It helps that I have never been tempted to climb the vertical career ladder (I have more of a horizontal, snake and ladders approach) and that my husband has enough ambition for four people.I’m secure in the knowledge that I haven’t and won’t miss the formative moments, minutes, hours and days of a warm, unfocused bundle becoming a person. And that delicate as she is, she won’t be crushed by the possible coarseness of strangers. Instead, she is allowed to form along her natural inclinations.Sometimes my girlfriends ask how it doesn’t drive me crazy, spending all that time together without a break. But I just think of this as the Layla and me era, which will pass in the same way the previous eras of my life have, when she begins school. Things are oppresive only if you think they are going to last forever. And nothing does right? Still it’s hard not to get lost in the fabric that is the minutiae of everyday, like one of those fat black flies that buzz aimlessly against a pane of glass. Or spending half an hour trying to find the right day underwear. (What? You don’t have day of the week underpants?)That is why this blog has been so useful. It introduced a bit of structure, direction and soothing repetition (as opposed to the irritating repetition of putting playmobil toys and their accompanying tiny accessories away daily). I’ve kept diaries since I learned how to write, often with scraps of things that I found interesting but without the risk of someone reading, they were little more than vessels into which I could discard thoughts that nagged me.I never expected people to read this blog but I hoped they would.So I am over the moon to be mentioned in this week’s New York Magazine! “The Urbanist’s Guide to Berlin: Where to Eat“.
The choux pastry itself is straightforward, as long as you follow a few rules, the most important of which is: keep your ratios correct. In other words, don’t let your butter and milk (or water depending on your recipe) evaporate way down and then add your flour.
Coffee Éclairs adapted from a recipe by Claire Ptak printed in Jaime magazine (issue 18)
(makes 12 small éclairs)
50g butter, cut into small cubes, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon of sugar
pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten, plus egg wash
Coffee Custard Filling
250ml whole milk
2 tablespoons whole coffee beans
2 tablespoons cornflour
25g butter, diced into small cubes
100g icing sugar
2 tablespoons espresso or strong coffee
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line a flat tray with baking paper.
2. Take a large piece of baking paper or aluminum foil and make a sharp crease down the middle. Sift the flour 3 times, ending with the flour on the creased paper / tinfoil. (You will be using it as a funnel to shoot the flour into the milk and butter).
3. Place the milk, butter, sugar, water and a pinch of salt in a saucepan. Bring to the boil quickly then off the heat, shoot the flour in and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan.
4. Allow to cool to room temperature and then beat in the eggs a little at a time, making sure it’s fully incorporated before adding more. (If you have a stand beater, plunk it in there and let it do the work). The texture you are trying to attain is one that, were you to scoop up a spoonful with a wooden spoon and flick your wrist, would come off the spoon with a splat. If it clings on, it needs more egg. Your choux should be shiny.
5. Put into a pastry bag fitted with a 1cm nozzle and pipe out 12 éclairs spaced 5cm apart. Brush with egg wash and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and puffed up.
6. When cool enough to handle, pierce one end with a metal skewer. Then twirl the skewer around to gather up any webs of dough inside (this will impede your custard from getting to the end of the éclair. If they seem wet inside, put them back in the oven for a few minutes to dry up. While still warm, use a nozzle to make a hole in the skewered end for when you come to filling with custard.
7. For the custard filling, place the milk, coffee beans, sugar and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and heat to just under the boil. Remove from the heat, cover, and leave to steep for 15 minutes. Meanwhile whisk the egg and the cornflour in a small bowl and set aside.
8. Strain the ilk mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl. Return the mixture to the pan and heat again to just under the boil, then whisk 2 tablespoonful into the egg mixture. Pour this back into the pan and whisk constantly over a low heat until you have a thick custard.
9. Strain the custard and then stir to release the steam. Sir in the butter cubes one by one. Place a sheet of cling film on the custard’s surface so a skin doesn’t form, and leave to cool.
10. Put the custard into a piping bag fitted with a 5mm nozzle and fill the choux pastry via the hole on the side. It helps to hold the pastry upright so that gravity helps you a bit. (You can also just slice them in half and spoon the custard in but if you’ve already gone to all this trouble…you might as well.)
11. Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl, then gradually whisk in the espresso. When smooth and glossy, spoon the glaze over the éclairs. Allow the icing to set before you serve.