It’s been such a fabulous start to Autumn that it still feels like summer. I’ve loved the extended chance to enjoy the outdoors and especially the beautiful rolling countryside of the Surrey hills. Out walking recently, sheep grazed lazily in sun-parched fields and woods offered welcome shade. But looking closer, delights of a more culinary nature were on offer – blackberries! Jet black, small but wonderfully fragrant, most were tantalisingly out of reach behind tangles of brambles. However, we managed to gather a handful or two of these autumnal stars and heaven they were.
It got me thinking though of a favourite childhood recipe, a simple pairing of crisp, sweet English apples and tangy blackberries stewed together and gobbled down, hot or cold, alone or with a dash of cream. What better way to celebrate the season than with this perfect partnership of flavours? So, inspired by GBBO pastry week, I made my first foray into the world of eclairs.
Having not made these delicate, cream-filled puffs of joy before, I did some reading around. I like to keep things simple, and it turns out eclairs can be just that! No piping, no need for tricky crème patisserie. Well, you can if you like, but that wasn’t my aim here. Instead, I took inspiration from this more-ish recipe from Simon Rimmer and steady, grounded choux pastry recipe notes from Mary Berry herself.
Instead of mixing these two ingredients together, I decided to keep them apart and let each shine out. So, the apples went towards a sweet whipped cream filling and the blackberries were crushed into a violet-hued icing to crown the eclairs. This recipe would easily split into make-ahead stages – stew the apples and make the blackberry puree ahead of time and keep in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
If you’re planning to have a go, here’s a couple of tips I picked up before beginning my bake:
- Keep beating after adding the flour and then when adding the eggs when making the choux pastry. The mixture WILL come together! Once the eggs are beaten in, the mixture should gradually drop from the spoon – not too runny, not too stiff.
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper and then spray the paper lightly with water – this will steam in the oven and help your choux rise.
- No piping bag? No worries – I used a teaspoon to carefully spoon out lines of choux pastry onto my baking sheet. Keep them well spaced to allow for spread during baking.
- Use the last scrapings of pastry from the bowl to make a little profiterole – dollop it on the baking sheet in a ball and it will puff up beautifully.
- Once baked, take the eclairs out of the oven and carefully split them open using a knife. Turn the oven off and pop the tray of eclairs back in for 10 – 15 minutes to fully dry them out.
Here’s the ingredients and recipe so you can get baking:
Apple and blackberry eclairs (makes 12)
75g plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
Apple cream filling
1 large eating apple, peeled, cored and chopped into chunks
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of cinnamon
200ml double cream
2 – 3 drops vanilla essence
2 tsp caster sugar
150g icing sugar
Apple cream filling
- Place the chopped apples, sugar, water and cinnamon in a pan and cook over a low to medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes until the apples begin to break down. Use a fork to gently mash the apples until a thick puree forms. Set aside to cool.
- Add the vanilla essence to the cream and whip the cream until it is stiff and forms peaks when the whisk is removed.
- Once completely cool, fold 2 – 3 tbsps of the apple puree into the whipped cream.
- Crush the blackberries through a sieve, collecting the juice in a small pan.
- Add the sugar to the blackberry juice and taste to check the sweetness (you may need more sugar). Gently heat the juice to thicken it a little, but don’t boil it as it may start to set when cooling.
- Set aside the juice to cool completely. Once cool, add 4 – 5 tsps of the blackberry juice to the icing sugar to create a thick icing. If it goes runny, add a little more icing sugar.
- Preheat the oven to 220C (fan 200C) and line a baking sheet with baking paper sprayed with a little water.
- Heat the butter and water in a pan until the butter melts and the mixture begins to boil.
- Remove the pan from the heat and carefully stir in the flour. Once a ball begins to form, place the pan back over a low heat and beat the mixture until the ball comes away from the sides of the pan (this shouldn’t take long).
- Leave the mixture to cool to hand temperature. Then break up the ball slightly with a wooden spoon before mixing in the beaten eggs. Persevere at this stage, as it will seem like the mixture won’t ever come together. It will! Keep beating in the eggs until you reach a reluctant dropping consistency (see tips above) and the mixture is smooth.
- Either pipe or spoon the mixture out into 7.5cm (3in) lengths on the baking sheet, then place quickly into the oven.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 220C, then lower the temperature to 190C and bake for a further 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Transfer the eclairs to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Assemble the eclairs
- Fill each split éclair with a generous serving of the apple cream. Any remaining apple puree could be added in if wanted.
- Place the blackberry icing in a wide bowl and dip each éclair topside down into the mixture – prepare to get a little bit sticky!
Leave the icing to set before enjoying!