Apart from brushing up on my terrible punning skills, last weekend, I decided to brush up on my eclair making skills. One of the first jobs I ever had was working in a school uniform shop, restocking shelves during the summer, near Fairview in Dublin. The highlight of my days was surprisingly not when I would find the perfect amount of school blazers to fit the shelves, nor was it when I went to town polishing the fitting room mirrors with a shit load of Mr. Sheen or even when I got to break down the cardboard boxes out the back.
No, the highlight for me came at lunchtime, when I would take a stroll just down the road to one of those typical Irish bakeries which time had clearly forgotten. The type of bakery complete with window blinds to protect the stacks of cream buns from the heat of the sun, a big rickety old cash register and handwritten signs. Walking through that door instantly made the day more interesting as the smells of warm pastry, sugar and butter wrapped themselves around your face. Each week on a Friday, when a little brown envelope of weekly pay would land in my back pocket, I would set out on a mission, trying everything this bakery had to offer. I stuffed my gob with the crumbliest apples pies dusted with icing sugar (which would end up everywhere), the heavy, squidgy jam doughnuts and the sticky iced Danish pastries, but it only took a short while for me to make the firm decision that it was all about the chocolate éclairs oozing with cream.
Now any time I have an éclair, they are compared to the ones made in the little bakery. I’m not even sure it’s still there, and a quick look on google maps suggests it has disappeared into Irish bakery history and with it all that sugary goodness, what a pity. Good thing I suppose, that I can make them myself. Éclairs start with a choux pastry dough, probably one the more exciting pastry doughs to make and any excuse to get a piping bag out is always a plus in my book. It can be a little tricky the first time you make it but once you master the technique, the pastry can be used to make profiteroles, éclairs and gougères.
Forgive me father, but it’s been at least three years since the last time I made éclairs, but I can wholeheartedly attest to them being a lot of fun to make. I mixed mine up a little, from the traditional fillings and went for a dark chocolate glaze, sprinkled with roasted hazelnuts and a vanilla crème pâtissière filling and then a homage to one of my ultimate desserts, the mighty banoffee pie. I was worried the bananas might make the choux buns a little soggy but if you layer them with a mixture of whipped cream and crème pâtissière it makes the perfect cushion to prevent soggy buns. The whole process does take a little time and is more likely a quiet weekend project, but you get wonderful results and most importantly showstopping éclairs.