There are occasions when I want to make a dessert that looks impressive but doesn’t need a lot of last-minute work. For this dessert, both the filling and eclair shells can be made in advance. When it’s almost time to serve the dessert, it takes only a few minutes to pipe the filling into the shells, then make the meringue, pipe it over and torch it.
PASSION FRUIT AND MERINGUE ECLAIRS
For the passion fruit purée, you can use the fresh fruit, but it’s a bit of a nuisance because the yield is low and you need to strain out all the seeds. A better idea is to buy frozen passion fruit purée from speciality baking shops such as I Love Cake, Baking Warehouse or TwinsCo.
For the passion fruit curd:
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
200 grams granulated sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
250ml passion fruit purée, thawed, if frozen
100 grams unsalted butter, chilled
For the eclairs:
¼ tsp fine sea salt
120 grams unsalted butter, cut into chunks
130 grams bread flour or plain (all-purpose) flour
3-5 large eggs, at room temperature
For the meringue:
75 grams egg whites, at room temperature
¼ tsp fine sea salt
75 grams granulated sugar
Make the passion fruit curd at least a day in advance. Put the eggs and yolks in a bowl, add the sugar and salt, and whisk immediately until frothy. Whisk in the passion fruit purée, then strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a heatproof bowl that will fit over a double boiler without touching the water. Pour water to the depth of about 4cm in the bottom part of the double boiler and heat over a medium flame until boiling. Lower the flame then place the bowl holding the egg-sugar-passion fruit mixture in the top of the double boiler. Whisk constantly until you start to see tracks as the whisk moves through the mixture (about 10 minutes).
Remove the bowl from the heat and check the temperature of the passion fruit curd using an instant-read thermometer; it should be 76 degrees Celsius. If not, put the bowl back in the double boiler and continue to whisk until the mixture reaches 76 degrees. Remove from the heat, add the butter and, when it’s melted, whisk it into the curd. Refrigerate for at least eight hours.
Make the eclairs. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Put the water, salt and butter in a saucepan and place it over a medium flame. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally then turn off the flame and add the flour all at once. Stir immediately and vigorously with a wooden spoon, until the mixture forms a loose ball and comes away from the sides of the pan. Place the pan over a low flame and stir constantly for about 30 seconds. Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer fitted with the beater attachments, stir the dough on low speed for about two minutes, to dissipate the steam.
Add in three eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Check the consistency of the dough: it should be smooth and glossy and, when you touch the surface, form a medium-soft peak. If the dough is too thick, add in more egg a little at a time; whisk the fourth egg and add it teaspoonful by teaspoonful. If needed, add the fifth egg (or part of it) the same way, until the consistency is correct. Put the dough into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip that’s 1cm in diameter. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Pipe the dough into eclairs that are about 10cm long and 1.5cm wide – you will have about 30 of them. Leave room between them so they have space to expand. Bake at 225 degrees for 10 minutes then lower the heat to 200 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes, or until done. When ready, the eclairs will lift from the baking paper without sticking, and be well puffed, golden and firm, with no soft spots. If they’re not ready, turn the heat to 180 degrees and continue to bake. Let the eclairs cool before filling them.
When it’s time to serve dessert, poke a hole into each eclair using the tip of a small knife. The hole should be about 6mm in diameter. Put the passion fruit curd into a piping bag fitted with a plain tip that’s about 5mm in diameter then pipe it into the eclairs until they are well filled.
Make the meringue. Use an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment to whip the egg whites, salt and sugar until it forms soft peaks. Put the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip. Pipe the meringue along the entire length of the eclairs. Use a propane or butane torch to brown the meringue. Serve immediately.
The passion fruit curd is enough to fill about 20 eclairs. Unfilled eclairs can be stored in a ziplock bag for a few days. If they turn soft, crisp them up by putting them in a 200-degree oven for about five minutes. Fill them with chocolate mousse, whipped cream, or other pipeable sweet or savoury mixtures.
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