22 June 2010

Dulce de Leche Eclairs

Éclair Confiture de Lait
Dulce de Leche Eclairs (with title)
A few days ago I was at the cooking section of Kinokuniya bookstore. I was one of the non-Japanese minorities there, and if you've shopped there before you'd know that finding non-Japanese, non-Asian, non-white shoppers are even rarer. But there was one that day roaming, and I wondered what he was looking for. He finally settled in the cooking section and asked another shopper (Japanese female) for assistance. He was holding up the Japanese version of the lovely book Everyday Harumi and was asking her if it was a good choice to get to learn Japanese cooking, etc., even though the text was completely in Japanese (I wanted to butt in and say that it has an English version published by Conran Octopus).

Dulce de Leche Eclair
It seems I'm still green in the ways of the world, because not before long the conversation moved into whether she could read Japanese, where she grew up, what schools she went to, what's her job, and they seemed to be having a nice time for all of 10 minutes before he finally laid down the cards and she said that she had a boyfriend, but she's flattered (no time wasted after that). Even though the outcome wasn't in his favor, I was still completely in awe that he knew exactly what he wanted and went for it in the exact place where he knew he'd find it, and had the courage to follow through. Even if the initial deception was so transparent it might as well have not existed.

I have always thought that people do not like being approached by strangers (maybe not for friendly conversation, maybe less for being hit on), even though I have no objections to people approaching me (maybe I like being thought of as obviously knowledgeable about cookbooks, and-- this is our little secret-- I like the folk that hang around bookstores. Well, DUH). But I could never muster up the courage to do so, regardless. I always feel like-- and not without precedent-- they will look at me and wonder why I am ruining their day or why this laughable creature even bothers.

One of my favorite shows of all time is Faking It, and the clip above is from one of my favorite episodes (from Physician to Magician, if I recall clearly- watch the rest of the abridged episode here). In one exercise, the mentor asks Kevin to get people to look at the direction he's pointing. It's only when he does so with command that he's able to misdirect people. In the end, his faked confidence became real confidence, and spoiler alert, he quit his job to become a full-time magician.

Maybe it's the feeling that I'm both annoying and misleading people that makes me hesitate to actually approach them in non-social situations. But to be honest, I'd be kind of sad to learn that most people in fact wouldn't want to be approached by me. Not a hypothesis I'd want to challenge, hahaha!


These eclairs were served at my going-away party. I was a little hesitant about the dulce de leche crème mousseline because I thought it would be heavy and excessively sweet, but it turned out to be wonderfully (if deceptively) light and with just the right amount of sweetness, with a great smoky/ subtly caramelly flavor from the interaction of the milk proteins and sugars. As for the dulce de leche itself, well, that's certainly too sweet for me in large amounts but it didn't stop my friends from getting spoonfuls of their own!

Dulce de Leche Eclairs from C'est du Gateau by Christophe Michalak
For the dulce de leche, you can boil a de-labeled can of condensed milk for 2 hours, making sure it is always covered with boiling water, or you can do as I did and pressure-cook them for an hour. Perfect results in half the time. But as usual release pressure properly and don't open the cans while hot.

For the eclairs, I simply followed Pichet Ong's pâte à choux recipe and piped out long logs with a 1/2" round tip on a parchment-lined sheet. Spray them with a spray bottle filled with water and freeze until completely hard. Cut the frozen slender logs into 3-1/2" portions, then you can store them in the freezer for baking later (baking instructions are included in the link above, though I extended the baking time at the first temperature by 10 minutes). FYI, this is how Michalak portions out his pâte à choux.

Crémeux à la Confiture de Lait
  • 400g (1-2/3 cups) whole milk
  • 200g (2/3 cup) dulce de leche
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 20g (2-1/2 tablespoons) cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons gelatin, sprinkled over 2 teaspoons cold water, or 5 leaves gelatin, softened
  • 100g (7 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dulce de leche, egg yolks, and cornstarch until well-combined, then pour the boiled milk over this in a small stream while whisking constantly. Pour this back into the saucepan and bring to a boil for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and add the softened gelatin, stirring until dissolved. Cool to 45°C (115°F), whisking every now and again. Add the softened butter in bit by bit, whisking after each addition. The cremeux will be satiny and smooth. Place a sheet of cling film flush against the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To assemble the eclairs, take a baked and cooled eclair shell and split it in half horizontally. Pipe in the cremeux generously and sandwich the two halves. Dip the opposite ends of the eclair in some more dulce de leche and serve immediately.

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