When I got to work today, I found a requisition for baked goods to feed 200. It didn't matter what the baked goods were, but my instructions were specific in that they said to "show off". Who am I to refuse such a request?
Among other various petite fours, I made a great variety of eclairs and cream puffs including a flock of 56 swans. The ones you see above were actually from a function in December... I just forgot my camera today. I don't know why I do it, but it seems any time it's up to me to choose something to make for a function, it involves pâte à choux, which translates to cabbage pastry in English. It's not that the dough smells of cabbage, but that's maybe kind of what it resembles if you pipe it out into rounds after baking. Yeah.... I don't know. Most people just call it eclair paste.
Anyway, I guess I do it because I've done it enough that I know what the results will be, and it looks classier than butter tarts. Gosh is it ever labor intensive though, doubly so when it's piped, cut, and then reassembled into swans afterword.
There's a million recipes floating around for eclair paste, and is a standard in most baking cook books. I feel it kind of redundant to repost it here. If you're really stuck, this one is as traditional and accurate as it gets.
So, I actually formed blisters on my hand from incorporating the 18 eggs one at a time into the 8 pounds of clay-like batter.... manually.... with a wooden spoon. Yes I complained the whole time, but that's just the relationship I have with choux paste, and it's how I know it will turn out. It has to hurt.
I used pastry cream to fill the small round shells I made, and then drizzled them with tempered chocolate. For the swans, I made a white chocolate German butter-cream filling, simply by mixing regular white chocolate butter-cream and vanilla pastry cream together. And it was good.
But I digress. Once you know eclair paste, and especially if you also know pastry cream the showing off comes all to easily, and people are quicker to be amazed than one might expect. The compliments far outweigh the blistered fingers. :-)