Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Infernal Equinox: Pastry at Warp Speed

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It’s FALL! The Autumnal Equinox? Already come and gone. As a rabid Star Trek fan (to wit, my husband felt the need to hold back news that the new Star Trek movie release was being delayed to keep me from a core meltdown), I’d have to say that we’re experiencing a breach in the space/time continuum. Where the hell are the months going? I don’t even remember summer. Did we have one? I’m not seeing any tan lines so I’d have to say it didn't happen this year.

But mother nature is very clever. She’s quite aware of our grief at this particular turn of season. So she gives us a splendid display of soothing color, luscious reds and nurturing oranges. And she supplies us with fascinating edibles like pumpkins that provide comic relief in the garden and act as a comestible salve in pies and all manner of placating dishes.

Come fall, I’ll slip pumpkin into just about anything. Cheesecake, ravioli, mousse. Today, I added a shovelful of that pureed sunshine gourd into some pastry cream. And then I filled choux shells with the fluffy mixture and topped it all off with shiny caramel. It’s a combination that would please even a summer sun worshipping Palm Beach matron and tempt her to witness the burnt umber carnival of falling New England leaves. But she better be quick about it because those little stinkers are already in full riot and threatening to let go any day now and usher us hell bent for leather into winter.

PUMPKIN ECLAIRS

One batch caramel

One batch pastry cream

2 cups stiffly whipped whipped cream

2 cups pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon cloves

Choux Paste (recipe follows)

Choux (pronounced “shoe”) is the stuff that makes the cream puff and ├ęclair shell. Because it’s involved in so many step intensive applications, it has an unfair reputation for being difficult. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.


You’ll need:

400 degree oven

1 ¼ cups water

1 ½ sticks butter (unsalted) in pieces

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon sugar

1 ½ cups unbleached flour

6 eggs

In a saucepan, bring the water and butter to a boil. Dump the flour, sugar and salt into the boiling water mixture ALL AT ONCE and stir with a wooden spoon immediately and briskly until a paste forms and it starts to pull away from the edges of the pot.

Transfer the paste to a electric mixer mixing bowl and fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and put the speed to slow. Add eggs one at a time. You want the mixture to be a soft paste but you also want it to be stiff enough that it holds it’s shape when you pipe it.

With a pastry bag fit with a large open tip (or just put the paste directly in the bag and pipe the choux “naked”) pipe 3 inch strips, spacing them a few inches apart. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes. When the 15 minutes is up, reduce heat immediately and bake at 350 for ½ hour more.

When the shells have cooled, cut in half and drizzle the tops with warm caramel.

Whisk together the pumpkin puree, pastry cream and spices and then gently fold the whipped cream into the pumpkin mixture. Pipe the pumpkin pastry cream onto the bottom half of the choux shell and top with your caramel drizzled  half. ENJOY!