boil on the hob, then transfer the contents of the pan to the bowl of the mixer and quickly dump in the flour while the paddle is going. Then add the eggs one by one. Once the dough is smooth, soft and shiny, transfer it to the piping bag while still warm to the touch.)
Pipe the dough on to the prepared baking sheets in 10–15cm fingers. Or you can pipe curved banana shapes. Try to keep them even-sized so that they will look good once plated up. Once you’ve piped one out on the baking sheet, just follow that as your template. Remember to leave about 5cm space in between each éclair to give them room to expand. Finally, get a cold fork dipped in cold water and run it over the top of each éclair – for some reason this makes them rise evenly. Brush the éclairs with the egg/milk glaze.
Pop the éclairs in the oven. Your total baking time will be 15–20 minutes, but set your timer for 7 minutes, then rotate the sheets so that the éclairs bake evenly, close the door and continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are a lovely tan color and quite firm to the touch. Éclairs can turn from softly golden-topped to spray-tan Ibiza-bronze in literally seconds, so keep an eye on them.
Once baked, transfer them to a wire rack, pierce the side of each one with the tip of a sharp knife (to allow the steam to escape and prevent them from going soggy) and leave to cool.
For the caramelized banana filling, chop the bananas into a medium-sized bowl and toss them in the rum/brandy. Set aside.
Make the caramel by heating a heavy-based pan over a medium-high heat. When it is warm and not too hot, sprinkle the caster sugar into the pan. Try to keep the sugar in an even layer so that it all caramelizes at the same time. As soon as you see the sugar begin to melt, start moving the pan about you need to avoid burning the sugar. A good way to do this and make sure you get an even caramel is to tilt the pan from side to side so that the melted sugar runs over the unmelted sugar. Cook until all of the sugar is a light golden brown. Any darker and it turns into toffee so take care.
Move the pan off the heat, and then quickly stir in the butter and salt. Add the bananas and rum
mixture, very carefully, and spread evenly in the pan. Return the pan to a medium heat until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the bananas are soft but not mushy. Tip the caramelized bananas on to a plate. Cover with cling film and leave to cool for about 20 minutes.
For the chocolate glaze, put all the ingredients into a separate heavy-based pan over a medium heat and wait until the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool slightly, then pour it into another piping bag with a plain nozzle. Turn the éclairs over and pipe a thick line of chocolate glaze over the top of half of the éclairs. Leave to dry for an hour or so before filling.
Meanwhile, for the yellow glaze, tip the icing sugar into a bowl and add, one by one, a few teaspoons of boiling water. Mix well until it forms a thick paste that you can pipe easily, but that doesn’t run too much. Add a couple of drops of banana essence, if using, then the yellow coloring until it is the shade you desire. Pour the glaze into the remaining piping bag with a plain nozzle and pipe a thick line of yellow glaze over the top of the remaining éclairs. Leave to dry for an hour or so before filling.
When you are ready to serve, fold the cooled banana caramel into the whipped cream. Split the glazed éclairs and pipe in the banana cream.
Caroline suggests matching these with Orange Pekoe tea: ‘Those mamby-pamby green teas just can’t stand up to the full-frontal banana, boozy, sweet-salty flavor!’
For alternative fillings, use plain whipped cream, or half whipped cream and half chocolate glaze (cooled) combined.
If you have any leftover glazes, keep them in airtight containers in the fridge and use within a
(*Recipe reproduced from Ms Marmite Lover's Secret Tea Party by Kerstin Rogers- Square Peg/ Random House, November 2014-