This entry will discuss creating basic pastry shells, such as used for creampuffs and eclairs. These shells may be used with other fillings and toppings, allowing for a variety of desert options. The entry will also discuss chocolate crafting, with a few tips on how to alter cocoa based homemade chocolate to your tastes.
1. The pastry.
1. 1 cup water.
2. 1/2 cup butter or margarine.
3. 1 1/4 cups flour. (Most recipes call for 1 cup, but that extra 1/4 cup makes the shells softer and pull-apart able, rather than being really hard and having to cut them.)
4. 4 eggs.
1. Boil the water and butter in a small pot (large enough to hold all ingredients, a medium saucepan or above works nicely.) As this much butter in a single lump will not melt before the water boils on modern stovetops, you will want to soften the butter or chop it into smaller sections.
2. Turn off the heat, and remove the pot from the hot burner.
3. Add the flour and stir. It is not important to get the flour perfectly mixed at this stage, just get it generally incorporated.
4. Let the mixture cool a little (1-2 minutes) and then add the eggs. Beat until smooth.
5. Place upon greased cooking sheet in small ball shaped amounts. As a general rule of thumb, 1/3 of a tablespoon sized lumps are good bite sized pieces, but you may use any size you desire. The easiest method for getting the dough onto a baking sheet is using 2 spoons, or 1 spoon and a spatula. If you let them sit for a couple minutes after this the dough will not be as sticky, and you can poke any spots that are spread thin back into the main body of each mound, and push together any open areas... both of which help make shells with less waste and/or issues like holes.
6. Bake at 400 degrees, for about 15-20 minutes, until minimal or no bubbles remain. Shorter baking times make slightly softer shells, but require fresh preparation in order not to fall apart.
2. The filling:
You may use any filling you desire. An easy solution is to use pudding, although thick hand-whipped cream is more traditional.
Before adding filling, cut open top, and remove any fibrous material from inside. A simple scooping action with a finger is enough to accomplish this.
After filling, replace the top section.
3. The topping:
Traditionally, cream puffs have no topping, while eclairs have a chocolate topping. Of course you may also use another topping for your own creations.
A. Chocolate at home:
d. Vanilla (imitation oil is acceptable if you do not want to use fresh.)
e. Powdered sugar
2. General directions:
a. Normal chocolate:
1. For a normal chocolate, the butter is melted, then heated along with the milk and cocoa as a mixture. When this mixture starts to separate, it is removed from the heat. Then it is added to the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until smooth.
2. For fudges, you will withhold the butter from the first step. Proceed to follow the rest of the directions, except that you want half the milk, and after the last step you will wait for it to cool to ~90 degrees. At this point you will add the butter 1/4 at a time, whipping well.
3. For fudge sauces, simply make fudge, then dilute slightly with milk or whipping cream before it is finished cooling.
3. Crafting the chocolate you want:
a. For a flavor close to Hersheys, you will want 1 stick of butter, 2 cups of cocoa, 1 1/2 cups of milk, 2 teaspoons of vanilla oil (use less fresh vanilla, as it will be stronger,) and 4-5 cups of powdered sugar.
b. For a semi-sweet blend, simply add another cup of cocoa, and remove one cup of the powdered sugar.
c. For a thicker option that stays liquid (using the normal method,) exchange the milk for 1 cup of heavy whipping cream.
d. To achieve the desired texture (using normal method:) Add either milk, cream, or a proportionate blend of cocoa and powdered sugar until the desired texture is reached. Milk or cream will make the batch thinner, while cocoa and powdered sugar will make it thicker.
e. To achieve a richer flavor of chocolate, simply add more cocoa and a tiny bit of milk.
f. For sweeter chocolate, add more powdered sugar and a little milk.
g. For less of more vanilla flavor, simply adjust the vanilla.
h. Feel free to experiment a little. Other ingredients can change the flavor and result in something unique and suited to your personal tastes! As an example, if you love nut flavors you might want to try a little almond or hazelnut oil added in.
i. The recipe and formulation of dark chocolates is different (dark chocolate contains very little or, ideally, no milk.) I am not including them here. However, if you follow the steps for semi-sweet a couple times and remove most of the vanilla, you will have something far closer to a dark chocolate in terms of flavor.